TORONTO - John Herdman has six months to ready Canada's women's soccer team for the London Olympics, and the head coach had banked on the U.S. pro league to be a big part of preparations.
Now, Monday's news that Women's Professional Soccer won't play this year has thrown Herdman a curveball and left Canada's top players scrambling for places to play.
"For some of them, their world has been tipped upside down. . . " Herdman said from Vancouver, where four days earlier Canada had clinched a berth for the London Summer Games. "It's going to have a huge impact in terms of how we strategize to give these girls the best opportunity to win gold."
The WPS board of governors voted Monday to suspend operations amid a legal dispute with an ousted owner, with hopes of resuming play in 2013.
No one saw it coming, said Herdman.
The bad news left more than 100 of the world's top women's players — including Canada's captain Christine Sinclair and veteran goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc — unemployed.
"My agent is talking to a couple clubs to see the situation but obviously a goalkeeper is a little more difficult because most teams ... it's one of the first positions they sign," said LeBlanc. "Most teams have the keeper they want."
Sinclair and fellow Canadian international Candace Chapman played for the league-champion Western New York Flash last season. LeBlanc played for the magicJack franchise at the centre of the dispute while Lauren Sesselman played for the Atlanta Beat.
Chapman and LeBlanc joined Sky Blue FC last November.
The league terminated the magicJack franchise in October, after clashing with owner Dan Borislow. Then a Florida judge ruled earlier this month that the league failed to follow its own dispute procedures when it terminated the franchise.
"My experience with Dan was not particularly bad," said LeBlanc. "But I know there's a lot of history there and a lot of people have had bad times with him. But my experience was not as bad as maybe some of the other ones."
WPS players blasted Borislow on Twitter.
"Dan Borislow you are a life ruiner. Leave soccer alone and go invent something else useless," wrote Carrie Dew, an American who played for Sky Blue.
Borislow purchased the former Washington Freedom before last season and moved the club to South Florida, renaming it after a telephone call device he invented.
American midfielder Kelley O'Hara tweeted: "Was hoping I would wake up and yesterday would be a bad dream. No such luck."
Her Boston Breakers teammate Heather O'Reilly posted on Twitter: "Still so freakin depressed about #WPS."
Herdman said playing in Europe wasn't necessarily the best option for his top players, especially the German Bundesliga. Germany failed to qualify for the London Olympics, so German teams likely wouldn't look favourably at players leaving for pre-Olympic national team duties.
"Some of (the players) have already been told if they go to the German league they won't be able to play in Cyprus (next month's Cyprus Women's Cup)," Herdman said. "So there's a whole raft of things that are issues around Europe. If players want to go there I'll be fully supportive, it just means it's not really going to fit their ability to win a gold medal at the same time."
Herdman said he and the CSA will get their "creative hats on" to come up with a plan of action, and said there might be some positives in the fact the players won't be tied down by professional obligations.
"Certainly I wouldn't say it's the end of the world for the players at this point, I think we'll find a good solution and make sure they get what they need for London," the coach said.
The magicJack franchise was repeatedly disciplined during the season for not meeting league standards. In August, after Borislow filed suit against the WPS, the league released a statement accusing him of violations ranging from "unprofessional and disparaging treatment of his players to failure to pay his bills."