Christen Press Tells ASN: 'It's Kind of My Job to Score'
October 22, 2016
MINNEAPOLIS—Christen Press has always responded well to adversity.
In 2011, after a standout rookie season in Women’s Professional Soccer, the league folded. Undaunted, Press headed to Europe, played in a Champions League final, and rediscovered a joy for the game she admits got lost somewhere along the way.
Over the next few years, she worked her way into the United States women’s national team and became a regular starter. But in the 2015 World Cup, her playing time slowly disappeared and head coach Jill Ellis relegated her to a secondary role as the Americans went on to win the tournament.
While Press described the period as “one of the most difficult experiences of my life,” she again responded with vigor. Coming home to the National Women’s Soccer League, Press scored four goals in her first three games back and led the Chicago Red Stars to their first playoff appearance in team history.
This year, however, has seemed particularly cruel. In August, she missed the U.S.’ final penalty kick against Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinals. Then, less than two months later, Press missed an open net in the 92nd minute of play of the NWSL semifinals with the match tied 1-1. The game went into extra-time where the Washington Spirit added a goal and bounced Chicago out of the playoffs.
Speaking to American Soccer Now ahead of the U.S.’ friendly against Switzerland on Sunday (1:45pm ET, Fox Sports 1), Press reflected on Chicago’s season and the team’s loss to Washington.
“Obviously, it was a good season for us,” said the forward. “We got a lot of things right this season that we hadn’t in the past and put ourselves in a much better position in that semifinal game. Like all games, it comes down to just a few moments. As one of the leaders on the team, I expect a lot from myself in that moment and I would have liked to put away that chance at the end of the game to put us through.”
After her Olympic miss this summer, Press fell back into a familiar routine of dominance at the club level. Returning from Brazil, the forward scored five times in the Red Stars’ last six games, leading them into the playoffs for the second straight year. And, in Chicago’s playoff loss to the Spirit—in a moment overshadowed by her stoppage-time miss—she scored a jaw-dropping, upper 90 first-time volley in the 81st minute to level the match.
Now back in camp with the U.S., Press is moving forward yet again. In Wednesday’s match against Switzerland, Press tallied a goal and an assist. The assist came off a solid individual effort, the goal was a mere tap-in.
However, that type of poacher’s goal is what Ellis would like to see more of from her striker. The coach met with Press this camp and, while praising Press’ technical quality, laid out some clear expectations.
“What I said to her is, ‘If you’re here to score goals, then obviously that has to be the execution piece.’ She agreed and I was pleased for her to get a goal the other night,” said Ellis. “What I said to Christen is, it’s not just being able to score goals from the top of the box—which she scored a lot in the NWSL because that space isn’t often available at this level. Now is it, ‘Can she score the poacher’s goal, can she get on the end of something, is she prepared to physically take risks inside the box?”
“Is Christen six feet tall? No, but she can still compete for balls in the air,” explained Ellis. “It’s adding to her game. It’s not just a transition goal, it’s a goal she can get on the end of. That’s why I was pleased the other night. In terms of her and our belief in her, she’s still a tremendous asset for us. For a goal scorer, it becomes more important that you finish those chances and she understands that.
Press, for her part, is trying not to read too much into her misses of late and just focus on her future chances.
“As a forward, it’s always nice to score. That’s kind of my job. Goals come in waves. I’ve learned not to get frazzled by any missed opportunities. I tell myself, ‘Every time you miss, you score.’ So, it’s sort of like, ‘Got that out of the way, now it’s time to score.”
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.