To all my bros on the current National Team getting ready to go up against Guatemala,
Be prepared for a battle. As I said in my quote on the locker room white board from our match at Guatemala in 2008, “Rise up fighting warriors. Rise and take your stance again. Because he who fights, and doesn’t stray, lives to fight another day.”
That’s a quote from a Bob Marley song that I twisted into my own words a little bit, but that’s what you need to do in Guatemala. You need to rise up. You need to be warriors. You need to stand up for each other.
The conditions are those that you’re not always used to: hot, humid, grass a little thick, fans doing some crazy stuff. Back in the day, for instance, the night before we played Guatemala in Mazatenango in 2000, all of a sudden we had a radio station outside of our hotel room blaring music. It was actually really good music, but it was blasting until the early hours of the morning and none of us could sleep that night. We were up and we heard everything.
It’s just different. It’s their place and they’re using every advantage they can to throw you off your game. What you need to concentrate on is yourselves and each other. You’re ready to put your mind in a different place when you step on that field together.
You’re with your nation. Your fans are behind you, your country is behind you, but they have theirs behind them as well. Who’s going to rise up? Who’s going to fight? Who’s going to not stray? Who’s not going to give in to the conditions, to the battle at hand? Who’s not going to run away and take the battle at hand face-on?
If you’re knocked down, the next guy is right there behind you. You need to fight for each other. When a player looks a little bit tired, you need to be the one that’s picking him up. You need to be the one that’s there for him, just like a tribe. This is what we do - and this is what you need to do here to win.
Hedjuk (far right) celebrates with 2007 teammates Taylor Twellman, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, who scored the winning goal in a 1-0 USA win vs. Guatemala.
It’s going to take every bit of courage, every bit of momentum. Be prepared for the unexpected. We’re with you. We’re behind you. We are living vicariously through you.
Believe me, I wish I could be on that field right now with you guys. You always talk about the glory days, and those glory days can continue through you guys. My heart, my soul, everything I had when I played in Guatemala back in the days, it’s with you guys now. Go out, do what you can, and make sure you leave everything on the field. You don’t ever want to walk off a field thinking you could have given a little more.
As long as you do that, that’s all we can ask for. If you give that effort, the result will take care of itself. As long as you give everything you have for that next guy standing next to you, you’ll be alright.
Good luck bros. Rock and roll, and remember that we’re in this together. One Nation. One Team.
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