NWSL preseason tour continues with Bay FC — Interview with Jen Beattie
The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Feb. 5, 2024
Welcome to another edition of Soccer Monday! We’ve looked a bit at the Spirit and the Thorns, so here’s a bit about Bay FC’s Silicon Valley NWSL start-up season.
The league’s 14th team went on an acquisition spree, using the transfer market to add some big names in the past week or so. First it was Deyna Castellanos, then a flurry that included Asisat Oshoala, Jen Beattie and Princess Marfo.
Castellanos is probably most familiar to U.S. fans because she won an NCAA title with Florida State. She comes to the San Francisco Bay Area from Manchester City, where she played in eight matches with a goal. The deal is worth a reported $1.8 million over four years, making her the highest paid foreign player in the NWSL.
Asisat Oshoala comes from Barcelona, where she won a pair of Champions League titles and scored 85 goals for the Spanish club. Only 29, She’s a six-time African Player of the Year. I was fortunate to speak to her recently.
“I just feel like I want something different. If you follow my career for a long time, you realize that I get easily bored,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t really stay long in any place. I stay two, three years and I want to try something else. I’ve played on a couple of continents and I feel like I want to play elsewhere.”
One interesting tidbit from Oshoala: Nigeria’s players got their player bonuses from the Women’s World Cup last summer. Nigeria was knocked out of the tournament by England on penalties after a scoreless draw in the Round of 16. So each player had an individual payday of $60,000. Life-changing money for some of those young women.
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Princess Marfo, a promising 20-year-old from Ghana, was acquired via transfer with Danish club FC Nordsjælland.
And finally, there was Jen Beattie, a goal-scoring center back. Do you all remember that wild match in the group stage at the 2019 World Cup where Scotland and Argentina played to a 3-3 draw? Beattie scored one of Scotland’s goals.
Since then she’s fought cancer and was awarded with an MBE by Prince William. She below for some of my interview with her.
All of these players, plus those already on the roster — including veteran Emily Menges, early signee Alex Loera and draft picks Savy King and Maya Doms — fit into coach Albertin Montoya’s vision for what he wants the team to look like: possession oriented and fast. The roster now stands at 23.
It’s also been cool to watch the team embrace the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area sports scene with roster teasers from the Warriors’ Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and Klay Thomson, golfer Michelle Wie, and Kristie Yamaguchi. A+ Marketing.
What remains to be seen is whether Bay FC can generate excitement in an already crowded sports market. But Angel City was able to pull it off in Los Angeles, and so far it looks as though Bay FC ticket sales are going well. There were 3,200 deposits for season tickets, which went on sale last month. The team expects to sell out all of its premium seats and luxury boxes ahead of the season.
The team trained in Santa Barbara but returned home in the Bay Area over the weekend. Their first preseason game will be at the Coachella Valley Invitational against the Wave on Feb. 20.
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Q+A with Jen Beattie
I was able to talk to Jen Beattie about her move to Bay FC. This is a bit of our conversation.
Annie: I guess the most obvious question that I have to start is why this move and why now?
Beattie: Well, first and foremost, I was just so ready for a new challenge. I think there’s two components to the answer. I was kind of blown away when I started speaking to Bay and they’re kind of aspirations and goals with with what they wanted to do as a team and really build as a club. So yeah, there were two things. I think the NWSL is an incredible league and what Bay wants to try and deliver with me being involved in that process, I was just it was too excited to say no. Why now? I was just ready for another challenge. I’m 32, 33 in May and I still feel like I’m competitive, still want to achieve things, and it just felt like the right time to you know, jump into something big and challenge myself in another way.
Annie: At the 2019 World Cup, I watched Scotland play against Argentina, and watching you and in my head I’m like, in my head, I’m like, is she a defender? Is she a striker? I’m kind of wondering how you see yourself.
