espnW: NWSL

A fresh start

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
3:49
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Carli Lloyd; Han PengDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesCarli Lloyd scored her 50th career goal when the U.S. played China on April 9.

After our disappointing seventh-place finish at the Algarve Cup in March, we all wanted to start with a clean slate and build from that point forward. We knew the results in Portugal were not up to our standards, and getting to play against China in two friendly games in April was a great chance to move ahead.

Our first stop was Denver, where I found out the sun could be shining one minute and then snow would be falling the next! When it snowed we had to move our training location to a place near the mountains and it was the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever had while training. We all took advantage of the views to take photos and post on all our social-media websites.

[+] EnlargeTom Sermanni
AP Photo/LM OteroCarli Lloyd (left) with former U.S. women's national team coach Tom Sermanni, says she was "shocked" that he was let go.

We beat China 2-0 on April 6, and as you may know, shortly after the game Sunil Gulati, president of U.S. Soccer, and Dan Flynn, the organization’s CEO, informed us they were letting our coach, Tom Sermanni, go. They felt we needed to go in a different direction.

I was shocked, and had no idea that it was going to happen. It was a sad time. Tom is such a classy guy, and I felt like he valued my effort on and off the field, and always complimented me on my professionalism as a player. He believed in me and it was sad to see him go.

Tom proved again how classy he is when he entered the room full of players and coaches after he had been let go and thanked us for the opportunity and wished us the best of luck in the future.

Our next game against China was in San Diego, and once again we couldn’t wait to start fresh! Jill Ellis was the interim coach for this game and it is always an easy transition with her. I played with her on the Under-21 national team, so I’ve known her for a long time. She’d stepped in as interim coach when our last coach, Pia Sundhage, left in 2012, before Tom was hired.

Jill is respected by the team and quickly had us all hanging out, making s’mores the night before the game at our hotel. It had been a rough couple of days -- and mentally draining -- so it was nice to step away from the shock and have some fun together.

Tactically, she drew up a simple plan for us and we went out and executed it without missing a beat. We won the second game against China comfortably, 3-0, and it was a great feeling walking off the field knowing we continued to play good soccer and win. We came together and played with confidence and enjoyed it.

[+] EnlargeCarli Lloyd
Kent C. Horner/Getty ImagesCarli Lloyd got both a bloody nose and a black eye from a header during a friendly game against China in San Diego.

Personally I scored my 50th goal for the national team. It always feels good to score goals for your country but it’s not something I think of before or during the game. I just go out and try to do my best to help my team win. Personal records and achievements don’t mean anything on this team. Our goal is to win the World Cup, and that is all we are thinking about. When I retire I’m sure I will look back at what I achieved personally, but at this stage all I’m worried about is having success with my team.

After the emotion-filled time with the USWNT, it was time to head back to our National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) teams. Abby Wambach and I boarded our flight and met up with our Western NY Flash teammates in D.C. As we traveled we laughed at how we were both nursing black eyes and how heads turned while we were in the airport -- people probably thinking we were MMA fighters!

In San Diego, we had both gone up for headers and both came down wounded. My injury is just a bad bruise but Abby’s is more serious: She fractured a bone so she was unavailable for our first game against the Washington Spirit on Sunday and is expected to be taking it day by day.

Missing Abby on Sunday was a big loss and we didn’t know how the team would perform. We have a lot of new faces, and it was great to see one of our new players, Vicky Losada (whom we got from Barcelona), have two goals and an assist. She did really well in her debut and will be a great asset for us this year. Our coach, Aaran Lines, has done a really good job over the years of putting together quality teams and he has done it again this year. I’m looking forward to another successful season!

Now, I can’t wait to be playing week in and week out with the WNY Flash. We play again on Saturday against the Red Stars in Chicago. Exciting times ahead!


A new home in Houston

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
11:34
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Erin Katrina McLeodPAUL ELLIS/AFP/GettyImagesErin McLeod, a goalie for the Canadian women's national team, played for the Chicago Red Stars last NWSL season and will play for the new Houston Dash this year.

