ROUGH AND TUMBLE
Becky Sauerbrunn describes herself as her two older brothers’ guinea pig. They’d duct-tape plywood to her arms and take slap shocks at her; they’d see how far they could launch her off the couch; they’d roll her into a blanket like a burrito – so tight that to this day, she does not like being tucked in; they’d steal her stuffed animals and beat them up while she tried to rescue them. Once, they accidentally hit her in the face with the bat – she was gushing blood but her brothers didn’t want to get in trouble so they slapped a Band-Aid on her and tried to barricade her upstairs. She escaped and her parents took her to the hospital where she got stitches.
“Aside from physically toughening me up, they also toughened me up mentally,” says Sauerbrunn. If she cried, they’d call her a baby. Or if she said ‘Ow,’ a little too loud, hoping that her mom and dad would hear, they’d hit her harder, onto her tactics and unimpressed. “I learned how to take it. It taught me how to not really rely on other people to solve my problems. I think that kind of stayed with me. I’m very motivated internally. I’m a bit of a scrapper.”
NATIONAL TEAM TOUGHNESS
This tolerance for pain came in handy during her first National Team cap against Canada, “I was so nervous, I didn’t think I was going to start, but there was an injury so I was thrown into the starting lineup,” recalls Sauerbrunn. In the second half, there’s a ball in the air and both Sauerbrunn and a Canadian are going up for it. The Candian tries to flick the ball but instead catches Sauerbrunn full in the face with her head. “And I’m trying to shake it off, like, okay, that hurt really bad but keep going. Then I went to feel my face and my nose was like all the way over here. But I was like, okay, well, I can keep playing.” Blood was “gushing” down her face and when a nearby teammate caught sight of her, she looked at her with horror and told her to get off the field. She headed to the sideline, holding her nose with her shirt – and when she pulled her shirt away, the coach flinched and muttered, “Oh my God.” The team doctor reset it right there in the locker room. Becky played in the next game with a “MacGyver-like mask” made out of random materials they happened to have on hand in the training room. A contraption with the same industrious, ramshackle style as the plywood-hockey ensembles her brother would put her in as a kid.
Her two brothers were more than just “brutes”. They also helped their little sister learn how to read. “I had trouble when I first started learning how to read and my brothers would read to me and then help me try to figure out the words.” These days Sauerbrunn is a voracious reader who brings three or four books on every National Team trip. “Reading is such an escape, so nice to just get away. Plus, I want to continue learning. Soccer will only last for so long and I’d still like my brain to function, so it’s good to keep exercising it.”
Full name is Rebecca Elizabeth Sauerbrunn … Majored in English literature and composition at Virginia … Was midway through getting her master’s in education from UVA when WPS started, so she put her studies on hold … Loves country music … Loves reading fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, and her favorite series is “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman … Current favorite books are “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline and “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts … Will name her first cat “Ender” after her favorite science fiction character … Favorite all-time TV show is “Lost” … Enjoys “Game of Thrones,” “The Wire,” “True Detective,” and “Fargo” and pretty much anything created by HBO or Netflix ... Has begun listing to podcasts and enjoys “Men in Blazers,” “The Black Tapes” and No Sleep” … Favorite movie is “The Shawshank Redemption” … Loves going to movies and enjoys writing … Favorite soccer team is Arsenal but also really likes watching Real Madrid … Likes Liverpool center back Martin Skrtel because they are complete opposites in how they play … Favorite color is grey … The youngest of three children, she has two older brothers … Surprisingly good at video games, especially racing and adventure ones, like Zelda … Has found herself playing every version of Tomb Raiders and loves playing with a strong female character … Would drink lattes all day, every day if not for the resulting dehydration and over-active brain activity … Has a dry, dark sense of humor that still often catches her teammates off guard … Favorite number is 11, and during the past 15 years she has either worn 11 or 22, but at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2012 Olympics she wore the number 4 and has kept that number ever since as its traditionally a center-back number.