Beattie: I definitely see myself as a center back. I feel like I’ve kind of pinned that down, that position, for the better part of a decade now. But oh my word, I absolutely loved my striker times. I did play that when I was a lot younger for Arsenal, in my kind of late teenage years and early 20s, and I absolutely loved it. There’s no better feeling than scoring goals even. Even as a defender I can say that. There’s nothing better as a center back when you get higher on the pitch, a corner, or a fat piece, and you get an opportunity to score. I was lucky enough to do it in that game you watched and it was one of the best feelings; but to answer your question, I’m definitely a defender and hopefully center back is where I’ll be. But anytime I get to be further up the field I’ll take it.
Annie: Why the shift? Was that on purpose, or did you just feel like that’s where you could better serve your teams?
Beattie: Yeah, exactly. I think I remember having a very specific conversation was my national team coach at the time with Scotland. I think like a lot of kids when you’re in your teens or early 20s you can you can be versatile and that’s a good place to be, to be able to play different positions and learn to see the game differently. And I definitely think it was it was amazing in my development to play different positions, whether it be in the midfield or further up top but I think in order to really — I mean, you’re never going to perfect the craft but in order to kind of do the best possible — I think it was important for me to really pin down a position. In order to kind of be consistently selected for my national team, that’s where my coach saw me so I jumped at that opportunity to be honest to be able to kind of pin down a position, learn it in the best way possible so I could really focus on it.
Annie: You totally embraced it.
Beattie: I’m very much a team player. I think as long as I’m on the field, I will do whatever role is asked of me. I’m not the kind of person that will do what I want and that’s it. If coach or a manager advises me on what’s best for the team, that’s what I’ll 100% do. I feel like positions kind of come into that. I’ll take all the advice I can and listen as much as I can to people who are completely educated in that area and not me. I tried to take as much advice and just run with it and yeah, it’s a decision I was happy with.
Annie: Kind of along those same lines of doing what is needed to be done for the team. Last year with Arsenal was like a prime example of that, when it felt like everyone on Arsenal got hurt at the same time, and you were thrust into a larger role.
Beattie: I think you know, throughout my kind of 20s or early 30s, I was lucky enough to play most games and start most games but I think my role definitely shifted from being a starting player to a squad player. … I never wanted to be a bad vibe on the training ground. So I knew I had to just flip my mentality, and I understood my role, I think I was well managed in that sense — my manager was pretty clear and made it pretty clear in training and selection. I always say that whatever my role is, I wanted to do it in the best possible way, whether that was starting, on the bench or being a waterboy (laughs). I always want to be, or try and be, a decent human around the training ground. So yeah, I just tried to be myself as fit as possible so that when I was ever needed, I was ready. That was my plan for the season.
I would do all the extra running possible, so all the extra sessions, so that if I was called upon and — I would never wish injuries on anyone — but that situation obviously did come around and I ended up playing quite a lot towards the end of the season. So yeah, I just had to honestly be ready for whenever I was called upon.
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Annie: I know a big part of your story is that you overcame cancer and I was wondering how that shaped you as a player.
Beattie: I hope this comes across the right way. It was definitely like life changing in the best possible way. I think I was super serious in my 20s and I think that’s a great thing, but it can also hold you back from a lot of things. I was incredibly focused on football — and don’t get me wrong, I still completely am. But I was quite serious. And I think after that it kind of made me realize that this can all be taken away at any point. So I can, I can genuinely say that I always appreciated my job but I appreciate it now more than ever. I fully understand that I have the best job in the entire planet. I absolutely love it. And I have more fun with it now than I probably ever have. I want to enjoy every day and really embrace the people I work with and make it the best sort of experience for everyone that’s involved in a project. So yeah, I always knew I had the best job, but that kind of made me understand it a little bit better. It just made me enjoy it and kind of see the fun in it again. Because I think football can be a big bubble and it can be super serious and intense. And that can sometimes make it quite hard and difficult. So I think trying to zoom out and see the bigger picture and understand that family, friends, health, they are the most important things and it definitely changed my perspective on life; but I definitely think I enjoy it now more than ever, which I think is quite a nice thing to be able to say.
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