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What's In A Name?


In soccer, everyone’s got a nickname, right? It’s just that the game happens so fast. As a player, you need a name that all your teammates can get out quickly and easily. Some nicknames are used only within the confines of the team while others have been adopted by fans and media.

On the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, the nicknames fall into many different categories.

Some players rarely, if ever, hear their given names. We can’t remember the last time someone used Nicole Barnhart’s first name. She’s always “Barnie.” (Unless an occasion arises when someone pulls out “Barnyard” or “Barnacles,” which actually happens more than you might think).

Likewise for Shannon Boxx as 99.9 percent of the time it’s just “Boxxy.” We’re pretty sure she might not even respond to Shannon. Kristie Mewis is “Mew” or “Mewie” and Meghan Klingenberg is of course “Klingy.”

But nicknames are not just adding about adding a “y” or an “ie” to someone’s name. Sometimes it’s initials. Heather Ann O’Reilly has long been known as “HAO” (pronounced hey-oh). Sometime “HAO” calls Kelley O’Hara “KO.” Christen Press is sometimes “CP.” Young goalkeeper Adrianna Franch is “AD.”

(Side note: New U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni did call O’Reilly “Hailey” a few times in his first week of camp -- a combination of HAO and O’Reilly -- but that doesn’t really count as a nickname. He quickly corrected himself.)

Nicknames can be maiden names as well. Christie Rampone hasn’t been Christie Pearce for years, but her teammates still often call her “Pearcie,” proving that nicknames can stick around a while.

Some nicknames are more connected to a style of play. One of the best ever is “The Buehldozer” for Rachel Buehler (sometimes shortened to just “‘Dozer”), whose propensity for plowing through opponents earned her that moniker. Alex Morgan rose to international soccer fame with a nickname that seemed a perfect fit for her galloping running style and youthful exuberance: “Baby Horse.” While it’s still a popular nickname with the fans and on Twitter, her teammates rarely use it nowadays. As Megan Rapinoe said during the 2012 Olympics, “I think she’s definitely a stallion now.”

Many times, you just shorten it up. Carli Lloyd is “Car.” Megan Rapinoe is “Pinoe.” Ashlyn Harris is “Ash.” Crystal Dunn is “Cris” and Sydney Leroux is “Syd” (you can add “the Kid” if you like). Becky Sauerbrunn is “Becks,” or one that has become very popular on the U.S. team: “Reba.” (Yes, her real name is Rebecca).

Julie Johnston is “Jules” or “JJ,” and Lauren Cheney is “Chens” (pronounced Chains). Whitney Engen is “Whit,” Tobin Heath is “Tobes” and Ali Krieger is “Kriegs.” Her club teammates in Germany called her “Warrior Princess” (Krieger means warrior in German), but that’s a whole other story.

Yael Averbuch has one of the most fun nicknames on the team. You can call her “Ya-Ya.”

However, some players just don’t have nicknames. While in reality Jill is a nickname for Jillian, don’t call Jill Loyden “Jilly” (although U.S. goalkeeper coach Paul Rogers sometimes does).

Hope Solo is usually just Hope. Both her names are so cool that she doesn’t need a nickname.

And Abby Wambach is almost always Abby. Of course, when you’ve scored 154 career goals, you can go by one name. There is that rare occasion -- and this does happen -- that someone decides to use her real name: Mary Abigail. We’re not sure why it’s always funny when someone calls her “Mary” or “Abigail,” but it just is.

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