[THE PITCH: Blog 5] It’s funny, when I graduated from high school I had no problem saying goodbye to my teenage cohorts -- Insecurity, Vanity, and Jealousy, but my other companion Angst remained right by my side. Following me to college, Angst was there when I choked on the oatmeal and bananas breakfasts before practices, she was there holding my hair back when I threw up after fitness tests, she stayed toe to toe with me on breakaways, and huddled up with me after I missed. Angst was nothing if not a loyal compadre ... a nursemaid, in fact, for Angst was the maker of the bed in which I would lie.
I don’t remember exactly when I began to believe that Angst was the enemy in disguise. Her influence over me was all encompassing and her presence enormous. I spent my later college years trying to break up with Angst, dump her. I worked hard to free myself from her weight on my shoulders, to wiggle out of the shackles around my feet. Only a few years ago, just the thought of getting a call-up to camp with the USWNT was the cue for Angst to run her cold, clammy hand down my spine. I tossed and turned at night finding little comfort in my twin extra-long bed, so dreams were few and far between in the spring of my senior year.
It was not, however, until my professional soccer career that I was actually able to ditch Angst. And in that freedom, I rejoiced. In Sweden last year, I adopted a new motto: “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” When I started to realize that I had already missed, lost and failed a hundred times before, only to (eventually) convalesce with a smile on my face, it became clear that there was no room in my young adult life for the not-so-comforting governess of my youth. Perhaps, I’d outgrown her. I suddenly found myself sleeping comfortably in my Dux bed dreaming the dreams of dreamers…
So, by the time I went up for my first “at bat” with the Full Team, Angst was but a spectator in the nosebleeds. And I certainly did not invite her to board the plane to the Olympics. The summer in London as an alternate was a unique opportunity for me to get comfortable with the international game. Without the expectations and pressure my teammates felt to bring back the gold (or had previously felt to make the roster), I was free to play and practice and push unreservedly. And I thought Angst and I had finally and officially called it quits.
For me, “getting comfortable” is not just about speed of play and tactical understanding. It is not all about confidence in my abilities on the field or knowing I can succeed at this level. A lot of my comfort on the field, stems from my comfort off the field: in finding friends, in forging a routine, in navigating this new life of extensive travel and constant movement and managing what the Swedes have coined hoteldödden (the hotel death). And while adjusting to this lifestyle during what feels like my first real opportunity to make this team, I’m rediscovering and reconsidering my old friend Angst.
I now have six caps under my belt. I’ve spent all but 40 minutes of my total time in a USWNT jersey playing in the midfield. I’ve started three games. I’ve had moments where I felt I was at my best: comfortable and confident and gliding. And I’ve had spouts of time where I was uninvolved, lost, and totally disconnected out on the wing. I’ve scored goals and felt reassured that I can, most certainly, do this; and still, the next day I was too nervous during a warm-up to produce a clean five-yard pass, doubting if I belong.
The USWNT might possibly be one of the most competitive teams in the world. Head coach Tom Sermanni told Sports Illustrated in an interview, “I haven’t seen many male teams train with quite the same intensity, let alone any other female teams. In this team, you just don’t have to motivate players. If anything, you need to sort of say, ‘Just be careful. I don’t want anybody injured in training.” And I have the bumps and bruises to prove it.
Perhaps I will never be quite comfortable on this team. Won’t someone always be waiting in the wings? … Perhaps no one should ever be comfortable on this team. Isn’t that what it means to be an elite athlete? The last place you expect to find complacency is on the National Team. And I can be down with that. I think being totally comfortable is a dangerous thing in any realm of life.
This time around, I think I’ve found a suitable role for Angst in my life. I am embracing the fact that her sloppy housekeeping makes for a lumpy, uncomfortable bed… which in turn makes it a lot easier for me to get up everyday to run, train, and fight. Like Jon Bon Jovi warns, “Don't get too comfortable with who you are at any given time -- you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be.”
Stoppage Time The Algarve: Iceland, China, Sweden, Germany
On Feb. 25, the team traveled to Albuierfa, Portugal, to compete in its 18th Algarve Cup. The Algarve Cup is considered one of the most prestigious international women’s football tournaments. The rainy weather, the less that perfect field conditions, and the small fan base did not detract from my excitement to be a part of these games!! The United States arrived at The Algarve a week before the games began, extending our time there to 18 days. So yes, by the end of our trip we had played every version of UNO that you’ve never heard of and consumed more Indian Food than I had in the rest of my life combined.
The team switched both personal and formation throughout the tournament, with Tom reminding us that he has one eye on today and one eye on the future. The trip was filled with first caps, first starts, first goals, a 100th cap, a 154th goal, and ended with the trophy. For many, the new cycle for U.S. Soccer marks a rebirth for our international careers, and above all else the trip was noted with big smiles and people stepping up into new roles.
VIDEO: WNT Goals at the Algarve Cup: 9 for 9: