As one of the most versatile players in U.S. history, Lauren Holiday has excelled everywhere she’s played on the field for the Women’s National Team. As she prepares to play the final match of her brilliant career – one that that was capped off with NWSL and Women’s World Cup titles – she looks back at the beginning of what she calls “the best job I’ll ever have” with sincere appreciation for the experiences she’s had and the teammates she’s shared them with.
I can vividly remember how nervous I was when I got the email inviting me to my first full National Team camp. The camp was in Portland, Oregon, in the summer of 2005 before a match against Ukraine. I was just a senior in high school and you can imagine how intimidating that can be. I didn’t even know if I should tell my parents! Of course I did and everyone was excited for me, but there was so much unknown.
I do remember talking to my club coach and saying, “I will not be saying anything unless I get spoken to.” But when I arrived in camp, I found out I was Lindsey Tarpley’s roommate. She was so kind and sweet, and the competition was so intense that I knew from that moment that I would do whatever I could needed to do whatever needed to be a part of that team.
Unfortunately, that was also the camp where I passed out on the field. Yes, I went down at my first-ever camp. If that’s not an example of “it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” I don’t know what is. It was in the second practice of a double-day and I had been doing nothing but training and going back to my room. I just didn’t know how to treat my body back then. Note to all the young kids out there: drink plenty of water!
I got so dehydrated that I needed two full bags of IV fluids to bring me back. I remember telling someone that I was about to pass out and then next thing I remember I was on the sideline with the medical staff. And do you know who sort of caught me and helped me to the sidelines? Lori Chalupny. So it’s only fitting that we end our careers together on Sunday.
Something people may not realize is that the lifestyle we live on the National Team with so much constant travel is nearly impossible unless you have a great support system. My family, my friends and my husband not only understood that but went above and beyond to help me achieve my goals. I just cannot thank them enough, and I’m so excited to spend more time with them and share the success and accomplishments with them at this one last game.
I am so appreciative of all the teammates I’ve played with, but my relationships with Tobin Heath and Amy Rodriguez are unbreakable. We’ve shared things with each other that we’ve never shared with anyone else. And it’s not just those two -- having this group of women that you feel so connected to, with so much in common as far as our mentality and will to win, is something I will cherish for a lifetime.
I feel extremely fortunate to be able to go out on top on the soccer field. I know that is a rare privilege for a professional athlete. Before the 2014 club season, I actually told Vlatko [Andonovski, her coach at FC Kansas City] that we were going to win the league and then we were going to win the World Cup and then I was going to ride off into the sunset. So to be able to win the league, win the World Cup, and win the league again, I never imagined how gratifying that would be because I have so much respect for the people in Kansas City.
It was the cherry on top for A-Rod to score the winning goal in the championship game, and I’m so happy that we have gotten to enjoy life together, not only on the National Team, but in our professional club lives. We share so many family memories, and to know I ended my career with a championship with one of my best friends is absolutely awesome.
Everyone’s goal on this team is to leave this game better than they found it. I think my generation of players has done that, and I’m incredibly proud how this team has handled all the ups and downs along the way, all the while being so dedicated to improving women’s sports overall.
This will be the greatest job I’ll ever have and I’m absolutely honored to have been a part of this team and this tradition.
Thanks to everyone for their tremendous support over the years.
What a ride!
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.
NOTHING TO LOSE
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.
Press celebrates scoring her first World Cup goal against Australia in the USA's opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup