Keelin Winters was a little under the radar when she began her freshman year at Portland, but appeared in 21 games in 2007 and has become a mainstay with the U-20 Women’s National Team. Coming from a big family, with two sisters and three brothers, Keelin explains how soccer has helped her stand out from the crowd, and how Prison Break and Michael Jackson have helped her through her soccer career. The U.S. opens against Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, June 18 at 1 p.m. CT. Fans can follow the match live on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
First of all – You’ve corrected people in pronouncing you’re name. Let’s put it on record once and for all.
It’s KEE-lin. A lot of people blend the E’s and the L and say “KEEL-in” but it’s KEE-lin!
Have you been brushing up on your Spanish since you’ve been here in Puebla?
A little bit. I haven’t taken Spanish since I was a junior in high school, but it does come back a little bit. I’ve found myself trying to decipher ads and billboards and I’ve been trying to talk to some of the hotel staff a bit. I’m still pretty rusty but I’m trying.
Have you tried watching local television?
It’s actually funny because we have a Spanish version of ESPN here, and sometimes the words at the bottom are in English but everything else is in Spanish. So sometimes I put it on mute, but I’m really grateful that we have ESPN because we can watch the EURO 2008 games in the afternoons. It’s awesome that while we are here and we have this downtime that we can watch all these elite games.
What else do you like to do during your down time?
Well, Elli Reed, Ingrid Wells and I all get together and watch Prison Break a lot. We’ve actually become a bit obsessed! We really like the main character in it (Lincoln Burrows, who is played by actor Dominic Purcell). We do have quite a bit of downtime here after training so we watch Prison Break as much as possible and then we always have to talk about it afterwards because it’s just so dramatic! Becky Edwards was nice enough to share her Season Two DVDs with us, and we’re about halfway through. It’s become somewhat a tradition for us.
Coming from a big family where you’re the only soccer player, do you feel like a soccer player trapped in a basketball family?
I actually get asked that a lot, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I feel like the soccer field is my time to shine. My Dad (Brian Winters) played in the NBA and has coached in the NBA and now the WNBA, so when I chose soccer over basketball people would always ask ‘is your Dad mad?’ I never really understood that, I mean, of course he’s not mad! He’s always been so supportive and has told me to do what I love, which has always been soccer. It’s given me something unique within my family that I do get to play soccer. We are all very competitive in our family, so one thing that is nice is that when I go home I can be part of some really intense basketball games! Sometimes it’s good to get away from soccer and be able to take a little bit of a break, and coming from such a competitive family has always helped me with soccer.
Do you have a pregame routine that you go through?
Elli Reed, Michelle Enyeart and I all go to school at Portland, where it’s a tradition to listen to The Best of Michael Jackson before games. The last song we always listen to is “Man in the Mirror” so before I take the field I always like to listen to that now. That’s my time to lace up my cleats and start focusing on the game. It’s not a superstition though. If for some reason I can’t listen to it then it’s not a big deal, but I think it really does help to get in the zone. I’m not quite sure how that tradition got started at Portland, but I know they had it when they won the National Championship in 2001. I think it was around before that though. Everyone is really into it so we keep it going.
It’s been a long build up for this tournament, how do you think preparations have been going leading up to the first game?
Well, we’ve been together since January as a group, with girls coming in and trying out throughout that period of about six months. Now that there is a smaller group here, I think the trainings have become even more intense as people fight for their position. What the coaches have been saying is true – the difference between someone who starts and someone who doesn’t is pretty slim. The trainings have been going really well, very competitive and it’s been great because we know the tournament is going to be very competitive.
What do you think of the facilities so far?
The hotel is awesome – it’s probably one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The bathroom is amazing and it’s got this huge shower. The training facility is cool because it’s so close to the stadium, so when we’re practicing we can look up and see the stadium where we’re going to be playing in a couple of days. I think that in itself gets people pretty hyped up.
The soccer crowds at Portland are famous for being great. What do you think it’s going to be like to play in a huge place like Estadio Cuauhtemoc?
We do average about 3,000 fans per game, but this stadium holds about 42,000. I’m wondering right now what the crowds are going to be like. Not playing at home, you think about things like communicating on the field if the crowd is loud. We’re just really excited to see what it’s going to be like.
What do you think are the strengths of this team? What makes the U.S. stand out?
I think that we have players who are all so talented as individuals, that it’s awesome that we’ve been able to come together and play as a team. I think a lot of times when you put a bunch of stand-outs together it’s hard for some teams to really come together. But, I think this team has done that and when we’re on our game and all clicking together, we’re pretty hard to beat. I think it’s pretty impressive that a group of players who are all stars at their college to really play as a team.
What’s the mentality of the team now that it’s just two days before the first game?
As I said, we’ve been preparing for this for about six months, so we’re all really excited to get going and start playing. The anticipation is killing us right now!