5913_longallie_isi_wpsack20110814112 Andrew Katsampes/isiphotos.com

Allie Long Sets her Sights on USWNT Call

Portland’s versatile midfielder hopes an impressive showing in the National Women's Soccer League will lead to national team exposure. She talks with ASN's Maura Gladys.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
May 09, 2013
2:48 PM
Opportunity is a fickle thing on the U.S. women’s national soccer team these days. Head coach Tom Sermanni’s willingness to give promising players a look in the national team camp provides a mouth-watering shot to break into the team. But the player pool is the strongest that it has been in years and the odds that that opportunity might evolve into something more are slim.

The Portland Thorn’s Allie Long hopes to buck those odds.

The Huntington, New York native won a national championship with at the University of North Carolina in 2008 and got a strong start to her club career with the Washington Freedom in the WPS in 2009. She had a brief stint with Sky Blue FC, then jumped to Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 where she made 12 appearances and scored four goals. Despite the strong club experience, Long does not have a USWNT cap under her belt. She was named to Pia Sundhage’s squad in the summer of 2010 for a series of friendlies against Sweden but was hurt on the first day of training.

“I was never called back and I was never really gotten that opportunity to be in that atmosphere, be surrounded by the top of the top players,” Long told ASN. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity to get back there.”

But she’s in the perfect place to get that opportunity now. In Portland, Long plays with American star Alex Morgan and Canadian legend Christine Sinclair and is coached by Cindy Parlow Cone, who made 158 appearances with the U.S. women’s national team.

“She’s been outstanding on both sides of the ball,” Cone said. “She really helps link up play between our defensive line and our forwards. She’s great going forward herself, she’s great with the final pass, she kind of does it all. I think she deserves a look from the national team.”

With the Thorns, Long hopes to prove her chemistry with Morgan and observe Sinclair’s mastery of the central midfield position.

“They definitely make my job easier,” Long said of Morgan and Sinclair. “I love playing with Alex, and I’m happy I can learn from Sinclair. She kind of plays like an attacking mid role for us, so I like to watch her and observe her techniques.”

According to Cone, Long is taking her opportunity with the Thorns extremely seriously.

“Allie is definitely eager to learn,” Cone said. “She wants to continue to get better, she wants to be the best she can be. She watches videos, she asks questions in training. Everything you would want from a player you get from her.”

Long is a natural central midfielder but has been called on to play more of a left midfield position in Portland as Sinclair patrols the center of the field. But at five-foot-eight, her aggressiveness and versatility allows her to possess the ball, deftly pass out of trouble, and link up with attackers no matter where she is on the field.

That was evident in the 10th minute of the Thorns’ most recent match against the Washington Spirit. Long received a pass well behind the midfield line and sent a brilliant ball to Morgan who collected it just outside Washington’s penalty box, took a touch and drew a foul that would lead to a penalty kick and Portland’s first goal of the game.

“Regardless of where I’m on the field, I’m going to try and do my job the best I can,” Long said. “Whether it’s keeping it, creating, playing in a pass for Alex. Where ever I am on the field I’m going to still be the same player.”

Long is up front about her ambitions to receive a call up but also knows that getting a call from Sermanni depends on her performance week in and week out in the NWSL.

“I think the league is definitely a great platform for anybody to be able to get seen by Tom,” Long said. “I’m just going to take it game by game and whatever I need to do to win for my team that day is my goal and I hope that he sees something in me while doing that.”

The U.S. pool is the deepest it’s been in years, with an influx of young talent flowing into camps to complement already established veterans. The midfield alone has a spoil of riches including Heather O’Reilly, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx. But that doesn’t mean Long can’t create her own space on the team, just as she does on the field for Portland. A prime example of that is Christen Press, who was uncapped at the start of 2013 but emerged as another potent scoring threat for the USWNT, which is already deep in that category.

Long’s next opportunity for a call up will come when the U.S. takes on Canada on June 2nd, then again later that month when the USWNT faces South Korea in a series of games on June 15th and June 20th in Boston and New Jersey, respectively.

But if that call does come, Long’s opportunity will just be beginning.

“Allie has been a significant player for us and deserves a look from the national team,” Cone said. “Then how she does when she’s in with the team is completely up to her.”

Maura Gladys, a featured ASN columnist, works in production for KICKTV. She also runs the goalkeeping blog All You Need Is Glove.

Post a comment