Steamers break MISL gendre barrier with signing of woman

Friday, January 21, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- The MISL's St. Louis Steamers on Thursday acquired the playing rights to female forward Lindsay Kennedy. The team insists it's no gimmick.

"My first reaction was 'Are you kidding?"' coach Daryl Doran said. "She definitely can play. I'm just kind of anxious to get her out there and see how she does."

Kennedy, 24, would be the second woman ever to play on a men's pro team, and would be the first in MISL history. Kristine Lilly, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion for the United States, played for the Washington Warthogs of the Continental Indoor Soccer League in 1995.

"We hope by bringing Lindsay in it'll send a message not just that we're a progressive team and a progressive organization, but that we're equal opportunity," team president Michael Hetelson said.

"When the time is right, we're hoping we'll be able to give her some game time."

Adding a woman to the mix is the latest move for the team's new owners, who purchased the Steamers four months ago. Kennedy, who's 5-10 and 135 pounds, will start practicing with the team next Tuesday and she'll work with a nutritionist to add muscle.

Kennedy has a low-key soccer background, with one year at Kansas and three at tiny Harris-Stowe State College in St. Louis where she set records for goals (61), assists (22) and points (144).

Before joining the Steamers, she had been the lone woman playing in a Tuesday night local men's league.

"I just feel like it's a big opportunity for me," Kennedy said. "I'm so happy to be here and to be a part of this team. It's definitely one thing I never would have imagined."

Steamers management doesn't think Kennedy's presence will be a distraction. Hetelson pointed out players are accustomed to sidelight activity by his team-based reality show, "Red Card," which will begin airing Feb. 12.

"This whole season the team has had to put up with a lot of distractions," Hetelson said. "I'm running around chasing them with cameras and lights and microphones.

"They've doing a lot of things they haven't been asked to do before."

Hetelson said his league may not approve, but he doesn't care.

"I'd like to send a message that women are welcome to try out and try to make our team," he said. "We want to bring in the best players. If they can join our 20-person roster, they're going to have to earn that spot."

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