The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, October 5, 2020
My Fall Series awards (so far) — A bunch of links — Interview with Thorns rookie Sophia Smith
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My Fall Series awards (so far)
Kristie Mewis’ performance on Sunday in Houston’s 4-1 win over the North Carolina Courage got me thinking about the unheralded players who have stood out during the Fall Series, and in some cases, in the Challenge Cup too. Mewis is definitely at the top of the list.
It’s sad because this year isn’t going to count. But I think it’s still worth looking at some surprising players this fall, especially while some of the big names are either off in Europe or opting out.
Think Heisman watch list, except more fun.
BENJAMIN BUTTON AWARD: Definitely Christine Sinclair. How is she 37? Leads the fall series with four goals, including a hat trick against the Reign — a team she hasn’t historically had much luck with, scoring wise. Maybe the Reign just figured she wasn’t much of a threat.
For sure let’s not count her out of the Olympics. All Canada needs now is a coach.
SUPER SIBLING AWARD: The aforementioned Kristie Mewis. Three assists and two goals and she just keeps looking better and better.
Dash on, indeed.
BETTER HALF AWARD: Chicago’s Kealia Watt, who seems to like her new home in the Windy City. Two goals and an assist in the fall series.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN AWARD: Amy Rodriguez. Always one of my favorites (She’s part of the Trojan Family!), A-Rod has helped guide the Royals through some difficult times. Front offices issues and now a coaching controversy, but A-Rod has been her steady self throughout and kept the team from crumbling.
ANCHOR AWARD: Britt Eckerstrom, Thorns. There have been a lot of strong goalkeeper performances during the fall series. But Eckerstrom leads the field with 15 saves. I believe she has been an underappreciated star of the Challenge Cup and fall series, going into the season as essentially the third string GK and making the most of her opportunity. I mean, she’s basically all the Thorns have as an option in goal — no offense to Nadine Angerer. So she had to step up. And she did.
I mean, look at this:
JUST GETTING STARTED AWARD: We were all just patiently waiting for Kumi Yokoyama. And then, there she was.
These were just a few of the players that have stood out, to me. There have been many more.
Frankly, I’m personally glad some of the big names bailed for Europe. These other performances might have gotten lost.
The Dash, well, the confidence boost is clearly doing wonders.
I can’t wait until 2021.
(Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Me First: I wrote about Portland rookie Sophia Smith for the AP. Hey guys, I’ve been trying to not only cover the fall series for the AP but also keep the NWSL features flowing. Any clicks are appreciated!
Seth Vertelney for Goal.com on how Lindsey Horan convinced Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis to go abroad.
Love this story from Matt Pentz of The Athletic on the 2012 Sounders Women.
Excellent piece from Claire Watkins for The Equalizer on safety in the fall series.
Sandra Hererra for CBS Sports with her story on Alex Morgan’s quick move.
My AP colleague Rob Harris with his story on Alex Morgan.
This was also great from Hererra: Tracking the small businesses and organizations that partnered with NWSL teams for the Community Shield.
Annie Costabile for the Chicago Sun-Times on Savannah McCaskill and the Red Stars’ identity.
Julie Poe for the Orlando Sentinel with a nice story on how Ali Krieger is adjusting to her new broadcasting role.
The Tico Times wrote about Rocky Rodriguez’s first NWSL goal.
Fansided’s Playing for 90 did a story on Madison Hammond.
Jonathan Tennenwald’s take on Alex Morgan’s move for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Meg Linehan’s story for The Athletic on Morgan.
From today: The great Neil Davidson writes about Christine Sinclair.
Dylan Mickanen writes about how the Portland Thorns look to improve in the fall series for Yahoo.
The Beautiful Game Network did a nice story on Kaiya McCullough.
The Insider, part of the Business Insider group, also did a story on Rocky Rodriguez and her first NWSL goal.
Popsugar wrote about Madison Hammond, the first Native American to play in the NWSL.
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Five at The IX: Portland’s Sophia Smith
Annie: Can you tell me out what it was like to finally walk onto the field as a pro and get your first goal?
Sophia: Yeah, I mean, I keep using the word surreal. It was definitely something that I’ve dreamed of doing for so long. Ever since I started playing soccer at a young age. So for it to finally happen was just amazing. And obviously it was it was different with no fans and and kind of given the circumstances of the year. But it was still amazing.
Annie: How have you been kind of finding your way in practice?
Sophia: Practice has been huge for me. Obviously, I haven’t been able to play in all the games that we’ve had so far. So I think it’s so important that I put everything I have into practice and get better myself, but also help my teammates get better, and they do the same for me. So I’ve just been trying to grow. Obviously I’m new to the team still. So I’ve just I’ve just been trying to focus on being myself while still trying to be a very important part to this team and in whatever way I can.
Annie: How tough was it for you personally to be on the sidelines during the Challenge Cup?
Sophia: It was very tough. I think injuries are always tough no matter what. But then to have this this big event going on, and at the time we thought that that might be our only thing going on this whole year, so to have to sit out of that and watch it from the sidelines was extremely tough because all I wanted to do was just go out there and play. at the same time, I think I learned a lot about the team, about Mark Parson’s coaching style. I got to observe from a different perspective that I don’t usually get when I’m when I’m actually able to play. So I think it was hard to do. But in a lot of ways, it was valuable. And I’m glad I could at least be there even when I wasn’t playing just to to learn things.
Annie: It wasn’t obviously your first your first time that you had dealt with an injury. The first time obviously was more serious.
Sophia: I think that was the first big injury I’ve had in my in my soccer career. It all kind of hit me at once. I hadn’t had to go through that before, so I realized a lot about myself. I realized where a lot of my weaknesses were, and patience was a big one. It was hard for me to sit out and it was hard for me to find the motivation every day to keep going and keep grinding, even though I knew I was a long ways away from from playing in the game again. So it was hard for me, but I think everyone learns something about themselves after going through something like that and something so traumatic. I knew I was going to be out for a while. So I kind of challenged myself to figure out a mindset that I could stay consistent with that would help me get back to playing, obviously as soon as possible.
Annie: Do you feel like you are better player now?
Sophia: I think there were times definitely when I got injured, after I got injured, that I was scared that I would never be back to the same player I was. I mean, an injury like that, you never know exactly. You never know how that will affect how you play. So there were times where that was in the back of my mind. It was stressful and it was frustrating because it was out of my control. But there were definitely times. But like I said, I learned so much from it. And I think from I’m better than I was.
Annie: Everything happened to you in quick succession, the championship, training camp with the national team, then the draft. And then all of a sudden it coming to a grinding halt. Had to be kind of bizarre.
Sophia: Bizarre is a good word. It was pretty crazy. And you said it it all happened so fast. The day after we won the national championship in college, I left the next morning to national team camp. Then after that, there was another national team camp and in that camp I was in the process of making the decision to leave college and enter the draft. The draft was the week after that camp ended. So it was all it was all really quick.
I think so many people helped me kind of navigate that situation. My family. My agent. Like, if I didn’t have them, I think I would have been a little bit lost. But ultimately, it all worked out and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. And then obviously this year has been out of our control, something that I don’t think anyone expected to happen. But I’m in such a good place here in Portland and, despite everything that’s going on, I think being here with this team, with this coaching staff has helped me be in as good a place as possible as you can during this time.