32713_presschristian_isi_uswntbs020913170 Brad Smith/isiphotos.com

Christen Press Seizing Her Chance with the USWNT

After years on the fringes of the women's national team, Christen Press is making the most of her time with the squad. Maura Gladys profiles the Stockholm-based emerging star.
BY Maura Gladys Posted
March 27, 2013
2:54 PM
In the 13th minute of the USWNT’s match against Scotland on February 9th, Ali Krieger sent a looping ball from just above midfield into the opponent's penalty area. It was cleared poorly by a Scottish defender and fell to the feet of a waiting Christen Press. The attacker settled quickly and fired a missile into the side netting, giving the U.S. an early lead. It was Press' first goal of her national team career. One of the early revelations of Tom Sermanni's tenure as USWNT head coach is Press' emergence. Her arrival, however, is not an accident. She has been seizing every opportunity with the same vigor and speed that she did that misplayed cross against Scotland.

Press graduated from Stanford University in 2010 as the Cardinal’s all-time leading goal-scorer and received the 2010 Herman Trophy. Seventeen goals in eight games with magicJack in 2011 earned her the WPS Rookie of the Year honor.

But as WPS folded, Press took the opportunity to jump across the pond to Sweden’s Göteborg FC. It was a risky move. There was the constant promise that a women’s league in the U.S. would return soon, and, by playing halfway around the world, Press, who had an eye on competing at the Olympics in 2012, was in danger of diminishing her chances to crack Pia Sundhage’s notoriously set-in-stone lineup. But she went anyway and attacked the opportunity in Sweden the way she ran at helpless defenses.

“I've brought nothing with me to Sweden but an open mind,” she wrote in a March 2012 blog post on her website. “It's no secret that I want to play on the world stage someday soon. But instead of focusing on the disappointments of 2011... my plan for 2012 is to ensure I am the best player I can be in 2013."

She had a strong season with the Swedish side, scoring 17 goals in 15 games, and bolstering her standing with the USWNT. She was named an alternate for the U.S. women in London, then returned to Sweden to finish her stint with Göteborg FC. She reflected on the experience in in November of 2012.

“I thought that playing in Sweden would be kissing the USWNT goodbye,” she wrote. “In March, I decided to walk away from the disappointment of being excluded from the national team. I thought my last opportunity to be seen had crumbled with the disintegration of the WPS, so I decided to leave my London2012 dreams behind in order to make myself a better player. I played in Sweden with a freed spirit and with my attention on enjoyment and improvement. And then, of course, as fate would have it, I got invited into my first and only camp before being called to the Olympics as an alternate.”

With Sermanni’s appointment in late 2012, Press had the biggest opportunity yet to make an impact. She did not waste it, scoring four goals and notching one assist in six games. Her play in 2013 reflects her ability to feel the flow of the game and insert herself at key moments. Her impeccable finishing allows her to capitalize on almost ever chance she creates. The bottom line: Press finds the back of the net. Problem is, so do Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux. It’s not so much a problem as it is a challenge, for Sermanni to pull the right strings, and for each player to stand out in the face of constant competition and pressure. Press alluded to that on her site.

“Perhaps I will never be quite comfortable on this team,” she said. “Won’t someone always be waiting in the wings? … Perhaps no one should ever be comfortable on this team. Isn’t that what it means to be an elite athlete? The last place you expect to find complacency is on the National Team. And I'm down with that."

Press is currently playing in Sweden with Tyresö FF and she’ll have another opportunity to make Sermanni’s life even harder next Friday when the USWNT takes on Germany, a re-match up of last month’s Algarve Cup final. Chances are she’ll play in the midfield, pulling attention away from the strikers, and there’s a strong possibility she won’t get the start. But no matter what position she plays or how many minutes she gets on the field, expect her to make the most of the occasion.

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

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