When last season ended, Houston didn't even have a team in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL). Now I'm convinced the Houston Dash have one of the best environments in the league and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to join them!

I've been here for only two weeks, but the coaching staff has been phenomenal -- exactly what I think I need to improve my game during this all-important year leading up to the World Cup.

It's always cool to start with a new team, because you get a clean slate and you have the opportunity to help shape the team mottos, morals and values. I think the Dash are similar to the Canadian national team: We want to be very organized and very fit. And it definitely makes my life easier to feel like the two teams I play for are going in the same direction.

At 31 I'm the oldest player (some of my teammates are right out of college and only 21, which can make for some interesting attempts at conversation!), and I love that our coach, Randy Waldrum, has given me so much respect right off the bat. You know when coaches are in there to develop not just players, but people, and I feel honored to be playing for someone who respects me as much as I respect him. We don't have any egos on this team, just a sense of the collective desire to get better.

I came in a little late since I was playing with Canada in the Cypress Cup, but there were a few familiar faces right off the bat. Ella Masar was my teammate on the Chicago Red Stars last year and we live together in this adorable two-bedroom house. Our landlords live across the street, and we get together for dinner all the time. They have a little dog, Rascal, that my Chihuahua, Maxwell (who's half Rascal's size), loves to go steal food from.

The first day I got here we had a preseason game. Just sitting on the bench I remember watching a lot of the movement that the midfielders and forwards were doing, and it was similar to what we're doing in Canada. I was impressed with how well the team was moving the ball around in the back. You're always a little nervous coming to a brand-new team, but I showed up and I instantly thought, "This is going to be good."

I went to SMU in Dallas for two years, so I've had a little taste of Texas culture before. Houston's been awesome, though. I was walking around in a tank top and shorts yesterday. Let's just say that my Canadian skin may get a lot less pale!

And the food here is to die for. I'm going to have to keep an eye on my weight, because there's this place called Gatlin's BBQ that's got the most amazing beef brisket and pulled pork. It's this little house in the middle of Houston and there are people lined up down the street to eat there.

Plus the Mexican food. Don't even get me started! I was in the hospital doing all my medical check-ins before starting to play and there was a mini Mexican place right there. Now usually hospital food doesn't get the best rep, of course, but this place was amazing. If the hospital food is this good, you're in trouble.

I've found a home for my "creative corners" with the Dash, too. Nikki Washington is into charcoal drawings, Brittany Block does pencil sketching and I got Ella a banjo for her birthday this week. So the other day I was painting, others were drawing and Ella was plucking away at her banjo. I think we're going to make it a ritual to let loose a little.

I'm also really excited that the clothing line I've been working with, Peau De Loup, is coming to fruition. (They make women-specific button-down shirts, which are pretty much my uniform when I'm not playing soccer.) Money we make goes to help both the women who work in the factory in Bangladesh and to help educate girls at a school there, which I'm really proud of.

So far the Houston life is pretty sweet and I'm excited for what this new NWSL season will bring. We have our first game against the Portland Thorns on Sunday, and we're pretty pumped to show everyone what we've got!

Saying goodbye to NWSL season

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
7:57
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Carli LloydBrett Carlsen/Getty ImagesCarli Lloyd, right, scored eight goals in 15 games this season for the Western New York Flash.

Losing the inaugural National Women's Soccer League championship game against the Portland Thorns on Saturday night was obviously disappointing. We had a game plan set and did everything to prepare. We knew they had a lot of attacking personalities on the team, and we had to stay compact defensively, be physical and continue to do what we've been doing as a group. All season long, we were consistent in our performances; but, unfortunately, Saturday night just wasn't our best outing. But I guess that's the game of soccer and congratulations goes out to the Thorns.

