I am proud to have been able to play so many games for my country but, I've never been one who likes attention. More than any number of caps, I’m proud to have been able to play so long because of the experiences I've had in the game and the fact that I've been able to keep learning along the way on this amazing journey. Since I played my first game for the National Team in 1997, I've grown tremendously as a person, as a mom, and as a player. Even approaching 300 caps, I’m still learning about the game. I’m playing for my fifth head coach and I’m glad to be able to embrace change.
People often ask me to look back over all these caps, but I’m a person who likes to look forward. You can always think back and say ‘I wish I was this fit or this confident 10 years ago,’ but you learn from those experiences and move forward; that’s part of being successful. I will say, sometimes when I have a bad game, I stop and think, ‘I have almost 300 caps, how could I have a bad game!’ That’s soccer – nothing is given, everything is earned.
My family will likely be at my 300th cap, and my oldest daughter Rylie is starting to understand what I've done in my career, although she probably has no idea what a cap is. She knows about the big events, the World Cups and the Olympics, and all the players she’s been able to hang out with and places she’s gone. Someday, I’ll try to explain to her how I've gotten to this point in my career.
I do have vivid memories of my first game. It was against Australia in Melbourne. My emotions were typical me back then: stressed and uncomfortable. You know you have the ability in you, but the stressful part is can you bring it out at the right times? That’s the biggest thing. The confidence I have now, that’s part of building yourself and becoming the player you are. In that first few years on the National Team, I definitely learned a lot through my mistakes. But that prepared me for the big stage as failure really did turn into success.
People always ask me how I've been able to play so many games. Truthfully, a lot of it is that I've been blessed with great genetics. After that, it’s all about the process. Everyone on this team works really hard, but it comes down to what you are able to overcome, both mentally and physically. You have to learn how to push your body, when to push, and of course work through good and bad days. It’s just extra special to be playing at a high level at this point in my career because of the sacrifices, the amount of hours and the days of dedication. You've really got to commit to being the best you can for the team.
I started a lot of games in my first three years on the National Team, but in 2000 I felt like I had finally earned the jersey and earned the right to be in the starting lineup. I never played for any of our Youth National Teams, so I really had to come in and keep proving myself. That’s something I’m most proud of. Every day, every year and every game, I feel like I have to keep proving myself to the coaches and players over and over again. I think that has helped me in being a leader because you’ve earned the respect over so many years and that gives you confidence.
The way I was brought up, playing a bunch of sports and always competing, I just had a good grasp of when I was playing well and when I wasn’t. I learned how to fight through adversity on my own and not look to anyone else to solve my problems. I had many coaches over many sports who taught me to take criticism as well as praise. Even when I got negative feedback, it never took away my confidence, it just made me want to fight harder. At the end of the day, I truly know how I’m playing and I’m very in tune with my state of mind. That helps in pressure situations and when things aren’t going so well.
Part of my story that people may or may not know is that I played forward my entire life until I got to the National Team. But, I feel the whole process of becoming a defender at this level actually fit my personality perfectly. I feel like I’m a giver and work well with others and those are qualities you that helped me excel as a defender, along with my God-given gifts of having some speed and tenacity and toughness.
As I look back early in my career, one of my biggest inspirations was Kristine Lilly, who was a player that always gave a complete effort every time on the field, in training or a game. I love what she represented: the competitive edge accompanied by a light-hearted spirit. She left everything on the field, she was always fit, and there were no excuses, no complaints. She just really enjoyed the process of becoming a better player and the game of soccer.
Those are some of the reasons it’s such an honor to be beside her in such an exclusive club. In looking up to her and following in her footsteps, she represents everything I wanted to be.
That said, all the players I’ve played with have all touched me, inspired me and added to my game. Each and every person I’ve crossed paths with, whether they stayed with the team for a week or 200 caps, you can only keep moving forward if you keep taking positive things from each player to help you grow as a person and on the field.
I’m not one to be in the spotlight. I want to fulfill my role to the best of my ability. That’s why I chose team sports. I’ve always know that what really matter is the team. Team comes first and that’s how a group of individuals can achieve great things. The acknowledgement of 300 caps is nice, but it’s more than just a number, it’s a representation of how much I’ve put into the game and all the players I’ve played with over the years.
I know I am toward the end of my soccer journey, but I am really looking forward to it. This World Cup could be my last major tournament so I am going to enjoy every step and be positive and focused so we can be in the right place at the right time next summer.
Looking back on my career, I’ve never taken anything for granted. I never will. Every time I put on the U.S. jersey, I will do so with tremendous pride, from cap number one to cap number 300, and for however many I am privileged to earn after that.
