Boston Breakers goalie Alyssa Naeher will fulfill a lifelong dream this month, when she joins the U.S. women’s national team June 6-July 5 for the Women’s World Cup in Canada. She chatted with The Improper about that magical 1999 team, playing her twin sister and getting ready for the world stage.
Matt Martinelli: What was going through your mind when you found out you made the national team?
Alyssa Naeher: I was just really excited. The past year-and-a-half has been a lot of training and a lot of evaluation. So to finally hear, “Congratulations, you’ve made the team.’ Just put a huge smile on my face. I was really, really excited to get that phone call. And I’m starting to get excited now for getting to Canada.
Were there any points during the process where you had your doubts about making it?
Yeah. It’s been a very long process, so obviously there were ups and downs. I never take anything for granted. Nothing’s guaranteed, so it was definitely a long year-and-a half of different challenges. I also at the same time, was confident. You just never really know until you actually hear them say you’ve made it.
What’s changed for you since you found out you made it?
To be honest, not a lot has. It’s been kind of the same routine. There’s a bit of an atmosphere now, where we’re getting into camps and during these past two weeks in California for these past two sendoff games. There’s more buzz about it now that it’s getting closer. People are more excited about it around the country. But outside of that, not a whole lot has really changed.
Was this always a goal of yours growing up?
Yeah, I’d say so. I was in the stands of the Meadowlands when I was 11 years old for the opening game of the 1999 World Cup. Since then, it’s kind of always in the back of your head. Like, this is really cool and maybe someday I can be doing this too. So it’s kind of cool to realize that it all has come true.
Did that 1999 World Cup motivate you any further?
I was young, but that World Cup in general ignited the nation in some ways. The following that the women’s team got and the publicity and the attention really was a huge step for the women’s game. Myself and many of other girls at the time were really inspired by that group and wanted to be in their shoes and doing what they were doing.
Which teammate on the national team are you most excited to play with?
There are a few. I’ve played with Lauren (Holiday). She’s a good friend who played in Boston as well. It’s been fun to play again with her. Players like Tobin Heath, Kelley O’Hara, Meghan Klingenberg. We’ve kind of all been playing together since we were 14, 15, 16 years old. To be able to play at this level with players like that who you grew up playing with, as well as Heather O’Reilly, who I played with in Boston. And Ali Krieger who I went to college with. To experience this with players like that will be really fun.
What’s your mindset going into the World Cup as a backup?
It’s about staying focused and being sharp. You never really know what’s going to happen. If I’m needed, I want to make sure that I am 100 percent ready to go, so I can step in. Outside of that, it’s keeping a good training environment with me, Hope, Ash and Graham as the coach. And making sure our unit is clicking and doing well. Just being a good group.
Will your family be there for the tournament?
My twin sister will be there for the first game along with my parents. My little sister is pregnant and due in that time period, so she can’t travel.
Does your twin sister still play?
She does. She plays in Charlotte with the Charlotte Eagles.
Do you go head to head with each other?
We definitely grew up doing that. Every once in a while when we’re in the same place we kick it around a bit. Unfortunately, that’s few and far between these days.
What’s the highlight of your career to date?
I would say winning the 2008 under-20 World Cup was one of the best experiences of my life. It was really, really fun. Also being named to the roster for this World Cup is way, way up there.
Is there anything that you still want to achieve in soccer?
I think being named to the roster was a goal, and now I’d want to bring home the gold medal. Next summer, with the Olympics, it’s a goal to make the Olympic team and win a gold there. I just want to keep playing as long as I still love it and am able to. I just want to stay at this level for as long as I can.
What’s your routine on offdays?
I usually just like to relax and hang out with friends. Or just do my own thing, grab a coffee, go for the walk. When it’s nice weather I like to read a book or do a crossword outside.
What do you like most about playing in Boston?
I just think it’s real cool to play in the epitome of a sports city. I think since I’ve lived in Boston every one of the four major teams have won a championship. So it’s a really fun sports town. To be able to play soccer in this city is really fun.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to once you return to the Breakers?
I think it will be fun to just play with my teammates. The team has been off to a pretty good start this season. I expect that they’ll continue to play well in the next few weeks before I get back. It will be nice to get back in the mix.