A while ago, I made a mental list of players I would like to call teammates at some point in my career. You can watch a player play many times, you can play against that player, but there are things you cannot know or learn about them until you train and play with that player day in and day out. I want to know what makes all of the female soccer greats special. I want to know the nuances they have mastered, what their weaknesses are and what their mind-set is for training and games. Here is my Top 5 (in no particular order):
Obvious choice. Anyone who knows anything about women’s soccer has watched the Brazilian phenom play, and I think most would agree that she is the best in the world. Marta has capabilities unlike any other female player and causes a threat that can never be ignored by an opposition’s defense. I was able to check off Marta from my list of players to play with when we were W.P.S. teammates in 2011 on the Western New York Flash.
What I learned: I gained a lot of respect for her work rate, even in training. What sets Marta apart, in my opinion, is her speed and agility, and her ability to use those factors effectively with the ball at her feet.
I have never played with a Japanese player, and I have huge respect for Japanese soccer and the style of play they are developing. Sawa is a leader of this soccer culture and an experienced player.
I have played against her in W.P.S., but would love to be teammates and learn what little things she does that make her special and so consistent.
I hope that Sawa does not retire before I get the opportunity to step on the field with her, but if she does, I hope to get the chance to play with some of the up-and-coming Japanese stars.
This is another player who I’ve played against multiple times and have watched play over the years. Smith is one of the most talented attacking players I have seen. She is a wonderful finisher, and also skillful and smart about the game. I doubt I will get the chance to call her a teammate before the end of her career, and I regret that, because I think her talents are unique and I would love to be able to learn from what she does.
If my list extended past five players, there would definitely be more Brazilians on it, but I had to include Cristiane in my Top 5. I have never seen a female player do things with the ball the way she does. She has something special. The game seems so natural for her, and she is able to beat multiple players on the dribble, most of the time pulling off highlight reel type moves. I had the chance to play with Cristiane on Rossiyanka in Russia and my opinion was verified.
What I learned: Cristiane’s dribbling ability is like no other woman’s I have seen (the only close comparison I can think of is Casey Nogueira, a former teammate of mine at the University of North Carolina). Cristiane is able to shift her balance and wrong-foot defenders extremely well. She also has the explosiveness to get past players and is a great finisher. On top of that, she is funny and a fun teammate!
Here is another world-class attacker whose stats and reputation at all levels (college, professional, international) are incredibly impressive. I have to admit, I had much less information on Sinclair’s abilities than the others on my list until I played with her on the Western New York Flash in 2011. She and Marta were unstoppable together.
What I learned: Sinc, as we call her, is a well-rounded attacking player, which is what helps to make her such a threat. She has the physical qualities necessary to be dangerous — speed, strength, height — but so much more. Her timing and finishing ability are possibly the best I have seen. For this reason, it is hard to deny her scoring chances, and when she gets a chance, she is always composed and makes the most of it.
I cheated on the Top 5 and added a sixth! I think that I would enjoy playing with a lot of the French players. Bompastor was an opponent of mine in W.P.S., and she has established herself as possibly the best outside back in the world. She is skillful and tactically smart. She would often deliver dangerous crosses and create trouble for the teams I was on when we faced her, but that is about the extent of my insight on her. Hopefully one day I can learn more.
The more the women’s game develops, the more great players have emerged, with varying styles and skill sets. I hope that for every player I can check off my list as having played with, I can eventually add a couple more. And hopefully one day I will be on someone’s Top 5 list!
Do you think I missed anyone? Please leave your comments below.