DISCLAIMER: What you will read is one fan’s opinion of two athletes and their lives. No pretense, no smooth edges, just a stream-of-consciousness take. It might anger you, it might urge you to take up mixed martial arts in an attempt to “correct” me, it might cause you to throw your laptop out the window. Read at your own risk, and comment or Tweet me (@backseatgaffer) if you want more insight.
Houston Dash teammates Ella Masar and Erin McLeod got married last week (yes, to each other!) and the women’s soccer community has been all abuzz with happiness over it. My fandom has been all over the map concerning these two players over the past several years and details in its own way how a person can evolve over time from a place on one side of the fan spectrum (respect, but slight antagonism) to one nearer the other pole (heartfelt appreciation and support).
I have been a fan of Masar since her first season with the Chicago Red Stars in WPS (2009), following her through her time with Paris Saint-Germain and magicjack, her return to the Red Stars in 2013 at the start of NWSL, and now in Houston. Her forays into the social media world regarding women’s soccer (numerous Twitter chats during the WPS years as well as in the year between WPS folding and NWSL starting; her own YouTube show, first with Carmelina Moscato and then with McLeod following Moscato’s trade to Boston; her blogs detailing life as a women’s soccer player) allowed me to learn more about her and appreciate the levelheadedness she had about the sport and how to grow it.
My relationship with McLeod was (and is) more complicated. She came into WPS mid-season in 2009 and displaced one of the league’s early feel-good stories, that of Kati Jo Spisak overtaking former USWNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry for the starting job with the Washington Freedom. On the international front, McLeod had moved ahead of one of my favorites, Karina LeBlanc, for the #1 shirt with the Canadian National Team. Mostly, it was my lack of exposure to McLeod outside of these “coups” that painted my early views of her. The 2012 Olympics changed my opinion a bit about her as I felt she got jobbed on the six-second call in the semifinal against the US (and the Canadian National Team hits a soft spot in my heart, so there was some positive rub-off effect).
McLeod was then allocated to the Chicago Red Stars for the 2013 NWSL season (didn’t think it was the right move for Chicago as I felt Lauren Sesselmann was a better fit for the market given its proximity to her home base, but happy the team got one of the top four USWNT/CanWNT keepers). McLeod was traded following that season to Houston for Melissa Tancredi, which was followed not long after by Masar’s selection by the Dash in the expansion draft (I cared more about them keeping their YouTube show running than whatever might have been occurring off-the-field that led to the “coincidence”). Add in my previously-mentioned antipathy to athletes dating/marrying each other and you can probably guess that I would be in an uproar over this. I’M NOT! The two women’s personal growth over the last few years (Masar coming to this place from one where she had written publicly about “ungodly lifestyles” in women’s soccer, McLeod blossoming both on and off the soccer field through the help of national team coach John Herdman and non-soccer ventures in fashion and art) makes this union a beautiful culmination of that process, one which allows both to be their best selves. In the end, #lovealwayswins.