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Eleven Questions with U-20 WNT Midfielder Jenna Richmond

Struck down by an ACL injury nine months before the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, defensive midfielder Jenna Richmond (above left with 2008 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Kristie Mewis) couldn’t quite make it back into contention for a roster spot on that team. Now, she is focusing on trying to make the U.S. squad for the 2010 U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a tournament that will take place in Germany next summer. During a break in U-20 WNT training camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the high school junior from Centreville, Va., took a few minutes to answer 11 Questions for Center Circle on, ranging from her knee injury, to her short-term goals in 2009 and why Abby Wambach is “da bomb.”

Center Circle: Have you thought about the irony of hurting your knee at the Future Stars Tournament in January of 2008 in New Zealand, which caused you to miss the World Cup in October in New Zealand?

Jenna Richmond: “It was a bummer. I wanted to go back to the spot that it happened. I knew that I had to get better first before I could go back, but the team was forming and (head coach Kaz Tambi) was putting things together and I knew he wouldn’t be able to change things. By the time I was fully cleared to play, it was just in time for the last camp and it was just too late. But things happen for a reason, and I know I need to take care of my body more. In the past, I would just keep going and going and pushing my body, but now I realize that I have to be smart, take some time off sometimes and regroup.”

CC: Many players have been struck down before a world championship, but what is it like to experience that emotion?

JR: “Pretty much, you just have realize right away that you have to stay strong. I told myself that I could get back if I worked hard. It’s a year-long process when you tear your ACL, and I wanted to work 10 times harder to get back to where I was, and then be even better. I was really focused on my rehab and it’s all worked out. Basically, you just have to look forward from the moment it happens and not worry about what happened in the past. That will hold you back.”

CC: Did you follow the U-17 team’s progress at the tournament?

JR: “I followed on and sometimes I would talk to the girls on Facebook. I definitely watched on MatchTracker, especially the semifinal against Germany. I would watch sitting in my recliner at home and looked at all the pictures on the website. It was hard to watch from afar, but I was so excited to see everyone doing well. To see the pictures of the girls celebrating gave me goose bumps. It made me want to have that experience even more.”

CC: Even though you missed the U-17 WWC, how did knowing you had a chance to play in the U-20 World Cup in 2010 impact your rehab process? Was that part of your motivation?

JR: “For sure. It made me come back stronger. I did all the things I needed to do. Even if I had stay after practice to regain my fitness and stuff, I did that. I realized that I have that opportunity to make it to Germany, but that no one was going to hand it to me. I think that if I make the U-20 World Cup Team I will appreciate it even more because I missed the U-17 tournament.”

CC: What are you personal goals for this cycle with the U-20s?

JR: “The first one is to continue getting called into camps. I also want to get physically stronger. There are some big girls out there, and I want to be able to compete with them. I want to get better at winning balls in the air, and that’s especially important in the defensive midfielder position. I also want to be more relaxed and composed on the field. I get real excited sometimes, which is good, but I want to learn how to channel that better to be more productive on the field.”

CC: Do you see a role emerging for this team?

JR: “Playing the defensive mid position, you control everything that’s in front of you. I think I have to help out the other two center mids as well as staying tied in with the back four. I have to communicate well and playing in the middle of the field, you have to be a leader. I think it’s going well so far in just the few events that we’ve had. I think the center mids are starting to find a good rhythm.”

CC: Give us a percentage of the time you spend on soccer, school and social?

JR: “I would say school, social and family are pretty much tied together and that is about 25 percent. The rest of the time I’m out on the field. I’m pretty happy with the balance right now, and I make sure that I do that. But I love to play and I love being on the field.”

CC: You are headed to UCLA in the fall of 2010. As a high school junior having already chosen your college, how do you stay focused in school?

JR: “A lot of the kids say, ‘Jenna, you don’t even have to go to school anymore!’ But I do. I have to keep up with my grades. I have to be prepared for college. I don’t want to take easy classes, I still want to challenge myself.”

CC: What is the most fun thing to do for a high schooler in Centreville, Va.?

JR: “That would be, well, just hanging out at someone’s house. That or going to any of our sports games. Maybe getting some ice cream? Nothing too exciting really goes on in Centerville.”

CC: What is one new thing you’ve learned in training camp this week?

JR: “That I need to get bigger on the ball. There are freshman in college at this camp and they have been training with weights and are getting stronger. I’ve realized that I have to add that to my game to keep improving.”

CC: Which player on the full Women’s National Team do you most admire?

JR: “Abby Wambach because of her passion. She is always pushing as hard as she can. She always gets goals because of her drive to put herself in position to score and she scores some sick headers. Any player can learn about what you need to bring to the game to excel at the top levels by watching her intensity.”