Called into the U.S. team for the first time in January of 2008 and then earned a place on the roster for the Four Nations Tournament in China where she earned her first two caps … Her first start and cap against Canada on Jan. 16, 2008, was also Pia Sundhage’s first match as head coach … Trained with the WNT in February of that year, but then traveled to Spain with the U.S. U-23s … Did not get another call-up to the senior team until after the 2010 WPS season and worked her way into the mix as she has become a vital player and consistent defender for the National Team ... Named captain of the U.S. WNT along with Carli Lloyd for 2016 … 2015: A member of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup champions, she had a spectacular tournament in her second World Cup marshalling the defense while playing every minute of all seven games ... She was the only player to start 25 matches for the U.S. this year and led the team in minutes played with 2,184, both career highs ... Helped the USA win its 10th Algarve Cup title in Portugal .. Named to the CONCACAF Best XI … Posted to become the 35th female player to earn 100 caps for the USA early in 2016 … 2014: Played in 22 games, logging career-highs to date in minutes played (1,757) and games started (20) … Member of the team that won the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship as she played every minute of three matches to help the USA book its ticket to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup … Became the 46th female U.S. player to play 50 more games when she started the first game of the year against Canada in Frisco, Texas, and had the assist on the game-winning goal … 2013: Was a consistent starter at center-back, getting the nod in 10 of the 12 games she played … Played 940 minutes, third most on the team … 2012: Saw the most action of her National Team career to date, playing 1,255 minutes over 22 games while making nine starts … Played both center back and at outside back during the year … Made her first Olympic Team and played in three matches off the bench … Only played 38 total minutes, but was a key sub coming on during crunch time in both the semifinal and the final to help seal those victories and the Olympic gold medal … Started and played every minute of three matches at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, Canada … 2011: Had her best year yet for the National Team, playing in 12 games while starting eight and made her first Women’s World Cup roster at the senior level … Played in just one match in Germany but had a stellar game while playing all 90 minutes during the semifinal victory against France, stepping up in a big way to replace the suspended Rachel Buehler … 2010: Played in five matches, starting three, and made the roster for the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament, playing in one match … Was called into a training camp prior to the qualifying roster being named due to an injury to another player and ended up making the roster and solidifying her place in the national team pool … Youth National Teams: Played for the U.S. U-21s/U-23s in 2007 and 2008, winning Nordic Cup titles in both years … Co-captain of Nordic Cup champion U-23s in 2008 … Was a starter and co-captain for the USA at the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in Thailand, playing every minute of all six games … Completed her U-19 career with 25 caps … Member of U.S. U-16s and U-17s from 2000-02 … Attended the U.S. U-14 I.D. camp in 1999 … First Appearance: Jan. 16, 2008, vs. Canada … First Goal: None.
2015: Captained FCKC to its second consecutive NWSL title, defeating the Seattle Reign, 1-0 … Named the NWSL Defender of the Year and became the first player in history to be honored with a league award in three consecutive seasons after also claiming Defender of the Year honors in 2013 and 2014 … Won the award despite playing in just 11 matches due to WWC commitments, but played every minute of those games (990 minutes), including five of the Blues' league-high nine shutouts … Also named to the NWSL Best XI … She was also part of FCKC's record-tying four-match shutout streak from August 8-27 that equaled the mark set earlier in the season by the Blues as well as by Sky Blue FC in 2013 … The streak included back-to-back matches in which Sauerbrunn and her teammates did not allow a shot on goal … FCKC had the league’s top defense, allowing just 20 goals and four in 10 matches at home … 2014: Named the NWSL Defender of the Year to become the first repeat winner of an NWSL season-end award after also claiming the honor in 2013 … Helped FC Kansas City win its first NWSL title after the team defeated Seattle 2-1 in the NWSL Championship Game … Named to the NWSL Best XI First-Team … Played every minute of 22 starts for FCKC during the regular season … Tied for third-most starts in the team … Has still yet to come out of a professional club match in which she started … 2013: Had an excellent season with FC Kansas City, playing every minute of all 19 games she started in helping her club to a second place finish and a playoff berth … Was named the 2013 NWSL Defender of the Year and to the NWSL Best XI … At this point in her career, she had yet to come out of a professional game in which she had started, playing every minute, spanning three WPS seasons and one NWSL season (and missed just 10 minutes in her college career) … 2012: Allocated to FC Kansas City for the inaugural NWSL season … The only player to play every minute of the first two WPS regular seasons, a streak that was only broken when she left to play for the USA at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany … She played every minute of every match she played in her WPS career … Signed with Sky Blue FC as a free agent for the 2012 season before the league folded … 2011: Signed with magicJack and played in 13 regular season games, tied for most WPS matches played by a U.S. WNT player, while playing all 1,170 minutes (most by a WNT player) … Also played all 180 minutes over magicJack’s two playoff games … 2010: She started all 24 matches for the Washington Freedom and picked one up assist … Played all 120 minutes in playoff match against Philadelphia … 2009: Selected by the Washington Freedom as the third overall pick in the 2008 WPS General Draft ahead of the inaugural season … She started all 20 games and scored one goal, a spectacular header for the Freedom’s first WPS goal … Immediately after the 2009 WPS season, she played three months in Norway for Røa IL, a club right outside of Oslo … Her team finished first in the league and won the Norwegian Cup … She also played two rounds of UEFA Champions League, defeating Everton of England and FK Zvezda of Russia in two-leg series’ to get to the final eight … 2008: Played for the Freedom in W-League during 2008 … Played for the Richmond Kickers in the W-League in 2006-07 and the Boston Renegades in 2005 … Youth club: Played youth club for J.B. Marine and helped lead her teams to four state cup titles and a 2000 regional championship.