US Women Top Ireland 5-0 in Portland

The US Women’s National Team throttled the Republic of Ireland 5-0 in a friendly Wednesday night in Portland, Oregon as part of their Fan Tribute Tour. Fan favorite Alex Morgan had a clockwork-like hat trick scoring in the 24th, 34th, and 44th minute while second half substitute Sydney Leroux posted a brace with goals in the 62nd and 81st minute. But much of the energy on the night was around the recent announcement last week by US Soccer of a new professional women’s league and Portland’s new team in it.

“This is going to be a lot of fun,” said Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson in a halftime press conference. “…it is going to be a great process for us and it’s going to be a fun experience.”

The national team players echoed much of that sentiment Tuesday night following their training session ahead of the friendly.

“A lot of us really do believe in the concept of creating a women’s professional league, and we want to do whatever we can to help.” added forward Abby Wambach. “We need a women’s professional league that is solid and stable so that it can be a feeder into the women’s national team.”

The U.S. women have generated great national enthusiasm during the Women's World Cup and Olympics, but that hasn't translated into support for the professional leagues. Paulson said the new league has to create its own interest and support.

"There still have to be fundamentals in place where the league can succeed without the halo effect of an Olympic gold medal or a World Cup,'' Paulson said.

When asked about her first reaction upon hearing the announcement, Wambach said, “I’ve been a part of two folding leagues so I think, ‘Oh gosh, what are we getting ourselves into?’ But at the end of the day, this is what the United States needs.”

“We’ve got to make sure that this is the right fit for the national team because first and foremost we’ve got to make sure that we’re at our best for World Cup,” said Wambach. “Hopefully this league can be the right league. Hopefully it will be the right talent. I know US Soccer is really excited about it so we’re going to back it as much as we possibly can and see how it goes.”

Plus, more than 30 months remain until the 2015 World Cup, and not even Hope Solo can maintain headlines that long.

"There is a lot of time between now and the World Cup,'' Wambach said, "and we want to be able to bridge that gap.''

Wednesday night's match drew an announced crowd of 10,092, which included a girl named Teagan Danner, who turns 12 on 12/12/12. To celebrate the birthday, her mother offered her a trip to Disneyland. She turned it down for a trip to Portland to see the U.S. women. When asked during Tuesday's public practice session why a kid would choose Abby, Hope and Alex over Mickey, Donald and Goofy, she said the choice was easy. Disneyland will be there forever, she said, but the current players on the U.S. team "aren't going to play forever.''

No, they won't, but the key is providing young fans with teams and a league that will still be there long after those players are gone.