U.S. Soccer

MLK Day: One Nation. One Team.


“I have a Dream.” These four words, simple yet profound, echo especially loud today. In an era of great need, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s timeless message of equality and love animated a world previously stuck in black and white. On this MLK Day, U.S. Men’s National Team players took a moment to share how Dr. King’s words left an imprint on their lives, and to honor a man who made it possible for a team of all colors, languages, cultures and creeds to come together to represent one nation as one team.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“He fought for equal rights for everybody. To be on a team made up of so many different ethnicities and religions, and that we’re able to get along, is a beautiful thing. So we owe a lot to Martin Luther King for the way he changed people and how they view things, allowing people to embrace one another for who they are on the inside and not what’s on the outside.”
- Clint Dempsey

“Let freedom ring!”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Growing up in Georgia and with Dr. Martin Luther King being from there, in the early stages of my life my parents would tell me about him, and how when they grew up and came to the country times were different. There’s a lot of history in the South with the movement for racial equality, and raising me on the principles of his vision and learning what he went through gave me insight into how I should be as an individual.”
- Sean Johnson 

“The ultimate measure of a man is
not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Whether you lose people in your life, whether you get injuries, or you get cut from teams, just the highs and lows, it’s something that everybody deals with – that rollercoaster of the ups and downs. Just try to keep a level head, keep fighting and grinding. I think the things that you work the hardest toward hold the most value in the end. He definitely had that fighting spirit to be able to stand up and speak when his life was threatened.”

- Clint Dempsey 

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

“Courage is what we need to show when we travel to other countries and hostile environments needing to get results. So you can make similarities there, but at the same time, it’s easier to go out and play a sport that you love to do than it is to go out there and try to change the world like he did.”
- Clint Dempsey 

“Deep down in our nonviolent creed is the conviction there are
some things so dear, some things so precious, some things so eternally true,
that they’re worth dying for.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We’re still climbing and trying to get better, and we’ve taken a lot of strides from when he was alive, but I still think we’ve got a long way to go. To be able to play next to somebody from a different walk of life though, I think, is special. I think Dr. King would be proud.”
- Sean Johnson 


First Cap, First Goal: Christen Press

On Feb. 9, 2013, the U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off the new year with a 4-1 victory against Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida. Christen Press, then 24-years-old, was responsible for two goals that day, scoring in the 13th minute and adding another in the 32nd to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead at halftime.

The early goal was Press’ first for the USA, coming in a match that was also her first cap.

Becky Sauerbrunn hugs Christen Press in the aftermath of Press scoring on her WNT debut. 

Earning that first cap is special for any player, but a debut and a goal in the same game? That’s a rare feat. In the 30+ year history of the U.S. WNT  21 players have scored in their first caps.


Press’ path to that first game three years ago was an interesting one.  In early 2012, she made the decision to move to Sweden after U.S.-based Women’s Professional Soccer folded. Press thought leaving the country might negatively impact her hopeful National Team career, but little did she know, it was only just beginning.

“I think just because I always thought that the National Teams would be watching the American league, I thought that going abroad was kind of like saying goodbye to my dream of playing for the National Team,” recalled Press. “I left around this time, in February, and I thought I would not get a call, I sort of thought that I would fall out of U.S. Soccer’s radar.”

As it turns out, head coach Pia Sundhage kept tabs on players in Europe, especially in her native land of Sweden. Press got off to a hot start with her new club, and it wasn’t long before she was on her way back home.

Press returned to the U.S. and joined the WNT in Florida in April during the final stretch of what had been an intense fitness camp. She kept to herself and tried to quickly learn as much as possible despite only being there for five days.

“I had nothing to lose,” she said. “It was my first camp, it was warm and I was so happy. I don’t think I spoke to anybody. I was not nervous, I was just happy to be in Florida and my dream was coming true. I’m always quiet when I don’t know my surroundings, so I just kept to myself trying to learn the rules, how to behave; it was all so quick.”

That short stint turned out to be the only one for Press before she was named an Olympic alternate in 2012. The following February, Tom Sermanni took over as WNT head coach, and it was then Press learned she would start against Scotland. Her chance had arrived.

“I went on the field, the crowd was so much bigger than I’d ever played in front of, and for me it was so much bigger than life,” said Press. “But I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not nervous, I’m confident, I’m a good player and I believe in myself.’”

Years and multiple goals later, plus one Women’s World Cup title to her name, the dream is alive and well for Press.

Christen Press
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup

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WNT Jun 11, 2017