After watching that first match, I researched all of the players on the USWNT team, first to see where they were from, and when I came to Abby Wambach I was blown away upon discovering that she was from Rochester, New York, the Kodak city, only a few hours from my hometown! How cool that someone who grew up only a few hours from my hometown was living her dream across the pond playing soccer, and for the United States no less?! Since finding this out I have paid much closer attention to her career. I was also excited about Rapinoe’s diverse set of interests off the field, including travel, yoga, and playing guitar. Not to mention her courageous decision to publicly come out as gay to Out magazine during the 2012 Olympics. A great example and heroine for LGBTQ athletes (and all kinds of people) of all ages. Her awesomeness never ceases.
I do feel safe saying that I understand the drive behind that kind of dedication. I know what it feels like to do something and just know without being told that what you’re doing in that moment is what you want to do for the rest of your life. As a musician (I’m a bassist) I have been taught to respect that kind of passion in others and am also extremely inspired by it. I recognize that same force in the faces and work ethic of several of these players and as a result, feel excited and obligated to support whatever will increase their chances of having successful and wholesome careers in soccer. It is exactly that kind of system I would seek if I were in their shoes (or should I say cleats?). Plus, soccer is just really freaking fun to watch. The National Women’s Soccer League or NWSL is an opportunity for women to pursue their dreams of playing soccer at the professional level. I have been watching the WNY Flash games since arriving home in May from study abroad (I couldn’t get the online streaming system to work in Spain) then had the chance to see them play Seattle Reign FC in person on August 7th!
The game itself was great...nonstop competition for control over the ball from kickoff to the end. Flash goalkeeper Adriana Franch caught everything I saw come towards her and midfielder Angela Salem did really well at playing keep-away. In fact, all the midfielders were really tough in this game. Next to Rapinoe, Jessica Fishlock is probably the fastest runner I’ve ever seen in soccer. Besides their numbers (Fishlock is #10, Rapinoe #15) the two look very alike if you’re watching them from far up in the stands. They are both midfielders, have short, shocking-blond hair, are about the same height and wear neon yellow cleats. Otherwise it’s easy to tell them apart, I think Fishlock has a more aggressive tone to her playing.
In the hopes of getting autographs or pictures (or high-fives!), Nick and I left the stands about a minute before the end of the second half. We walked past the barricades where we’d stood before, this time waiting in the dark by the path leading to the Reign’s bus. A few minutes later, eager screams erupted from where we’d stood before the game as the players came off the field and, a while later, came our way...this was when we realized we had no pens or sharpies. I forgot about this completely as I watched these women ignore their own exhaustion so they could sign fan guides and jerseys and shake hands with lots of people, including people who looked to be my age (early 20s) and parents with kids younger than 10. One lucky little girl got her goalie mitts signed by a smiling Hope Solo, and a group of excited girls to my left got to talk to Flash defender Amy Barczuk. We saw Wambach and Lloyd wave and smile as they ran by (I’m sure they signed tons of media guides earlier in the line), and Rapinoe gave awesome high-fives to a few more kids on her way to the bus.
Nick and I left with no autographs, photos nor high-fives, but with some awesome memories. We saw classy players from all different stages in their careers put forth their best efforts together, both on and off the field. I did not stop talking about it the whole ride home. I still haven’t stopped talking about it. I loved the experience so much I hope I get to go see more games next season! If you’ve never watched soccer, try it. It’s great. Especially women’s soccer. Don’t worry if you watch it and you have no idea what’s going on, as I said that’s still me for half of every match I watch (I had to ask little kids behind me what was going on with that one offside call, remember?). Fans can make a huge difference and I’m hoping to be part of that difference in making the NWSL last as long as it can (forever, please?).