[THE PITCH] Christen Press spent the past week in a pre-Olympic training camp with the U.S. women's national team in quasi-tropical Sarasota, Fla., far from the world of Swedish soccer into which she has been immersed. She examines what her Swedish club FC Gothenburg brought her in to do: run "in the deep," make attacking runs behind the defense. And she describes what she has brought with her from the game that she developed at Stanford. She says she is determined to make Sweden a part of her, but just as significant, to leave her footprint on the Swedish turf.
[THE PITCH] Some of my Swedish friends tease me by saying that they have to educate me in Swedish AND English. When I don’t understand their English, they mock me—“I have to teach you your own language, too?” Well, after two months in Göteborg, I have come to the realization that I do indeed have to relearn English… this time like a Swede. You see, Swedes do not speak English; they “take it in English.” They don’t get you a cup of coffee; they “fix it.” Actually, they fix everything… my apartment, my paperwork, the plans for the evening… Clearly, they are unacquainted with the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Anyways, I believe that understanding “Swedish English” will also help me better grasp the workings of the elusive Swedish mind; which—according to the man who owns the grocery store under my apartment and doubles as my philosophical guru—is necessary to speaking proper Swedish…
As a striker, one of the most important "English" phrases I’ve had to learn since coming to Sweden is “in the deep,” which is the Swedish-English football jargon for making attacking runs behind the defense. My head coach Torbjörn started talking to me about going "in the deep" the very first day I got here. In order to execute, first I had to figure out what he meant by that, and now I’m figuring out how to do it. There’s a fire starting in my heart. Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.You may not think that a song could help out here, but, after all, music is the universal language…thanks Adele for helping me out here!
Now, is it wrong to say that I like the style of football that I play? I am most comfortable playing interchangeably with the attacking center midfielder, so that I can be constantly involved in helping my team break pressure and creating with the ball at my feet. I live in the pocket between the midfield and backline. This is where I feel I can create the most havoc for the other team. It is my niche, so to speak. But like it or not, it has been made clear to me that that is not what is expected of or needed from me on my new team here in Sweden.
If Göteborg FC had posted on Craigslist it might have read, “Seeking: conventional running forward who constantly keeps the defending line under stress by making threatening runs that put her in front of the goal. Must be willing to throw your soul through every open door.…and finish breakaways.” Fortunately, Torbjörn and my teammates believe that I have the tools to be the player that fits this bill, and I have the mindset… willing and eager to try. Since running "in the deep" has not been one of my strengths in the past, per se, I see this as another opportunity to add weaponry to my arsenal. See how I’ll leave, with every piece of you …
My plan of attack is simple (pun intended):
Step one: I plan to fight like crazy until I can master exactly what my team and Torbjörn need me to do: roll in the deep.
Now, I could tell you that that is all there is to it, but I feel that there is so much more at stake here. As players, we cannot forget or ignore our unique histories and experiences, triumphs and failures, trophies and scars. Our pasts shape our present in specific and important ways. I don’t want to lose what has taken me this far and what makes me feel special. The scars of your love remind me of us …
Yes, I know that I personify football, but sometimes I feel like football and I are in an interpersonal relationship. The reality of most relationships is—at some level—love and hate, but the foundation of any good relationship is give and take. While I am proud of the effort I have been making to “take” from my new experiences here (the more difficult aspect for me) and my willingness to change, equally important is bringing a lil somethin’ somethin’ to the table myself: the “give,” as it were.
Step two (once I am “rolling”): I plan to incorporate the old parts of my game into my newly developed style of play to create the best version of myself. As I have talked about in Stoppage Time, I am enjoying both successes and failures as I assimilate the football culture of my team; a culture made more diverse by the presence of myself and the other foreigners, Ingrid Wells and Anita Asante.
One effect I hope to have on this team is a mentality for the game that I developed at Stanford. During my four years there, the women’s soccer team approached every game expecting to win. Don’t underestimate the things that I will do. What we found was, for the most part, the other team seemed to acquiesce in our sense of superiority, and we would win games even when we weren’t playing our best brand of soccer. Not too shabby a weapon to bring with me from the States, right? The trick, of course, is to figure out how to unpack it without hurting anyone. Ha!
I am determined to make Sweden a part of me, both on and off the pitch; but just as significant, I intend to leave my footprint here on the Swedish turf. As a Californian, born and raised, I believe in the beauty of The Melting Pot. Besides, I would hate to look back on my time here and be singing about how we could have had it alllll….rolling in the deeeeep!
I spent the past week in a pre-Olympic training camp with the USWNT in quasi-tropical Sarasota, Fla. I took off from the snow-covered north of Sweden and (18 hours later) landed amongst an Eden of palm trees, sunshine, the beautiful ocean… oh and 80% humidity.
Coming from a different football culture in Sweden, I can’t help feeling my perspective on the national team, training, and environment is different than it would have been before living abroad. My Swedish club utilizes a low-pressure system focusing on the quality of play by slowing down the speed of play. Moreover, I heard the players here refer to this April USWNT camp as a fitness-based “boot camp.” I felt there was a serious focus on work rate and also perfecting the execution of a well-established game plan. The high-intensity trainings had an inspiring energy level. Most days concluded with a meeting to review the team’s defensive shape, positional responsibilities, and set pieces. This dedication to organization stirred up something hibernating inside me. I leave Florida with a stern resolve to bring both the latter qualities home to Sweden (intensely energized and intensely organized.) As you know, I always leave room in my luggage!
The timing and context of the camp put me in a unique situation. Being the only new player called into camp in 2012, I was a bit of an outsider on the inside. Yet having played with almost every player before in my career, I felt oddly comfortable as the newb. Being called into camp within 100 days of the Olympics, I felt like I had nothing to lose, and that, folks, is a liberating feeling! The experience this past week reaffirmed that I have come a long way as a player. But I still have a long way to go to realize my dreams. The opportunities ahead of me suddenly feel infinite again, and this camp was a friendly reminder of that. With the sun on my back, I can’t help but smile when I think that this life I have chosen is the endless summer in search of the perfect wave.
Rookie for life, Christen Press