We just couldn't find the rhythm that made us successful during the regular season. Both teams missed some opportunities in the first half. I personally missed a couple chances that would have impacted the game in a big way. Missed chances are hard to get out of your mind and stick in your head even longer when they happen in big games. On the other end, Portland put away their chances, which is why it won the title. We must give credit to them.

Whatever the outcome, Saturday was a good day for women's soccer overall. We just have to keep growing and marketing the game. Everyone involved in the sport needs to keep the momentum going now. We need to keep spreading the word that there is a women's professional league out there with quality players and quality teams. The NWSL is definitely moving in the right direction and I'm proud to be a part of it.

I said goodbye to all my teammates the other night, and I'm really going to miss them! We had a lot of laughs together throughout the season. We have a lot of funny characters on this team and I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone. Luckily, we have group texts going, so we still keep in contact. Hopefully, the majority of the group will be back next year with the Flash. It's definitely a good group; on and off the field, we became a unit. We enjoy playing together and enjoy each other's company away from the game. I'm really proud of my team and what we accomplished this season. Looking forward to 2014 already!

I'll be back in my home base of New Jersey training at Universal Soccer Academy in the fall and winter, flying where I need to for national team games. I'm looking forward to hanging out with my boyfriend Brian, who is a golf pro at a course -- in fact, I've already requested some free golf lessons from him.

I'm also looking forward to watching my hometown pro teams play. I plan to get to Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers games with my friends. I'll also spend time at the Jersey shore before the cold weather comes. I'm happy to be heading home and sleeping in my own bed in my own house, relaxing and taking things day by day.

We're ready to grab the ring

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
7:09
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There is just one game left, and it’s the game we have been waiting for all season long. The championship is Saturday at 8 p.m., and my Western New York Flash will play the Portland Thorns. I’m feeling really proud of my team. We’ve got a lot of players from different walks of life and we have come together and become a really close-knit team over the course of this season. We all want the same thing: to win it all.

We showed that last weekend against Sky Blue FC in the semifinals. We knew it was going to be a challenging game. They tried to test us with a different formation, but we were able to adapt to their game plan and come out on top. Abby [Wambach] noticed right away that they had Christie Rampone playing out wide and were overloading Sam Kerr’s side. The coaching staff made adjustments at halftime and we took care of business to close the game out 2-0.

[+] EnlargeCarli Lloyd
Courtesy Western New York FlashCarli Lloyd says she has always embraced the big moments.

Throughout my career, I have always loved to perform in big moments. I love playing in the biggest games when everything is on the line. That’s the exciting part about the game! This was a big one and I was fortunate to score two goals. The first was the easier of the two -- I got on the end of an incredible cross from Katherine Reynolds. Then in the final minute, I dribbled through and scored again. It felt good to score, but it feels even better knowing my team is in the final.

My boyfriend, Brian, came up from New Jersey for the game, the first time he had made the trip to Rochester/Buffalo. We had the day after the game off, so we decided to go to Niagara Falls. Neither of us had been there and it was amazing. Definitely worth crossing off your bucket list!

Afterward it was back to business. The week has been loaded with media requests and other off-the-field obligations. Already it has been a long couple of days! It was nice to have a team dinner Tuesday night with everyone from the WNY Flash organization. The atmosphere at dinner was special as we enjoyed some great Italian food from Chef’s in Buffalo.

We’ve played the Portland Thorns twice already this season and tied both times. I missed the first game in Portland because I was in my best friend’s wedding; in the second matchup, both teams were coming off a really long stretch of games -- four in 11 days for us. But I’m confident we’re peaking at the right moment and we’ll be ready for them this time.

The Thorns definitely have a strong attack and some great players. We’re going to have to come out and fight until that final whistle. We are preparing for all of their players to be ready come game time. No matter who’s in there, we’re going to focus on ourselves and come out physical and feisty.

The WNY Flash organization has won three championships, all in different leagues. But to be the first team to win a NWSL championship is going to be a really special moment. With this group, in this year and throughout this journey -- after all the sacrifices and everything we’ve gone through together -- we just want it so bad.

