With the U.S. team in Jamaica to prepare for the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship, ussoccer.com sits down with 16-year-old left back Tegan McGrady to get her thoughts on the recent past and what lies ahead. As she and her teammates prepare for their first international match in an official confederation competition, McGrady touches on what she’s learned during this cycle, how tennis is a nice competitive relief and how there’s never a dull moment around teammate Mallory Pugh.
: You and the team have trained for CONCACAF qualifying since January. How much has the team grown in 10 months?
Tegan McGrady : “Over the last 10 months we’ve grown immensely, especially as we’ve only been together once a month for seven or eight days at a time. We’ve always been able to pick up right where we left off every time we get together. We’ve been able to take steps forward every camp, and not just small steps, but big steps towards playing and acting as a team.”
: You’ve been playing in the U.S. Women’s National Team programs since the Under-15 level. When did you think you had a chance to make the team for
U-17 Women’s World Cup qualifying?
TM : “I had a rough go during the U-15 process because I didn’t have a lot of confidence and the coaches told me I needed to work on that. Over the past few years, that’s the one thing I’ve been working on the most. After our first camp with this group in January, which was our first camp with (head coach) B.J. (Snow) and after we played Germany for the first time, I finally recognized I could do it and be one of the players to make an impact on the team. I realized I could play at this highest level and play for this national team.”
: Obviously, you’ve never been through a qualifying tournament before, but given that, what are you expecting from the competition here in Jamaica?
TM : “There’s not really a day that goes by that I don’t think about qualifiers and especially recently since I made the team. I wake up in the morning thinking that there are only so many days until qualifying, and I always have that nervous feeling because I’ve never been in that situation so I don’t know what to expect. Of course the competition will be a lot harder than my normal club games so my preparation has been intense. I want to make sure I’m ready and not surprised when I get there.”
: What do you see as the strengths of this U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team?
TM : “We have a lot of strengths. One of our big ones is our athletic ability. Our speed is also a huge part of our game, but what helps make that come through even more is our technical ability. We also have a really good chemistry and we are getting to know how each player plays. We know our strengths and weaknesses and we are really starting to play as a team.”
: You are left-footed and talented left-sided players are valuable to any team. What qualities do you think you bring to the left back position?
TM : “Because I’m left-footed, it really helps for getting down the field, pushing high and getting crosses from the end line to help my teammates put the ball away. I’m just really comfortable on the left side, and while I’m confident with my right, having the ability to play with my left is a big bonus to helping the team.”
: Are you one of the more shy players on the team?
TM : “I can be both. When I first started this process, I was very shy. I only talked to the people I really knew. But, once I started to get older, my shy side comes out only when I meet new people. Once they get to know me, they see my outgoing side. Sometimes, I can even be funny.”
: Who is the least shy player on the USA’s qualifying roster?
TM : “That’s got to be Mallory Pugh. She just puts herself out there. She doesn’t care what people think, she just says whatever’s on her mind. She’s always making us laugh and always saying something that makes us happy or gets a reaction out of us. It’s great to have a player like that on the team.”
: You are only 16, but what are some of your goals in soccer?
TM : “Well, I have a lot of goals. I’m verbally committed to Stanford so I am looking forward to doing well there and hopefully winning an NCAA title. Also, of course to keep going through the process with U.S. Soccer and try to compete at every level I can and hopefully make it to the full National Team one day. And of course, like a lot of girls, I would love to play in an Olympics or a World Cup, or both!”
: What are some of the main lessons you’ve learned from your head coach B.J. Snow during this cycle?
TM : “There’s certainly been a lot of important lessons we’ve learned, but one of the main ones is always stepping on the field and playing like it’s the last time you will be wearing the U.S. crest. It really means a lot because it’s more than just a crest, it represents our country and all the players in the U.S. and to be a part of that and play for that crest is more than words can describe.”
: You also play tennis -- #3 singles -- and run track in high school in the 400m, 200m, 4 x 100 m relay and 4 x 400m relay, but what do you enjoy the
TM : “I definitely enjoy tennis. It’s a fun sport on the side, and I can go out and really not have to worry about all the different things that come into play during a soccer game. It’s something I can have fun with my friends and try to win matches. I love track, but that’s a lot of work. My competitive instinct kicks in when I’m out there running, but it can be painful.”
: If you are in the starting lineup for the opening game against Trinidad & Tobago, what will it be like listing to the National Anthem before the
TM : “I think it will be joy and over-excitement to know that I made it to this point and that I’ve been chosen to represent our country in a very big event. I know I need to take this chance and make the best of it while I can. I want to represent my country to the best of my abilities because I know thousands of girls out there would love to be getting this opportunity.”