U.S. Under-19 Midfielder Alexa Orand, a junior at El Modena High School in Orange, Calif., is the youngest player on the world championship squad at 17. She took some time out from homework, e-mailing her mom and munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to answer a few questions for ussoccer.com.ussoccer.com: You are the youngest player on the team, having just turned 17 in October. Do the other players treat you like a little sister?
Alexa: I would say not really. I have been in the player pool for a long time so basically we are just a bunch of sisters. I will say that my roommate Rachel Buehler does look out for me a lot. She is the ultimate mom. She makes sure I don’t forget anything in my soccer bag, she reminds me to take my medicine and makes sure I’m on time to everything.
ussoccer.com: Did you ever think you would get the chance to play in a world championship at such a young age?
Alexa:Yes because my club coach Walid Khoury always gave me so much confidence in being really positive with me, but no because you always think there are better players out there. That’s what keeps you working hard.
ussoccer.com: You hail from the City of Orange in Orange County, Calif., A.K.A., the O.C. Is your O.C. anything like the O.C. on TV?
Alexa: This sounds really stupid, but there are some parts that are the same. No one is as dramatic as those characters, but maybe almost.
ussoccer.com: You are the only player on the team who is either not in college or committed to a college. How is the recruiting process going?
Alexa: Oh my gosh, it is so stressful. I finally narrowed it down to three schools after long talks on the phone with the coaches and I feel that whatever school I choose will be awesome and very compatible for me. To be honest, there were parts that were very grueling and not so fun, but overall, a decision this big should be difficult.
ussoccer.com: We hear you are a world-class shopper. What is your specialty? Shoes, clothes or accessories?
Alexa: It has to be clothes. When I go shopping, I have to get more than two or three things, or I don’t feel successful. You have to come back after five hours of shopping with a whole bunch of bags because you feel like you accomplished a lot.
ussoccer.com: You are one of eight players from California and one of six players from Southern California on the roster. What does SoCal produce so many quality players?
Alexa: I would say because the competition is so fierce at all age levels. Even at the young ages, there are so many teams playing and there are so many people in Southern California that the sheer amount of girls playing is amazing. In Orange County alone you have nine or 10 clubs that are national title contenders. In Southern California, soccer is almost like the “thing to do” for girls. Kind of like the ballet of the 21st Century.
ussoccer.com: What advice would you give to a young player who wants to play for one of our youth national teams?
Alexa: Just to make sure you are well rounded. Soccer is important, but you have to have balance. You will enjoy the soccer more if you keep it in perspective. You will get burnt out at a young age if all you do is focus on soccer. To get to this level, you really have to work very, very hard, but it should be like a hobby that you can’t live without. You should also be focusing on school, your family and other things that are important to you.
ussoccer.com: The U.S. U-19s spend a lot of time away from home for training camps and games. How do you deal with all the days on the road?
Alexa: For me, it’s definitely been difficult. My family is very close knit and they are my favorite people to be around. At home, there is always something going on and it’s so chaotic, so oddly enough it’s been tough for me to fill the downtime we have on the road. I have a lot of homework, so as much as I try to avoid it, it’s always there waiting for me and our team administrator Aubrey does a great job planning fun stuff for us to do. We also just have a lot of laughs together. We are a fun team.
ussoccer.com: What are you impressions of Thailand so far?
Alexa: It is gorgeous. It’s really just so pretty. Our hotel features Asian architecture and we have silk comforters. Who does that? I compare it to Hawaii, but it’s unique in that there is such a rich culture and history here. They make you sign a contract if you want to bring a Buddha figure outside the country promising that you will treat it with respect. Random? The people are so nice here and everyone has gone out of their way to make us feel comfortable.
ussoccer.com: What are some of the key things you’ve learned about the international game over the past two years leading up to the world championship?
Alexa: The main thing is that it’s way physical. It’s just a whole different style. You could be the best player in America, but as soon as you are playing another country, it’s a whole different ball game. These foreign teams just play so well together and are so cohesive.
ussoccer.com: When you finally do get back to your junior year of high school, what are you most looking forward to?
Alexa: Everything, really. I am excited just to get back to my friends and a regular routine. I am looking forward to sitting in class and not having to teach myself. It’ll be nice to actually ask the teachers questions, as opposed to thinking I know the answer and just winging it. It’s also great to just be in high school and be involved. I miss the dances and football games so much.