“I wanted to be a gymnast more than anything in the world,” says Engen. “But when you’re a five-foot-seven, 100 pound third grader, it’s not really going to work out for you. I was a huge, huge kid. I’ve basically been this size my whole life.” So she focused on soccer.
She loved driving to games in her father’s old diesel Mercedes, the whole car shaking, her dad blaring opera music as they wound up the hill toward her game. But on the field, things weren’t going much better than gymnastics, “I rode the bench; rode it hard. I only went in if we were winning by so many goals that there was no way I could screw it up.” She went to individual training sessions; she did everything she could to figure out how to break into the team. “This experience taught me two things: that it’s good to persist even when you’re not having success, and that I did not want to sit on the bench.” The next year, Engen switched teams – to one that included her future National Teammate Christen Press – ended up playing every minute, and loved it. “It changed my whole outlook on soccer.”
“In my family, everything was a competition,” says Engen. When they were little, it was a race to see who could get on their pajamas first, “My parents would be like, ‘Ready, set, go!” and we’d be stomping up the stairs, banging open drawers, ripping off clothes.”
There were also living room obstacles courses. Whitney’s mother would set up circuits – vault the chair, summersault over the couch, jump over the table. “My parents would be standing there laughing, calling out, ‘Four, five, six!’ and I’m trying to book it through the house,” says Engen.
In the car, there was the “Seat Belt Olympics:” gold if you were the first to get yours on, silver if you were second, bronze if you were third, lead if you were fourth. “Obviously, lead was the worst. You never wanted to get lead,” laughs Engen. “It was a full blown race to get in the car, but then you’d pull too hard, too eagerly and the seat belt would get caught … it was a delicate balance. To this day, it’s unsaid; we get in the car, and you’re still trying to see who got their seatbelt on first. It’s the personal satisfaction of having won.”
Engen’s parents instilled the idea that there should always be a ‘Plan B’ in case soccer didn’t work out. Law school was her back up plan. “Laws are things that are black and white, yet there’s a lot of gray in the field too. If it was just ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ there wouldn’t be a need for lawyers. The lawyers come in because there are interpretations. It’s kind of like a puzzle, and I liked the idea of finding the most right answer.”
Full name is Whitney Elizabeth Engen … Nickname is “Whit” … Graduated with a degree in political science from North Carolina … Named to the Dean’s List five times … Has aspirations to attend law school after her soccer career … An avid reader, she loves science fiction, thrillers and historical fiction … Some of her favorite books include the Harry Potter series and Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy … Loves to play all types of games – board, dice, card – anything that is competitive … Favorite TV series include “The Office” and “Modern Family.”
A central defender who has added experience and a commanding aerial presence at the back as well as on offensive set pieces where she has scored four goals, including at least one each in the past three years … 2015: A member of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup champions after being named to her first World Cup roster ... Played six matches in 2015, starting three, and had a goal and an assist … Started and played in the USA's first two matches of the year against France on Feb. 8 and England on Feb. 13... Scored in the opening Victory Tour match against Costa Rica in Pittsburgh … Was on the U.S. roster for the 2015 Algarve Cup in Portugal, but did not see action after hurting her hamstring … 2014: Engen took a big step forward with the WNT in her third year with the program, playing 1,051 minutes in 13 games while starting 11 … She scored two goals, finding the net against Mexico on a header off a corner kick that was assisted by childhood friend and youth soccer teammate Christen Press, and against Guatemala on a header from a set play in the opening match of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, where she helped the USA secure its berth to the Women’s World Cup … 2013: Had her best year for the WNT to date, playing in eight games at center back while starting seven … Scored her first international goal on March 8 against China PR at the Algarve Cup in Portugal … 2012: Did not play in a match for the U.S. WNT … 2011: Earned her first two senior team caps, coming off the bench against Norway and Finland during group play at the Algarve Cup in Portugal … Trained extensively with the team in the lead up to the Women’s World Cup … 2010: First call-up to the senior team came in March of 2010, and she trained with the team during matches against Mexico in San Diego and Salt Lake City, Utah … Also called in to train in October of 2010 during two friendly matches against China … Youth National Teams: Played for the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team in 2009 … Played with the U.S. U-20s in 2006 and 2007 … First Appearance: March 4, 2011 vs. Norway … First Goal: March 8, 2013 vs. China PR.
2015: Played every minute of all 12 games she played for the Western New York Flash … She was traded to the Chicago Red Stars Nov. 10 as Chicago sent New Zealand defender Abby Erceg, Canada forward Adriana Leon and a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in the 2016 Draft to the Flash in exchange for Engen and a fourth-round pick in the 2016 Draft … She did not stay on Chicago’s books for long as on Nov. 22 she was traded to the Boston Breakers for goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher … Boston also acquired a second-round pick (No. 17 overall) in the 2016 NWSL College Draft from the Red Stars, as well as the Red Stars’ natural second-round pick in the 2017 draft … Chicago also received the Breakers’ third-round pick (No. 22 overall) in the 2016 Draft … Engen previously played for new Boston Breakers coach Matt Beard (who was hired in September) at Liverpool, helping the team win the FA WSL title in 2013 … 2014: Traded from the Houston Dash to the Western New York Flash on Oct. 16 for Carli Lloyd, Becky Edwards and a draft pick … Allocated to the expansion Houston Dash for the second NWSL season, joining the team after her Swedish club Tyresö finished runner-up in the UEFA Women’s Champions League… Played in 11 games for the Dash, starting all of them … 2013: In a season that ran from March to October, Engen marshalled a Liverpool Ladies defense that helped the club win the FA Women’s Super League on the last weekend of the season, holding off Bristol Academy to finish four points clear and break Arsenal’s 10-year stronghold atop English women’s soccer … Started and played in 20 of Liverpool’s 21 games (she missed one due to WNT duty) and scored once … Following her stint in England, she signed with Tyresö in Sweden and helped the club win its Round of 32 UEFA Women’s Champions League series against French power Paris Saint-German and Round of 16 series against Danish club Fortuna … In the second leg against Fortuna, she scored a spectacular back-heel flick volley off a free-kick service from U.S. teammate Meghan Klingenberg … 2012: In October 2012, Engen signed with English club Liverpool Ladies for the 2013 FA WSL and arrived in England in January of 2013 … Played with the Pali Blues in the W-League during the summer … 2011: At the end of the WPS season, Engen joined Swedish team Tyresö FF on loan, playing seven games with six starts while scoring one goal with one assist in Damallsvenskan … Signed with the Western New York Flash and played a key role in helping the team to the WPS regular season title and the WPS championship in its first year of existence … Played in 17 of the team’s 18 regular season matches, starting them all, and led the Flash in minutes played with 1,530 … Played every minute in the championship game shootout victory over Philadelphia … Was named the WPS Defender of the Year and to the 2011 WPS Top XI … 2010: Taken fourth overall by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2010 WPS Draft … She started all 24 games for the Red Stars and played all but four minutes of the season … 2009: Played for the Pali Blues in the W-League …Youth club: Played youth club for Slammers FC, winning back-to-back state and regional titles in 2004-05 ... Took part in two national championships with the Slammers, taking second in 2004 and third in 2005 ... Won two ODP national titles with the Cal South ’86 State Team.