“Winner for Life”
Danielle Slaton is a winner. She would be the first to admit that she’s been blessed with talented teammates at every level, and of course, as a defender, the spotlight is usually shining a bit further up field on the strikers, but the facts don’t lie. When Slaton has pulled on a jersey, her teams have won. A connection? Believe it.
In fact, Slaton is working on a rare “quintuple,” winning championships on the youth club level, at the Division I college level, at the professional level, and at a Women’s World Cup and Olympics with the national team. It is a feat accomplished by very few, most notably former U.S. captain and Courage teammate Carla Overbeck, but Slaton is well on her way.
She won three national titles with the Central Valley Mercury, perhaps the best girls youth team in history, won an NCAA title in 2001 with the Santa Clara Broncos and then just nine months later, picked up her first WUSA title with the Carolina Courage. If it weren’t for the USA’s silver medal at the 2000 Olympics (at which Slaton was on the roster but did not play), she would be gunning for the final medal to complete the golden pentad at the 2003 Women’s World Cup in China.
“When I play soccer, I try to focus on the day-to-day details,” said Slaton. “I don’t think about how many things I’ve won in the past, just what I want to accomplish in the future. I do have aspirations of making the World Cup and Olympic rosters and helping the USA win those titles, but I’ve found that in order to reach big goals, you have to keep reaching the small ones every day.”
While U.S. head coach April Heinrichs is far from choosing her final roster for the 4th Women’s World Cup, Slaton seems to have solidified her spot in the back. The left-footer brings some wonderful dimensions to the national team, as she is a player with world-class speed and aggressiveness, as well as the intellect and maturity that was pegged long ago by Heinrichs, who coached Slaton when she captained the U.S. Under-16 National Team.
“I recognized Danielle Slaton's leadership skills within the first week of coaching her on the U-16s," said Heinrichs. "We were doing a blindfolded team-building exercise where no one was allowed to verbally communicate. Danielle had the team organized by birth year, month and date within three minutes. She led, everyone else followed. She is a quiet, unassuming leader, who leads by example on and off the field, and vocally when needed. It was then I began to believe that if Danielle's performance on the field continued to excel, and that if one day she became one of the top players in America, as she certainly was as a youth player, that she could also one day be the Women's National Team captain."
With 35 career caps already at just 22 years of age, Slaton is still very young, but despite the success so far, the 2002 WUSA Defender of the Year still has much she wants to accomplish.
“Being at the Olympics was a phenomenal experience, but I hope that after three years with this team that I can make a large impact on the field during a Women’s World Cup,” said Slaton. “Of course, we have to qualify, but this is perhaps the most talented group of players ever in terms of the depth at so many positions. It will be a challenge for all of us to make that World Cup team and earn a starting spot.”
After a stellar collegiate career, Slaton was the first selection in the 2002 WUSA Draft, and perhaps no player had a greater impact on her club. The Courage surrendered a league-high 40 goals in the 2001 season, while scoring just 28. In 2002, they flipped those numbers, scoring 40 while allowing 30. While it is true that forwards Danielle Fotopoulos and Birgit Prinz (both fed liberally by midfielder Hege Riise) were practically unstoppable, Slaton -- along with goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill and fellow central defender Nel Fettig -- made a massive difference in securing the defense for Carolina.
“(Courage head coach) Marcia (McDermott) never put too much pressure to me to take too much responsibility too early, since I was a rookie,” said Slaton. “But as the season progressed, I tried to take it upon myself to become more of a leader, especially for the defenders. The core players who returned for the Courage did a great job of welcoming the rookies and allowing us to have a cohesive unit, which is vitally important when staying organized on defense.”
Continuing to win and grow as a person and a player are part of Slaton’s plans for the future, but just because she is so focused on the future doesn’t mean that she won’t, at times, take time out to enjoy the past.
“It has been an amazing and crazy year,” said Slaton. “I really couldn’t have imagined anything better. Winning the NCAA title was very special because it was something the university was working at for over 10 years and (something) I worked toward for four years. The chemistry on our team was great and obviously we had some fantastic players. This year with the Courage, I learned a lot about being a professional and what it takes to play in the WUSA.”
While playing against the best forwards in the world every week, and also in training with the national team, has not slowed Slaton down in the slightest, a chronically sore knee has made the going tough for the gritty defender, whose pain tolerance seems to be on par with her competitiveness.
“The knee is just something I have to deal with,” said Slaton. “I have to make sure I am consistent in going to the training room and doing the preventive things to stay as strong as possible. So far, so good, but I know I always have to be conscious and responsible in regards to taking care of my body.”
If she does just that, the U.S. Women’s National Team can count on an impact player in defense, and a definitive leader, for years to come. And they can count on winning along with her.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Rating the MLS Cups)
2) In Threes (w/ U-20 MNT defender Ryan Cochrane)
3) Then and Now (w/ former WNT midfielder Shannon Higgins-Cirovski)
4) Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT midfielder Cobi Jones)
5) Mark That Calendar (October = Everything)
6) Superstar!!! (w/ WNT defender Danielle Slaton)
7) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Impact U.S. Player for 2002 Women’s Gold Cup?)
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (MLS Cup trivia)
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