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11 Questions with Lauren Cheney

Lauren Cheney is one of a trio of young forwards on the U.S. roster for the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World
Cup Qualifying tournament trying to make their marks. One of the USA’s strongest players and one of the best with her back to goal, Cheney is the second leading scorer on the team this year with five goals.

She took a break from the USA’s busy schedule of training, meetings, weights, lots of meals, body maintenance, and yes, even a little beach time, to answer 11 Questions for She touches on her first professional season for the Boston Breakers, for whom she was the second overall player taken in the 2010 WPS draft, her role as team DJ and getting the chance to play with a legend. Tell us about your first pro season. What kind of experience was it?

Lauren Cheney: “It was a learning experience. I learned a lot about myself off the field, living out of my comfort zone and being a professional for the first time. On the field, I had to adjust to a league that was stronger than anything I had played in before. I think I adjusted well to the role I was given, and by the end of the season, I embraced it. I am really looking forward to making positive strides in my performance next year and returning to a team that was a great support system on and off the field.” You are a full-time professional now, but is there anything you really miss about college life?

LC: “Other than Diddy Riese?* I really miss my college teammates and the coaching staff. They were my family for four years and really gave me a home away from home.”

*If you’ve ever been to Westwood, Calif., the college town next to the UCLA campus, you know of Diddy Riese. It’s ice cream in between fresh baked cookies. Famous and yummy. It’s obviously important for the forwards on the U.S. Women’s National Team to work well with Abby Wambach. How do you feel you complement her and vice-versa?

LC: “I think that Abby and I have a good relationship on and off the field. We are both talkers, so when we are on the field we work well together because we are constantly communicating. I play the target forward so often that I feel like I can read her well when she’s in that role and I can adjust my movements to where she’s going. She does a good job of that with me as well.” You had a fantastic Algarve Cup in March, and actually scored five goals in the USA’s first five games of the year, but you haven’t scored since. How does a striker deal with that part of the profession?

LC: “I think it’s about not getting too high or too low. Every forward goes through that period where she’s been knocking on the door for a goal and it’s about patience and confidence and keeping a level head. I don’t think that I’ve reached my peak as a player. I’m still building to find my rhythm back with this team and it’s just a matter of time and hard work.” You have become the “unofficial official DJ” for the team, bringing your iPod and speakers on the team bus to training. How do you go about determining your song selections?

LC: “I determine song selection based on mood of the bus, and let’s be honest, requests from my teammates. Some days call for a little Tracy Chapman, and on others, we need some old school Tootsie Roll to get us going. A-Rod (Amy Rodriguez) is pretty picky on her song requests. She’s always demanding the newest pop songs. But seeing as I want to please, I will pull out some Katy Perry or Enrique Iglesias for her.” Let’s talk about this upcoming tournament. You played a little bit in qualifying for the 2008 Olympics, but this is your first Women’s World Cup qualifying experience. What’s the focus of the team right now?

LC: “To be honest, it’s not much different from our preparation for most matches. Our team is pretty laid back most of the time, but you always know how focused and ready everyone is when it comes to competing on the field, during training or games. It’s a comforting feeling, honestly, knowing that we have a roster full of players with the same goals in mind.” The team will have to play three games in five days in the first round. How much of a challenge is that for the players?

LC: “Obviously, it takes a toll on our bodies to play that many minutes in such a short amount of time, but we are professionals and we do take care of our bodies well so hopefully fatigue won’t be an issue as much for us in this tournament. By the time we get to the games, we will have been here training for eight days and the games are the fun part. Everyone just looks forward to competing for our country so much so I know we’ll be excited and able to overcome the challenges this tournament presents.” The U.S. players brought some gifts – cleats, t-shirts and other sundry items – for the Haitian team, the USA’s first opponent. Why do you feel it was important to do that?

LC: “I think that it’s important to help anyone who is in need. Obviously, Haiti as a country is going through a tragic time right now, so if we have a chance to be able to bring any sort of joy or little help we should do that. This goes beyond the game of soccer and shows that we are human beings, not just soccer players.” The team went out for an authentic Mexican meal the other night. What did you have and are you a fan of Mexican food?

LC: “I love Mexican food. The other night I had a shredded chicken tostada with black beans instead of refried beans and it was bangin’! Even though I’m from Indiana, I’ve always loved Mexican food so for us to be able to get out and enjoy a meal as a team was fun and helped mix up our sometimes repetitive schedule. If you are ever in Indianapolis, I highly suggest Cazuela’s. I always get the chicken chimichanga with white queso.” Prior to this year, you hadn’t played much with Kristine Lilly. You really broke into the WNT in 2008 when she was out having a baby. Now she’s back. So what it like getting to play with Kristine for club and country?

LC: “I think that Lil is such a great person and role model, not too mention still one of the best players I have ever played with. For the Breakers, it was fun to get to know her on and off the field, but more so outside the game to see her as a mom and how great she is with her daughter Sidney. She just interacts with everyone so well. Getting comfortable playing with her in club got me excited about playing with her on the national team. She just brings so much knowledge and experience as well as a spark and some edginess to our team. She’s done it all, she’s seen it all, and she still has the fire.” You love to dance and there have been some impromptu dance parties that have broken out before training here in Cancún. Give us some words that describe the dance styles of the following players’:

Megan Rapinoe:     “Scandalous”
Ashlyn Harris:        “Chill”
Heather O’Reilly:     “Most improved”
Christie Rampone:  “Old school flava”
Amy Rodriguez:     “Wall flower”