In praise of Lauren Holiday ahead of her National Soccer Hall of Fame induction
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, May 1, 2023
Yes, I still refer to Lauren Holiday as simply “Cheney.” She is among my favorite athletes that I’ve ever covered. Kind, thoughtful and immensely talented, Holiday will be honored this weekend when she is enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Holiday will join Jill Ellis and Kate Sobrero Markgraf, as well as DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan and Slavia `Steve’ Zungul on Saturday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, for the induction ceremony. Hope Solo, who deferred her induction last season, will also be enshrined.
Full disclosure: I’m a Hall of Fame voter, and Holiday got my vote.
I was lucky enough to have covered Holiday’s last professional game. It was the NWSL championship between the then-Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City. They played it at Providence Park.
This was how my story started:
PORTLAND — Lauren Holiday celebrated the final game of her career with another title.
The midfielder, who won the Women’s World Cup with the U.S. national team this summer, won a second straight National Women’s Soccer League championship with FC Kansas City on Thursday night.
Her good friend and teammate Amy Rodriguez scored on a header in the 78th minute, giving the Blues a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Reign.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Holiday told the cheering crowd at Providence Park afterward.
An Indianapolis native who played at UCLA, Holiday scored 24 goals in 130 games with the U.S. team since making her senior debut in January 2007. In addition to the World Cup in 2015, she won gold in Beijing and London while playing a steady midfield role for the American team. She was the NWSL’s Player of the Year in 2013.
In 2016, following her retirement, doctors discovered that Holiday had a brain tumor while she was pregnant with her daughter. Her husband, NBA player Jrue Holiday, took a leave of absence from his then-team, the New Orleans Pelicans. “My family comes before basketball,” he said at the time.
The tumor was removed a month after Holiday gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Jrue Tyler Holiday. She had a son Hendrix in 2020.
On Friday, several reporters got a chance to chat with Holiday. She was asked what being inducted in the Hall of Fame meant to her.
“I’ve thought about that a lot. I think that I never played because I wanted the recognition. I played because I truly love the game and thinking about like what I was going to say or what I’m going to say when I go up and receive the award — all that came to me was joy and gratitude. When I think back to my career, I have so much joy from my career, like the relationships I built, the games that I won, the way that I challenged myself and overcame obstacles. I feel like I just have so much gratitude and so much joy from the time that I played that it’s carried me through into my post career where it’s like, I can view sport as such a catalyst, not just for change, for all of those things, but for true for true joy and internal happiness. So for that, I feel like the game gave me way more than I could ever give it.“
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European clubs seek to adhere to the mandatory release period for the upcoming World Cup, as tensions between clubs and national teams grow. Jeff Kassouf has been doing some really great reporting on this issue.
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FIVE AT THE IX: Bella Bixby … goal *scorer*?
NWSL AFTER DARK did not disappoint this past weekend. Portland goalkeeper Bella Bixby scored the game-tying goal over Angel City to preserve the Thorns’ unbeaten streak this season.
Here’s what Bixby said afterward:
Question: What was going through your mind?
Bixby: I mean, I knew stoppage time was running out and we’re down a goal, so protocol there is join in the corner kick. But ultimately, even though I’m a tall player I’m not very comfortable with my head so I didn’t want to get in the players’ way. I didn’t want to like impede any my teammates who actually know what they’re doing. So I just sat myself where I could hopefully pick up a rebound. Luckily I did, it bounced right at me and it I just kind of skipped it behind me. It took me about 10 seconds realize what happened.
Question: Where does this rank in your career moments?
Bixby: That moment, isolated, very high. I’m like, still in disbelief. I don’t know if I’ll get that chance again. So really trying to absorb that. The game itself will be memorable just because I feel like I went through every emotion possible like, let in a pretty easy goal, felt a little slighted on the second goal in terms of like feeling like I had some obstruction, third goal was a great set piece by them so gotta give them credit for that. But just every emotion and frustration, really thinking they were killing that game off. So it’s gonna rank pretty high in my memories as a professional player. Don’t get that opportunity a lot.
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Question: What does it say about the team’s resiliency to come back from a goal down twice in this game?
Bixby: I think it’s not a situation we want to be in. But I think at no point in that game, did I look at any of my teammates and feel shaken up. Speaking again, on the first goal, my teammates looked at me and I felt like they had every bit of trust in me still, they weren’t gonna baby me through that, and I didn’t need them to. I feel like we are that way all over the field, whenever anyone makes a mistake, it’s like alright, on to the next, which shows a lot of resiliency and I think it’s something that we really talk about having as a quality, as a team, to stay resilient to moments in the game, over the season, things outside of our control. So obviously, that’s more within our control. But I think it’s a team that can bounce back for sure.
Question: What would you like to see in upcoming games in regards to set piece defending?
Bixby: I think when teams are going to have really excellent, not only distributors on the ball they’re able to put balls in really good places, but also someone like Julie Ertz who is really dominant with her head. We have to be able to adapt in game quickly, without getting too stuck on those players, but giving them the respect they deserve. I think that we just gave her a little bit too much clear space to run through and flick it in your post. So obviously, we’ll be going back to the drawing board on that one. But yeah, just nothing to get shaken up by moving forward. But something that we’re definitely gonna look at and see how we can better there.
Question: You mentioned the the second goal. You were obstructed a little bit does that goal that you got feel like a bit of karma?
Bixby: I don’t want to say either way. I think I was given opportunity and I put it in the net. But I’m thinking about that second goal and I’d really like to see the footage on it. Obviously my experience in game, my eyes are on the ball, on the ball, on the ball, so I’m not seeing what’s happening, I kind of feel it. And it felt like as I was going to rise, it didn’t feel too far away from me, and I felt like as my hands are going up, they couldn’t all of a sudden and I watched it on obviously the jumbotron and it looked like it was right above me, my hands never came up and so I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get something. So obviously I’m gonna go back and look at it. So I’m not gonna say definitively that I was obstructed, but it felt that way. But at the end of the day, if I’m being obstructed, the person that was I was competing with wasn’t the one that headed the ball. So we still have to go back and look.
Question: It looked that way.
Bixby: I did go up to the ref and I don’t go to the ref very often. I was pretty adamant that I felt very ubstructed. abstract. But again, I would like to look at the footage.
Question: On behalf of the team, how does it feel to remain undefeated?
Bixby: Yeah, I think we got through that and we can take a breath. But obviously there’s a lot that went into chasing that game back down that we don’t want to have to do. We want to be putting them away. We want to be finishing our chances and not conceding chances. High quality chances. So that’s a great byproduct but I think that we could be you know, not just undefeated by getting a tie at the last minute rather than winning games comfortably. So I’m glad that we are but I think we want to do it the right way and I don’t think that’s — we’ve got to do better.
|By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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