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!
Despite being North American neighbors, the first meeting between the United States and Mexico actually took place on the other side of the Atlantic. Played on May 24, 1934 in Rome, the game was a one-off match – essentially the USA’s first World Cup qualifier – for the right to play in the second FIFA World Cup, which was set to kick off days later in venues across Italy.
Playing in front of 10,000 spectators, including Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, the Americans rode a four-goal performance from Aldo “Buff” Donelli to defeat Mexico 4-2 and earn a place in the 16-team field at the 1934 FIFA World Cup.
You would hope the 11 players that came away victorious that day cherished the memory in Rome, because as big as the result was, it would take another 46 years before the USA would defeat Mexico again.
Though 17 of those 24 matches were played on Mexican soil, that winless streak against our neighbors to the south is by far the longest against any one opponent in team history, both in terms of number of games and years,. It fortunately ended on Nov. 23, 1980, when the U.S. used a pair of goals from Steve Moyers to defeat Mexico 2-1 in another Qualifying match, this time for the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
With Mexico already booking its ticket to the next round of Qualifying and the USA already eliminated, from a competitive standpoint, the match was meaningless. However, whether or not they realized it, the 2,126 fans in attendance at Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium witnessed history that night, and to this day are among the few Americans that saw the USA’s 43-year winless streak against Mexico come to an end.
Though the USA and Mexico met only once more during the decade, the dam had been cracked. With 1990 marking the MNT’s first appearance in the World Cup in 40 years, the 1980s also served as a transitional phase in the rivalry with Mexico as a new generation of American players began to reap the benefits of greater emphasis on the game here at home to lay the foundation for future triumphs.
The first in a series of successes came during the semifinals of the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Led by former Mexico head coach Bora Milutinovic, the USA used second-half strikes from John Doyle and Peter Vermes to stun El Tri 2-0 in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 41,103 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and went on to win the tournament’s inaugural title.
WATCH: USA Defeats Mexico 2-0 in 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup SemifinalRead more