My mentality doesn’t change one bit. I’ve been doing the mental and physical prep all season long. I’m not going home as a second-place winner. I’m going to do everything in my power to help my team come up big, and I’m ready for it.


We're ready for the postseason

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
11:51
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Portland Thorns fansCourtesy of Portland ThornsThe Portland Thorns hit the road to play FC Kansas City in the NWSL semifinals on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET

Wow, how time flies! I feel like the allocation announcements were just yesterday. I remember that moment vividly. I was down in Los Angeles and had just finished training with a group of girls at the StubHub Center. Oddly enough, Tobin [Heath] and Alex [Morgan] were there with me. As a West Coast girl with my husband located in San Diego, I literally screamed for joy when I found out I was going to Portland.

San Diego will always be my home, but I have quickly come to learn that Portland is really awesome! I am an outdoorsy person and love the endless options for hiking and exploring. And can we talk about the public gardens here? Although I know it can be gloomy and rainy in the winter, it leads to some seriously beautiful greenery. I am a flower person and I'm in love with the International Rose Test Garden. I have literally taken every out-of-town visitor to check out the roses. I must have over 50 pictures of roses on my cell phone by now. At this point, I should probably make a rose collage or something.

My husband, Bobby, recently moved up to Portland to join me here for the rest of NWSL season and offseason. Thank god for that! Although we have done long distance on and off for many years, it was harder than ever to be away from each other after getting married last November. Bobby helps give me perspective and balance, and I am so lucky to have him here with me to share this experience. Bobby is also a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet wizard; he has put his skills to good use, organizing all the restaurants, hikes and scenic drives we need to try.

Despite the wonderful restaurants and outdoor activities, the most amazing thing about playing in Portland is the fans. Portland truly is Soccer City, USA. Week in and week out, our fans are behind us, cheering with all their might. Their passion and commitment is inspiring. I will never forget when they dropped an immense banner with all of us painted as super heroes.

[+] EnlargeRachel Buehler
Tom Hauck for ESPNRachel Buehler has appreciated the overwhelming support from Portland Thorns fans this season.

What an incredible gesture and piece of art work! I was blown away. A large group of Rose City Riveters even traveled to Seattle for our last regular-season game on Aug. 17. It turned out to be quite an exciting match, but luckily for us, Sinc (Christine Sinclair) was on fire that day. My favorite moment of the game was when the fans started cheering, "Oh Sincy, you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Sincy!" As a big fan of '80s music, I loved that one.

We are now finally ready to start our postseason play, and what an inaugural season it has been! Three teams tied with 38 points at the end of the season -- that is so awesome! Every game mattered and every team fought until the end. Take the last two games of the regular season: Chicago upset Kansas City and Washington battled to the end with Sky Blue. For all the teams, the level of play has continued to improve throughout the season. From a league longevity and player development standpoint, that constant progress is so promising!

I am getting really excited for our semifinal match against Kansas City on Saturday. I can't believe the playoffs are already here. We have had highs and lows this season, as every team does, but it has been an incredible journey. We have already played KC four times; they are a great side, but so are we. I know it is going to be a tough match and can't wait to get out on that field Saturday and give it everything we have. I suspect there might even be a few Thorns super-fans there to cheer us on.


The time is now for Flash

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
9:16
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Carli LloydCourtesy Western New York FlashCarli Lloyd says she's become more of a leader this season, and she has a specific destination in mind for the Western New York Flash.

The season may have gotten off to a slow start, but the Western New York Flash have been slow and steady all season long. I always tell myself it’s not a sprint but a marathon!

We spent a majority of time in fourth place, but we didn’t lose focus on what we needed to do, and that was to clinch a spot in the playoffs and push for home-field advantage.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter that we finished in first place. Being the inaugural NWSL regular-season champs doesn’t mean anything to me. What matters is winning our semifinal game against Sky Blue FC and then trying to win that championship. I said from day one that I was here to win a championship, so this is it. You put all your marbles in one bag, and you go for it.

