LaKeysia Beene was an All-American goalkeeper at Notre Dame where she started 76 consecutive games for the Irish. She had similar success for the U.S. Under-21 National Team, helping the USA to two Nordic Cup championships. But she never thought she'd be a professional soccer player -- never mind win the first-ever WUSA championship. Beene was named the WUSA Goalkeeper of the Year for a season in which she was second in the league in goals against average and winning percentage and first in save percentage while posting eight shutouts. The athletic and personable goalkeeper talks about her rookie pro season in another installment of "Making it in The Show."
"When I was in college at Notre Dame, I'd always hoped that I'd get the chance to play for the full national team, but at the time, that seemed like a far away goal. I thought my real job would be working behind a desk back home in Sacramento or something.
When I first heard about the league, it never really seemed like a reality until we actually came together last March. The week before I graduated, I found out that I had been allocated to a team, so while others were interviewing with accounting firms in Chicago, I figured I'd give the San Jose (then Bay Area) CyberRays a try. If I had the choice of being anywhere in the league, the C-Rays would have been it.
So, to summarize, like most college seniors I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and then in the span of one week I had my dream job, playing the sport I love near my hometown.
I arrived in the Bay Area in February to help with the promotion of the team and found we had much work to do to get the word out about the new professional women's soccer league. We still do. At that time, it was pretty nuts, because I didn't have anywhere to stay, so I was put up in Brandi Chastain's old house, which was cool. I attended meetings about how to market the team and it felt great to have a say in this promotion of this product that we all believe in so much.
I remember getting my first check as a professional player. I laughed. I couldn't believe it. I still can't.
We get paid relatively little as compared to other professional athletes, but even if I wasn't getting paid, I might still try to live off my parents and keep playing soccer for as long as I could.
The first WUSA season was definitely a learning experience. At the beginning, we were not getting the results we wanted, but I knew that there was something special about our team and that we had the ability to play exciting and winning soccer.
About halfway through the season, we found our rhythm and went what seemed like a month without allowing a goal or losing a game. It didn't hurt that our two international forwards, Brazilian Katia and Australian Julie Murray, started finding the net. Everything came together. It was truly an amazing streak.
By the playoff time, we were feeling very confident and felt that we could take it all. The semifinal was against the New York Power, and we'd had a tough time against them during the regular season. This game would be no different. It was a war, but we edged them 3-2 as our "Thunder from Down Under" (Julie Murray) scored the winner. We were the underdogs in the championship game against the regular season champion Atlanta Beat, who kicked our butts every time we played them previously.
Twenty years from now, there still might not be a championship game like this one. It was 1-0 us, then 1-1, then 2-1 them, we tied it at 2-2 and then Sun Wen scored with four minutes left in the game. Over? Not quite. Tisha "Never lost a big game in her life" Venturini got all clutch on us and tied it with seconds left. The overtime was scoreless and we went to penalty kicks. Some goalkeepers don't like penalty kicks, but for me, PKs are "good times." If you save one, your team should win, which turned out to be the case that day.
All in all, it’s been a dream season and a dream career so far. Hopefully, in 2002 we'll put up a Kobe & Shaq and go back-to-back.
Table of Contents
In this second issue of 2002 of U.S. Soccer’s monthly fan newsletter / e-zine, you’ll find pieces on a pair of CyberRays, a pair of Gold Cup 2002 champions, a pair of MLS Drafts and a pair of Women’s National Team coaches in the eight items listed below. Some will return next month, others will be brand spankin’ new for March.
1) Armchair Midfielder (A Look at the MLS Allocation and Dispersal Drafts)
2) DJ for a Day (w/ MNT defender Pablo Mastroeni)
3) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT forward Josh Wolff)
4) Making it in the Show (w/ WNT goalkeeper LaKeyshia Beene)
5) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT defender Brandi Chastain)
6) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Italy -- Feb. 13)
7) Point/Counterpoint (w/ current WNT coach April Heinrichs & former WNT coach Tony DiCicco)
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (MLS Draft trivia)
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