One of the best female players ever to come out of Southern California – and that’s saying something – San Diego product Shannon MacMillan has established herself as one of the USA’s greatest players through 175 games with the national team. Possessing one of the hardest shots in the women’s game and a great feel for finishing, MacMillan has scored 60 international goals, good for sixth best all-time for the USA. MacMillan did not make the 18-player roster for the 2004 Olympics, but was named an alternate, and now is looking to reclaim her place on the U.S. forward line as the American team continues down the long road to the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She took some time out from preparations for the USA’s match against Australia on Sunday, Oct. 16, in Fullerton, Calif. (live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. PT), to talk about her desire to still play at the highest level, why she wears number eight and why it might not be so smart to have a 90-pound lap dog.
ussoccer.com: Let’s start out with a question about your alma mater. Your University of Portland Pilots are off to an amazing start at 13-0-0. What has made them so good this year?
Shannon MacMillan: “I haven’t had the opportunity to see them play this year, but I think that (the late) Clive (Charles) set a great foundation for the program and (current head coach) Garrett Smith has stepped in and continued to bring in talented players. Part of the Portland tradition is having a great team, not necessarily a bunch of individuals, and from what I hear, it’s a lot of players stepping up. And when you have a player like Christine Sinclair (24 goals in 13 games) leading the way, you have a lethal weapon to go to every game. Go Pilots!”
ussoccer.com: You’ve accomplished pretty much everything a women’s soccer player could want. You won the Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s top player, won a Women’s World Cup and an Olympic gold medal. You’ve scored in world championship tournaments, played in 175 games for the USA and traveled the world. What keeps you motivated to keep playing?
MAC: “It’s simple. I’m still having fun. I have a lot passion for this game and as long as I’m having fun and have that fire, I’ll keep playing.”
ussoccer.com: You said you’ve been doing some long bike rides as cross training between WNT camps. Where have you been doing your Lance Armstrong impression and how long have you been going?
MAC: “I usually ride along the 5 freeway. I’ll either drive there and park or there is a path along the 56 freeway and I take that. My longest ride has been 60 miles, but then I couldn’t feel my legs when I got off my bike. My average ride is about 30 miles. It’s like going for long runs, but if I do a hilly ride, it’s also anaerobic. You get a good burn on your legs. I’ve only fallen over once. I have clip-ins on the pedals and I was riding behind a friend. She hesitated before going through a light, but then stopped and I couldn’t unclip in time. I just fell over like a chopped tree in front of tons of cars. But I always wear my helmet and I have a bright yellow bike. Safety first!”
ussoccer.com: Of your 175 caps, you’ve come off the bench in 61 of those games. In the 1999 WWC, you developed sort of a “super-sub” role. Obviously, every player wants to start, but can you talk about the mindset of being a productive player off the bench?
MAC: “For me, it’s still an honor to be associated with this team and I’ll always be ready to do what it takes to help the team, whether it’s coming off the bench of starting. Every minute I get out there is never taken for granted and I try to make the most of it.”
ussoccer.com: You didn’t make the 2004 Olympic team, which was obviously a great disappointment, but you decided to take an alternate spot and train with the team for two more weeks after not making the final roster. How did you come to that decision?
MAC: “My initial reaction was that I was done, but then I talked to Joy (Fawcett) and as always, she was my rational friend. She told me that she thought I should be there and that I had plenty of soccer left in me. That helped give me the mindset to come back and still help the team prepare for Greece.”
ussoccer.com: You played professionally in Japan in 1996 and 1997. Was that a good experience and would you consider going back overseas, perhaps Europe, to play like a few of your teammates have?
MAC: “I wouldn’t rule it out, but when I went to Japan it was right out of college and I wasn’t as settled in life as I am now. Japan was one of the best things for me. I knew nothing about the culture or the language and I was thrown into a little farm town and had to find my way. It was a great experience as far as growing up.”
ussoccer.com: What’s your favorite goal that you’ve ever scored for the USA?
MAC: “Hmmmm…There’s a few. But if I had to pick one, maybe the golden goal in the 1996 Olympics in overtime against Norway off a Julie Foudy pass. It just felt like I was floating for the next couple of months. That’s pretty much a sign that you scored a big goal.”
ussoccer.com: Why do you wear number eight?
MAC: “Well, I was number six in high school, number 10 in college and when I finally got established on the national team, there wasn’t that many numbers to choose from, but I picked eight because my two best friends from high school, both of whom passed away, wore 12 and number four. So if you subtract four from 12, it makes eight.”
ussoccer.com: You were pretty much the world’s best nanny to Joy Fawcett’s kids from the time they were born until she retired. Do you miss having them on the road?
MAC: “Yeah. A lot. You don’t realize how many empty hours they fill. Even if you have the worst practice, you come back to the hotel and they are just happy to see you. They don’t care if you had a good or a bad practice.”
ussoccer.com: You appeared on a calendar for a charity that featured San Diego area athletes with their pets. How is San Diego’s favorite chocolate labrador, Kody?
MAC: “He’s trouble. The problem is that he thinks he’s a lap dog and he weighs 90 pounds. He just doesn’t realize how massive he is. But he loves to hang out at the beach with mom. He’s got a girlfriend named Classy, whose a border-collie black lab mix. They like to play tug o’ war.”
ussoccer.com: You have Australia coming up on Sunday in Fullerton, Calif. What strengths do they bring to a match?
MAC: “They are a tough team, no doubt. They are going to battle the whole game. It’s a team that we know can give us a tough game every time out. They are going to be solid defensively and we’ll have to be creative to find ways through them and around them.”
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