Matchroom Stadium on Brisbane Road, the home of the East London club Leyton Orient, played host to an animated crowd for our game against England on April 2. The English team came out inspired. They fielded familiar names from W.P.S., including one of the best female players in the world, striker Kelly Smith; the attacking-minded right back Alex Scott; and my former teammate and Sky Blue F.C. goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley.
Anyone who watched, or read about the game, knows that it was far from one of our best performances. England dominated the first half, scoring two goals, before we got one back just before halftime on a long-range strike by Megan Rapinoe. We made several substitutions in the second half, who all played well and helped to turn the momentum, but our chances weren’t quite enough. Despite the well-played 45 minutes by Stephanie Cox, and the spark provided by Tobin Heath, Lauren Cheney and Alex Morgan, the score finished 2-1.
I didn’t see the field, but it was a special game for me for another reason. In the stands were three of my former coaches, three people who had a great impact on my development as a youth player. Growing up in Montclair, N.J., many of my first coaches were English. The majority of them eventually moved back to England and I hadn’t seen them (Emma and Alex Burden, and Ricky Blackman) for close to 10 years.
I feel fortunate to have had some amazing early guides to help me navigate my path. From spending hours at the field having me strike balls with proper technique until my feet were bruised and my hip flexors strained, to teaching me the basics of juggling and challenging me to keep track of my personal records, or just leading by example by playing with my team and showing what it means to love this sport — I owe credit for my foundation as a player to a group of very special people who inspired me and provided me with the environment to succeed.
I’m always looking forward — planning, aspiring, setting goals — but sometimes it’s edifying to look back and pay tribute to what has gotten you to where you are. Those are the ideas, the concepts and the practices that will bring you continued success.
We finished our trip in Scotland with a few muddy days of training and then a closed-door game, in which we beat Scotland, 5-0. It was good to end the trip with a solid win, but we have identified some areas to focus on in our next training camp. On a personal note,the coming camp in Florida is my final opportunity to have a good showing before the World Cup roster is selected. It makes me a bit anxious, but thinking back, I’ve done everything in my power to give myself the best opportunity to make the team.
I guess the challenge (for me, in this case, or for anyone really) is to acknowledge and learn from the past, best prepare for the future, and do this all while enjoying and being focused on what you can control in the moment.