Stuart is the kind of guy everybody wants on their team. His energy is infectious. His razor-sharp banter keeps the mood light, but his work ethic and talent makes your team better.
When I first started playing in the UK, I hadn't played yet for the National Team and didn't know much about him other than he was an American playing for Bolton. I remember reading the paper one Sunday morning and there was an article about him on the front page of The Guardian, telling the masses of the football world that based on his stats so far that season he was the most complete player in the entire Premier League. I immediately had respect for the man.
Not long after, I started getting called into National Team camps, and Stu and I hit it off from the start. I'm not sure if it was our mutual liking of singing Justin Bieber songs together, or if it was our mutual liking that it annoyed the hell out of everyone. Either way, it wasn't a surprise that we became roommates.
In 2010, the World Cup loomed in the distance and we were both in battles with our fitness, as I was just coming off a corneal transplant surgery on my eye and Stu had just broken a bone in his knee against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. We talked a lot about what it would be like to be named to the cup squad later that summer, and talked about the mental and physical battles we were going through just to give ourselves a chance. In all of our conversations, we always talked about the positives and schemed about our plans to make sure we were going to be named to that roster. The roomies made it.
In South Africa, we had an isolated hotel just for our team, so there wasn't much social interaction. Our room number was 214, so we promptly turned it into what we called "Studio 214" where we spent countless hours making up chants and songs about our teammates that we would introduce to the team each day on the bus ride home from training. By the end of it, we had song sheets printed out with numerous songs about Landon's hair line, my wonky eye, and Brad Guzan's missing tooth, amongst others :)
Stu was at the forefront, making sure everyone knew the cues to when we would start the songs and get the bus erupting with the lyrics and laughter. After we beat Algeria on the last kick of the game to win our group, our bus arrived back at the hotel to find the whole hotel staff outside the lobby doing a choreographed song and dance to greet us in celebration. Stu immediately got off the bus with a vuvuzela and joined in on the routine with the hotel staff, blowing on that thing like he was one of the fans in the stands for our game. Although we didn't get past Ghana in the next round, Studio 214 had firmly made its mark on the tournament.
I only had a few more games on the National Team after that, and Stu continued to battle injuries. But every time I talked to him, his positive attitude always rang through. His infectious energy was still a catalyst to keep trying, and even just a few weeks ago when his decision still hadn't been made to retire, his burning determination to join the National Team one last time to see if he still had it in him was still there.
His ability over the last few years to keep battling and keep smiling is something that has never ceased to amaze me, and no doubt will serve him well in the future.
I'm truly excited to see what's next for you, Stu. You have a new addition to the family now to look forward to, and I see nothing but more success in front of you. Why? Because you will still be the guy that everyone wants on their team. And to think, you won't ever have to hear "He's stronggg, he's fassst, his knees are made of glasss! Stuuu Holllden", from opposing fans ever again :))
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