USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher: The quiet American with a fierce drive

The USA used just five goalkeepers over the first seven World Cups.

Four were starters: Mary Harvey (six games in 1991), Briana Scurry (19 in 1995-2007), Saskia Webber (one in 1995) and Hope Solo (17 in 2007-15).

(Mia Hamm is the answer to the trivia question, what field player went into goal for the final six minutes of the 1995 USA-Denmark game after Scurry was red-carded with the USA out of subs?)

Three goalkeepers were world champions: Harvey (1991), Scurry (1999) and Solo (2015).

At the age of 31, Alyssa Naeher could become the fourth.

If you haven't noticed her, it's because she hasn't had much to do. Her four saves in Friday's quarterfinal match against France matched her total for the first four games.

Naeher is not one to seek out attention off the field, either. Christen Press considers Naeher one of her closest friends on the team precisely because of that quiet personality but says that belies her fierce drive.

“People probably don’t think that as much," Press said, "because she doesn’t have big media personality and she’s not front and center in the news and the team photos. But she has a huge energy about her, a determination. She also has some of the closest relationships and friendships of any player on the team because her slightly more introverted nature creates really close friendships.”

Naeher hails from Connecticut, where she grew up playing basketball and soccer, the sports her father, John, coached in high school, where he was the athletic director.

She was 11 when she attended her first Women's World Cup match -- the USA's opening game at Giants Stadium in 1999 -- and she began concentrating on goalkeeping by chance a year later when she attended a soccer camp for goalkeepers and field players. The goalkeeper session happened to go first in the morning, and she loved it so much she came home and told her parents she was going to be a goalkeeper.

Naeher burst on the international scene when she was named the winner of the Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper at the 2008 Under-20 World Cup, which the USA won. But by then, Solo, only 27, had nailed down the starting job in goal, so opportunities in goal were going to be few and far between.

Naeher attended her first national team camp in 2009 but it wasn't until five years later that she earned her first cap. Until Solo's expulsion from the national team after the 2016 Olympics, Naeher earned just seven caps. She became the No. 1 keeper in 2017 and has kept the job since then.

Naeher and Solo are different in just about every way.

“Different relationships with the players on the team," Press says. "Different personalities. Both confident but in very different ways and they show it in different ways. Both hugely talented but different strengths.”

Naeher hasn't yet had to make the big save that will make her the hero, like Solo, regarded as the greatest women's goalkeeper of all time, often was, and she's fine with that.

“I just try to be me,” Naeher said. “What you see is what you get. My focus, my mentality is, how can I help this team win? How can I enjoy my time with teammates? How can I be the best teammate and player that I can be?”

Photo: Federico Pestellini/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire

4 comments about "USWNT keeper Alyssa Naeher: The quiet American with a fierce drive".
  1. Bob Ashpole, July 2, 2019 at 5:10 p.m.

    What a timely article!

  2. Tom G, July 2, 2019 at 6:14 p.m.

    Had a nice career at PennState too. 

  3. Chance Hall, July 2, 2019 at 6:16 p.m.

    She got her moment.  Awesome PK save!

  4. Roger Geiss, July 2, 2019 at 10:09 p.m.

    Right after your article, two marvelous saves.  Talk about timing!

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