GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Since the beginning of February, I’ve played in four states in the United States, three countries (soon to be four), and have reshuffled my suitcases almost as often as a casino worker shuffles cards. The sport might be called something different each place I travel, but the last two months of excitement have come together as fitting parts of my ascension to become a more complete player.
Soccer In the U.S. women’s national team’s opening friendly games of 2013 against Scotland, Coach Tom Sermanni showed that he is open to giving opportunity to as many players as possible. I left my club team’s preseason camp in Los Angeles feeling hopeful about my trip to Portugal to join the national team. I took the 11-hour flight carrying my belongings for the next five months of my life in Europe and my memories of the two previous Algarve Cups in which I had participated. This year’s tournament left me with a distinctly different feeling than those of the past.
O Futebol This Algarve Cup was a successful trip for me in certain ways, as well as for the national team. We were victorious in the tournament not only because we went undefeated and beat Germany, 2-0, in the final, but because the games displayed the awesome depth of the squad. No two starting lineups were the same. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Lindsey Horan, 18, got their first caps; Ali Krieger and Whitney Engen scored their first goals; and every player got quality time to experience playing at the international level.
Coach Sermanni is not only slowly starting to demand that the team attempt to employ a certain style of play on the field, but he is changing the team dynamics through his decisions and player management. Veterans are having to get used to occasionally not starting or playing and still maintaining their confidence, knowing that often it is not a reflection on their performance. Similarly, those of us who have not typically been starters or who are new to the team have had to make mental adjustments. We must be ready to make the most of our opportunities and ensure that there is minimal, or no, drop-off in level when we are on the field.
Fotboll After the Algarve Cup championship against Germany, there was no time to rest. We departed our hotel at 1 a.m. to make the three-hour drive to the airport. Later that evening, I arrived back in Sweden, my home for the 2013 season. With no room for downtime, I trained the next day and then played a friendly match against Lillestrom, last year’s Norwegian league champion. We lost, 2-1, but the game reminded me how grateful I am to have a home on the field with a club where I can express myself as a player and enjoy playing. I am thankful for this freedom every training session and every game.
Le Football On Tuesday we travel to France for the away leg of our Champions League quarterfinal against Juvisy. In these last 10 months, I may have played more game minutes than in the three previous years combined. I can slowly feel myself becoming more comfortable in competitive matches and I continue to gain a better understanding of myself as a player. My experience playing in Europe has helped me to feel much more prepared when facing European teams while representing the U.S. I am looking forward to playing against Juvisy and analyzing their style and how it differs from our Swedish style.
Soccer, O Futebol, Fotboll, Le Football — no matter what language, field, stadium or uniform — every experience adds up, and becomes an important piece of my journey, which has taken me around the world in these last 60 days.