The U.S. Women’s National Team will open the Nike U.S. Women’s Cup on Sunday, Sept. 29, against Russia at the Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. The USA will then travel to Cary, N.C. to play two matches as SAS Stadium, facing Australia on Oct. 2 (kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET live on ESPN2) and Italy on Oct. 6 (kickoff at 2 p.m. live on ESPN2). SAS Stadium is the home of the 2002 WUSA champion Carolina Courage, who won the league’s second title, in large part due to the play of Danielle Slaton, the subject of today’s Q & A. Slaton was the 2002 WUSA Defender of the Year and made a monster impact on the Courage’s run from worst to first. Today, the 23-year Slaton talks about her first year as a pro and her goals for the future.
ussoccer.com: You won the 2001 NCAA title at Santa Clara, got drafted #1 in the WUSA by the Carolina Courage and then won the WUSA championship. Could you have written a better script?
Slaton: Probably not. It has been an amazing and crazy year. I really couldn’t have imagined anything better. Winning the NCAA title was very special because it was something the university was working at for over 10 years and I worked toward for four years. The chemistry on our team was great and obviously we had some fantastic players. This year with the Courage, I learned a lot about being a professional and what it takes to play in the WUSA. The organization did a great job of turning the team around after the first season and the returning players did a fantastic job of welcoming us rookies.
ussoccer.com: You were a member of the 2000 Olympic Team, but did not get into a match. How important is it to you to make the 2003 Women’s World Cup team and be a contributor?
Slaton: Being at the Olympics was a phenomenal experience, but I hope after three years with this team that I can make a large impact on the field during a Women’s World Cup. Of course, we have to qualify, but this is perhaps the most talented group of players ever in terms of the depth at so many positions. It will be a challenge for all of us to make that World Cup team and earn a starting spot.
ussoccer.com: You’ve battled some knee problems for the last few years and sat out the last two national team events to rest. How is it feeling?
Slaton: So far in this training camp my knee has felt better than expected. I still have to visit the training room and do the preventive things to stay as strong as possible. So far, so good, but I know always have to be conscious and responsible in regards to taking care of my body.
ussoccer.com: You’ve played in the center of the defense and on the left side for the national team. Which do you prefer or enjoy more?
Slaton: First of all, I would prefer to be on the field rather than on the bench or at home on my couch. So wherever April and the coaching staff put me, I’m excited to be on the field and will do my best to help the team win.
ussoccer.com: You’ve played defense for most of your career. Who are the toughest forwards you’ve ever faced?
Slaton: Of course, all the forwards on the U.S. National Team are dynamic and incredibly tough to defend, but some of the taller forwards are really difficult for me. Abby Wambach, Birgit Prinz and Cindy Parlow bring some dimensions to the game that really force me to be at the top of my game mentally and physically.
ussoccer.com: Your grandfather is one of 17 children and you have over 100 cousins. How do you remember all the names?
Slaton: I don’t. I’m just glad that at my family reunions, everyone has shirts with their names on it.