So, what will it take to make the W-League playoffs and reach the Final Four again?
Teddy [Mitalis, the Sounders coach] told us these last two games are must-wins for us to have a shot at the playoffs. If we make it, we’ll probably play Vancouver, which is always a good rivalry and a tough matchup. Last year we beat San Diego in the first round and advanced to the final four.
Based on what you saw at last year’s national finals, how does your division stack up?
We’re high up there, I’d say. There are a few great teams in most divisions, and obviously the East Coast has more teams. But the Pali Blues [from Pacific Palisades, California] went undefeated and took the W-League [regular season] title. Actually, because they got an automatic berth in the final four, that opens the door for us to make the playoffs if we finish third in our division. Right now there are three teams fighting for that spot.
It’s not easy getting a team to gel, given the conditions, right?
Everyone here loves to play, but being amateurs everyone has different jobs, different schedules. There was a core group that’s been here. This season, the biggest difference is our backline has been changing. We’re just finding our rhythm now, and the backline is coming together and becoming more cohesive. Overall, it’s been a pretty solid season. Most of us coach, so our availability to train, play or travel varies. I’ve been fortunate to play in all but one game, but not everyone has that flexibility. Friday, I’m leaving right after the game to join one of the teams I coach for a tournament. Often the strength of the Sounders depends on which players are available, and who can get away for a longer road trip. So dynamics change, lineups change. We fill in where we can, and play different formations and use different tactics.
Other teams have some recognizable players, like Tiffany Milbrett up in Vancouver.
Right. The first time we played Vancouver they had just signed [Canadian international star] Christie Sinclair and a couple others for just one game, and Tiffany is also playing up there as of now, I believe. Other teams may have some paid players, and might have a more consistent and regular training regimen. Up here, almost everyone coaches one or more teams, and there may only be a couple nights a week when we can get enough people together.
When you came out of Oregon, you nearly caught on with
the final year of WUSA. What about the new league, Women’s Professional
Yeah, I nearly made it. I had some invitations to go to some WUSA tryout camps with San Jose and Washington. My best chance was in Atlanta. I was with them during the preseason and right before they started the season I was released. I’ve thought about the new league and I may give it a shot. I would love to tryout and see if it’s something I can still do, and worry about the finance part later.
With the advent of WPS, is there a significant buzz in the W-League now?
It’s great timing to bring the league back, especially with the hype of the Olympics. Hopefully the U.S. comes home with the gold, and I think the possibility of having some of those international stars in the league will build a lot of excitement. I know there are a lot of girls on the Sounders who are striving to play at the highest level, and there will be an opportunity to play in the new women’s league or perhaps get a tryout. There are already coaches out there scouting the league. They will invite some players to the fall combine and then other players will need to apply. A group of us are thinking about getting into really heavy training, and just see where that road takes us. Soon, hopefully Seattle will get a team, and that allow us to stay close to home and play.
See Hope Solo much when she’s in town?
Usually Hope’s only in town for a few days between camps and traveling, and I think that since she’s pretty self-driven, she trains on her own and then goes to see family and friends. But there are times that we’ll hang out and go down to Starfire to take shots on her.
When players try to take that step to the next level, from the W-League to WPS, what’s the biggest adjustment?
To me, the biggest thing is the competition and speed of play; it’s a lot faster and more physical. There will be a blend of players, from experienced veterans to younger girls who are just learning to play at a faster rate. Right now, you might see a few experienced players, but in the new league there might be whole teams of veteran players, who are also very strong.
You spoke of everyone having outside commitments. What are yours?
First, I’m with Seattle Pacific as an assistant coach. It’s the offseason now, but I’ve done some recruiting this summer. I also have a U15 team and a U18 team that I coach. And Frenchy [Sounders teammate Michelle French] and I have our own camps, FC Skillz Soccer Camps. It’s for competitive boys and girls, ages 9-15. We hold summer sessions and then a winter camp before the holidays, so we stay pretty busy.
Does coaching make you an improved player?
Definitely, I see the game differently. It’s helped me out in positioning, reading the game. Sometimes you get lost in the game, focusing on what the coaches want. But I find now that you can coach yourself through it, and the other girls who also coach, we help each other out, rather than just relying on instructions from sidelines. Certainly, I think coaching makes you a better player.