w/ WNT midfielder Shannon Boxx
A monthly feature about a U.S. Men’s, Women’s or Youth National Team player who demands that bright, shining spotlight.
Sep. 9, 2003
Shannon Boxx seemingly came out of nowhere to recently earn a spot on the 2003 Women’s World Cup Team, but the benefits of the WUSA tell the true story: to dominate in the league is one way to get your shot at the U.S. Women’s National Team. But while the rugged defensive midfielder was the biggest surprise on the 20-player roster, she is ready to do her part.
On Sunday, August 24, Shannon Boxx walked into her post-training camp meeting with U.S. Women’s National Team head coach April Heinrichs on the 14th floor of the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego.
Her expectations? Maybe that Heinrichs wouldn’t pick the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team for another week, and that she might get a chance to earn a cap on Sept. 1 against Costa Rica and take a step toward making 2003 Women’s World Cup roster.
Maybe Heinrichs would tell her that she did well in the four days of training, and that she was in the future plans, and that she would see her regularly after the Women’s World Cup.
"She said right away that she was picking the team," said Boxx. "So I thought to myself, well there goes my chance to play in a game before she picks the team."
Not quite. Heinrichs had some different news for Boxx, a 5’8" midfielder who was coming off her best pro season after being named a WUSA All-Star and All-WUSA First-Team selection in 2003.
She had made the 20-person 2003 Women’s World Cup roster, becoming the first ever uncapped player to earn that honor before making her first start in a 5-0 win over the Ticas.
"I was shocked, surprised, elated, a whole bunch of emotions," said Boxx, who grew up in Redondo Beach, just minutes from The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where she played all 90 minutes in her U.S. Women’s National Team debut. "I just wasn’t prepared for it, which I think made it even better. There was just a huge smile on my face and I got all teary-eyed. It really was a dream come true."
In her first full cap, she showed just how well her fresh face belongs alongside cover girls like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain, scoring in the 53rd minute on a bomb to the upper left corner and completely stifling the Costa Rican attack from her raised sweeper position.
Ironically, this highest point in her career comes not long after the lowest, when she found herself on the bench for the San Diego Spirit at the end of the 2002 season, after she had been the team’s most consistent – and perhaps the best – player in 2001.
After the 2002 season, Boxx was sent to the New York Power in the largest-ever trade in WUSA history that brought the #1 pick and Aly Wagner to San Diego.
When Boxx was first told of the trade that would send the Southern California native 3,000 miles across the country, she was disappointed. But that moment was also a new beginning, one that would eventually see her reach the pinnacle of a soccer player’s career, a chance to play in a World Cup.
"At first, I was sad leaving San Diego, but once I went through my first training camp in October with (Power head coach) Tom Sermanni, I realized that it would be a great situation for me," said Boxx, who like Sermanni, an assistant for two years with the San Jose CyberRays, was starting fresh. "I saw that I would have a different role with New York, and I really enjoyed Tom’s style and his personality. I talked to the CyberRays players and only heard good things about him before I got to New York. I just felt like he allowed me the freedom to be me. I got as fit as I’ve ever been in my life and that freed me up to play my game for 90 minutes."
Boxx started out in her accustomed defensive midfield spot, but due to injuries, played central defense for a few games as well. Her real impact, though, came out of the midfield, where she dominated in the air and on the ground and used her tremendous skills and savvy to rack up a team-leading eight assists on the year.
"She’s so physical in the middle; she’s such a strong defender," said 1999 Women’s World Cup veteran and former Notre Dame teammate Kate Sobrero. "But at the same time, after she can go 100% and win the ball and be aggressive, the minute she wins it, she calms down and is able to play and play-make. That’s a strong talent to have."
It was her play in the WUSA, and her inspirational leadership of the Power, that caught Heinrichs’ attention and earned the call-up into the final pre-WWC training camp.
"Shannon Boxx's late season performance for the New York Power was compelling," said Heinrichs. "She was dominating the midfield, regardless of who the opponent was. I watched all of her games, and what became apparent was that she has qualities that allow her to dominate in a way that I think we can use. I've valued Shannon's qualities for many years. I can remember her in year one in San Diego, and I really think that she was their most consistent player. Every day she brought competitiveness, hardness, ball winning, and a never-say-die attitude to the Spirit. I think all those qualities compelled us to say 'she can help us.'"
The selection to the Women’s World Cup Team turned Boxx’s world upside down. Engaged to be married to Sean Taketa, the date of the wedding is now on hold. Enrolled in grad school at Pepperdine, she had to withdraw. All set to be the assistant women’s soccer coach at Cal State-Dominguez Hills, she’ll have to put off that position until after the tournament.
But all that is just fine with the former Notre Dame star that helped the Irish upset normal champ North Carolina for an NCAA title in 1995. She’s going to the Women’s World Cup, in her home country no less, with the championship final in her own backyard.
"I want to make sure I take in this whole experience," said Boxx. "I know I’m going to learn a lot, but I expect to help this team win if I get in the game. My role will be much different than on the Power in that it will be a more of a supporting role, but whatever I am asked to do, I’ll do it. And I am going to make sure to enjoy every minute of this."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (A Look at the U.S. Women’s World Cup Team)
2) In Threes (w/ MNT midfielder Steve Ralston)
3) Whatever Happened to... (former WNT forward Carin Gabarra)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ U-17 MNT defender Julian Valentin)
5) Mark That Calendar (WNT vs. Group D Opponents – Sept. 21, 25, 28)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT midfielder Shannon Boxx)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003?)
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (Women’s World Cup Trivia)
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