As the creative midfielder for the U.S. Women’s National Team, Aly Wagner is inventive and imaginative with the ball at her feet, but also when answering questions for Center Circle. The player who wears the No. 10 jersey will have an eventful next couple of weeks, first trying to help the USA qualify for the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the 2006 CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup on Nov. 22 and 26 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., then all her focus will go towards her upcoming wedding in early December. After a tough U.S. training session on a recent morning, Wagner delayed her trip to the coffee shop for a soy chai latte for just a few minutes so she could answer 11 questions for ussoccer.com.
ussoccer.com: On the eve of qualifying, what is the mood of the team?
Aly Wagner: “I would say the mood of the team is anxious, exited, ready and confident, yet focused. We’ve been preparing all year for this one game. Everything that we’ve done actually over this past two years has been for this moment, this game, and we’re ready for it to start.”
ussoccer.com: It’s been a long year of training and games. Talk about the preparation for the qualifying matches?
AW: “It’s been an intense year, especially in a non-World Cup or non-Olympic year. We’ve been training hard, playing difficult games all over the world and really trying to peak at the right time. I think overall, it’s been a learning period for the team, but also a team-building experience. We’ve been trying to develop chemistry and create our own style of play and identity on the field.”
ussoccer.com: Can you talk about the benefits of playing such an important match in such familiar surroundings of The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., where the USA conducted Residency Training Camp this year?
AW: “It’s a bit cliché to say, but it’s fitting that it would come full circle for us. This is where we’ve prepared all year to play in the qualifying game, and the game is here, in our backyard. We know this area, we are comfortable here and it’s our turf in a sense.”
ussoccer.com: In the Peace Queen Cup in South Korea, you came off the bench in the second half and did exactly what you were expected to do, create the game-winning goal. That must have been a good feeling?
AW: “It was a great feeling to be able to come through for the team, and the coaches who had the confidence in me to put me in late in the game. We all play rolls on this team, and that day, mine was to come in and try to make something happen in a tight game. I gave a good ball to (Kristine Lilly), but she turned on the magic and scored a great goal.”
ussoccer.com: Both of the matches at the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup could go to penalty kicks if they are tied after overtime. What is the mindset of a player who can take a PK in a pressure situation?
AW: “The mindset of any field player in that type of high pressure situation is one of confidence. It’s basically you against the ‘keeper and you have all the advantages. Knowing that gives the shooter the green light to handle the risk and put the ball in the back of the net. Physically, it’s not a hard thing to do. You just have to win the mental game with yourself and have confidence in your ability to put the ball where you want it.”
ussoccer.com: The U.S. team is on the verge of setting a record for most consecutive games unbeaten. Is that something the team talks about or is the total focus on the winning the semifinal?
AW: “It’s definitely not something we talk about. We take it game-by-game. We don’t worry about the past. Our sole focus is the upcoming game, especially as it’s the game that will get us into the World Cup.”
ussoccer.com: You are getting married in early December. What is the one wedding detail that is most worrying you at this point?
AW: “I’d have to say, putting together the right vows. I haven’t started. (Her finance) Adam said he’s started to think of a few things. I don’t know what the heck I am going to say. I want it to be meaningful, heartfelt, but not cheesy and I know I will stress myself out finding the right words. It’s the most important part of the wedding to me.”
ussoccer.com: You decided to do a honeymoon in Hawaii, where you are getting married, but then go up to the snow in Canada. How did you come up with the idea of the split honeymoon?
AW: “I like the best of both worlds, and the bottom line what is a better time to do that than your honeymoon? We love Christmas, and to have an all-tropical December, while it would be amazing, just didn’t seem “Christmas-y” enough, so we wanted to bundle up in the snow and white lights of Whistler.”
ussoccer.com: You are known as a voracious reader on the team. What book are you working on now?
AW: “Well, to be honest, I haven’t had much free time due to the wedding planning. But I just finished “I am Charlotte Simmons” about a girl who goes to college from a little podunk town. It’s fiction and I don’t usually read fiction, but I can always get my daily dose of non-fiction from the newspaper and reading about investments online.”
ussoccer.com: You like to eat healthy. Do you have a new, fun food discoveries?
AW: “I am drinking kombucha right now. It’s like an eastern medicine type drink from the Himalayas. They have different kinds, like pear and ginger, but it’s carbonated and it’s got a bit of a kick.”
ussoccer.com: Your teammate Natasha Kai has 15 tattoos. If you were going to get your first tattoo, what would it be and where?
AW: “I always promised myself that if I was on the Olympic Team I would get the Olympic rings, but I never have. If it did, it would be really tiny on my ankle. It definitely would not be in the small of my back because my soon-to-be husband would divorce me.”