“It’s been a whirlwind. I’m not exactly sure how it’s all happened.”-- U.S. WNT defender Casey Short on the last four years of her life.
Short’s professional soccer career almost ended before it had a chance to begin. As a senior at Florida State, Short tore her left ACL during preseason, which put her on the sidelines for the entire 2011 campaign. She used it as a redshirt year, completed rehab and was able to return to the field for the Seminoles in 2012.
Short had previously played midfielder and forward during her college career, but her senior year saw a move to defender where she played as Florida State’s outside left back in 23 games, helping her school set records for shutouts (17), goals against average (0.62) and fewest goals allowed in ACC play (4), while tying the program record for the fewest goals allowed in a season with 15.
Once her final college season was over, Short was feeling good physically and ready to take the next step in her soccer career. With the 2013 NWSL College Draft coming up, she knew her chances of becoming a pro were within sight. In the first round of the draft, the Boston Breakers selected Short with the fifth overall pick. It was a dream come true.
“I was on top of the world,” Short said. “I got picked early in the draft and then I got called up to the Under-23 Women’s National Team shortly after that to travel with the team to the Four Nations tournament.”
In the first game of the tournament in La Manga, Spain, Short collided with a couple of players and came down hard. She felt her right knee buckle and it was, unfortunately, a familiar feeling. And not a good one. The news was worse than expected…she had torn her ACL and MCL.
“I hadn’t signed with Boston yet so after that I didn’t know what to do,” Short said. “I was pretty much on my own, so I decided to go back to Florida State and have my surgery there with the same doctor that did my surgery during my senior year.”
The injury was both physically and emotionally taxing for Short, who just a few weeks earlier was preparing to start her pro career, something she’d been dreaming about since she was little. After completing the rehab for the injury she suffered in Spain, her right knee still did not feel right. The graft had not healed correctly. So in 2014, she was forced to totally re-do the surgery again, basically making it her third ACL reconstruction.
“That was rock bottom for me,” she said. “I had to re-do the whole process again and they had to reconstruct my knee. I ended up staying in Tallahassee to do my rehab because of the resources, familiarity and the facilities for another year. Finally, after that second rehab process, I got the opportunity to go to Norway and I decided to go to this small town for a year and I’m thankful I did. It was a great opportunity.”
Unsure of what her soccer future, Short took the chance and left for Norway to play for Avladsnes IL for the 2015 season.
“I played there for all of 2015, so my first game back after my latest injury was with them,” she said. “I wasn’t quite sure whether I wanted to stay there or not because I loved it so much, but then of course, I got the opportunity to come back to Chicago which was always the goal, because it’s home.”
Before the 2016 season, the Chicago Red Stars signed Short and after that, things finally began falling into place.
She started all 20 games for Chicago on the back line, playing 1,781 minutes and scoring two goals. There was no doubt that 2016 was looking good for Short. She was in her home state, not far from her hometown of Naperville, Illinois, playing the game she loved for a living and was finally healthy.
And then a potential career game-changer came via her cellphone.
“We were at the playoff game when I got the text message saying that I had an invitation to National Team camp,” she said. “We had just gotten to D.C. I was not processing it at all because I was focused on the playoff game, but it was incredible. I don’t think I could really celebrate the moment until after the playoffs were over and I was at home and it finally set in.”
Short’s first camp with the WNT was last October. And so was her first cap, first start and first 90 minutes on the field, all at the same time. U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis told Short the night before the USA vs. Switzerland game on Oct. 19, that she would be starting. She was surprised, but ready, or at least as ready as she could be for such an occasion.
“I did not expect that but I thought, what an opportunity,” she said. “I was so excited and I felt that it took some time for me to settle in in that game. Looking back, I can see that I was more comfortable in the second half. During the National Anthem, I was a bit emotional but as the game went on I settled in.”
Since then, Short has played in six games for the WNT, all starts and has become a key piece in Ellis’ lineup as she continues to evaluate players in search of the best pieces to take the field for the USA.
The last few years may have been a whirlwind, but they’ve also been a time for growth and learning. Short feels that she has matured and found confidence in herself as a player and more importantly, as a person.
“When I hit rock bottom I said, I have two options – I can feel sorry for myself or I can go after my dreams,” she said. “It was hard not to give up, but I stayed strong and now I’m here and I let this be my motivation every single day for everything I do.”
As she continues to work hard, Short is hoping to see some playing time in the next few weeks when the USA takes on Russia in Texas on April 6 (7:30 p.m. CT; FS1) and April 9 (1 p.m. CT; ESPN) in Frisco and Houston, respectively.
“I feel blessed every time I’m able to step on the field and it means a lot when I get to play but I know that nothing is guaranteed, not on this team,” she said. “So I’m thankful for every opportunity I get.”