Were I the general manager of the Chicago Red Stars, Chicago's entry in the upcoming Women's Professional Soccer League, I might be a tad bit tweaked at Kate Markgraf. Markgraf has been an anchor in the central defense for the national team for the past few years, compensating for sub-par speed and more physical geekiness than you might expect from a national-level player with excellent positioning and reading of the game. The Red Stars tabbed her as one of their three picks in the national team allocation, which was designed with the dual purposes of acquiring the players with the top skills and best potential for being a fan draw, particularly for season-ticket buyers. Markgraf fit the bill because of her value as a mentor for up-and-coming defenders, even if her own field impact is waning with age, but mostly because of her engaging if geeky personality and Notre Dame pedigree, which was calculated to pull dozens, and possibly legions, of loyal Chicago-area Domers into the stands at Toyota Park.
What could go wrong with that? Oh, this. The Stars announced on Saturday that Markgraf will miss the entire 2009 season because she's pregnant. Wait. Let's reword that for maximum impact. Markgraf will miss the entire inaugural, make-or-break, chip-on-the-shoulder, put-up-or-shut-up season of pro futbol feminino's last realistic shot at existence. Were I Emma Hayes, I would not be so distressed at losing the increasingly lead-footed Markgraf in the back--she's not going to make or break either the team or the league, and they do have US Player of the Year Carli Lloyd on the roster--but I would be mighty annoyed that I pissed away my second pick on a player who wasn't committed enough to the team or new league to, I don't know, ensure she'd be able to play.
Maybe the pending baby was unplanned. That part's nobody's business, but still, a second-chance league that hasn't even gotten out of the gates yet should write a no-pregnancy clause into every big-name player's contract. At least for the first year. NuvaRings all round!