It’s been a great season, and I think our team deserves more credit than it has received for much of the season. We have a lot of underrated players -- not a lot of stars. We’re feisty, gritty, organized and here to win. These pressure-type games where everything is on the line are what fuels me, and I’m feeling great. We’ve done all the right things, we have worked hard all season long, we have been patient, and now the time has come.

We know everything is in our hands, but we’ve got to make it happen.

The new league has been good to me as a player. Playing a game week in and week out -- sometimes even two in a week -- you're able to work on things. You get into a game rhythm, and if you don’t do as well in one game, there’s another opportunity to redeem yourself and improve in certain areas.

Everything is a learning curve, and I’ve continued to grow as a player and person each and every week. Being away from the U.S. national team has helped me realize I am a bigger leader on the Flash than I initially realized. It’s helped me see the importance of not only leading by example on the field but also being vocal and encouraging my teammates to get the best out of them. We have some younger players who do look up to me, and I don’t always notice it because I just show up, go out and play. So it’s been humbling -- and fun -- to learn how to become more of a leader.

This is essentially a new season, though. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done prior to this. Yes, we’ve seen Sky Blue. Yes, we’ve played them four times, beat them in three and lost one. But all of that truly doesn’t matter. We’re two different teams coming off a 22-game season, and this is where you see big players come up in big moments.

It’s going to be a battle. Having lost to us three times, Sky Blue isn’t going to come out and just let us play with the ball. They’re going to come out hard and ready to play. We must continue to do what we have been doing all season long. As long as we focus on ourselves, we can take care of business.

I’m approaching this game as if it’s the final, since there won’t be a final if we don’t do what we need to do on Saturday. That means continuing to do what I’ve been doing all season long -- trying to create goal-scoring opportunities, getting into hard tackles, winning the battles in the midfield and making good runs off the ball. I’ve got to focus and show up big on Saturday.

This is the time.

Last leg of first NWSL season

August, 23, 2013
8/23/13
8:21
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Erika TymrakJohn Rieger/FC Kansas CityNWSL rookie of the year Erika Tymrak, who had six goals and four assists in her first pro season, will try to lead FC Kansas City by the Portland Thorns in Saturday's semifinal.
The first postseason in National Women’s Soccer League history opens Saturday, and it features the only four teams in the league that have won more games than they’ve lost. Alex Morgan , Christine Sinclair and the third-seeded Portland Thorns (11-6-5) visit second-seeded FC Kansas City (11-6-5) at 2 p.m. Kansas City features rookie of the year Erika Tymrak, defender of the year Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper of the year Nicole Barnhart, as well as midfielder Lauren Holiday, who won the Golden Boot after leading the league in goals scored with 12. The top-seeded Western New York Flash (10-4-8) and Abby Wambach host Sky Blue FC (10-6-6) and Christie Rampone at 8 p.m. The championship game will be held Aug. 31 at 8 p.m.

On the road again

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
10:07
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My National Women's Soccer League team, the Chicago Red Stars, just took a weeklong trip out to the West Coast to play the Seattle Reign and Portland Thorns. Although we didn't come out with the points we wanted -- we lost to Seattle and tied Portland -- we showed a lot of heart and determination. Here is a peek into what we do when we aren't out on the pitch.

MautzErin McLeod

My teammate Alyssa Mautz at the Old Spaghetti Factory living the dream (and eating sweets) on her soon-to-be birthday.

Portland PitchErin McLeod

A shot of the Portland pitch, the day before our game. It ended up being a packed stadium on game day, and we had an amazing comeback. Mautz, most likely due to all the whipped cream she ate, made the big difference and scored two goals.

Alyssa MautzCourtesy of Erin McLeod

One more of Mautz, still on a sugar high.

Dre Leon and Michelle Wenino Courtesy of Erin McLeod

Dre Leon and Michelle Wenino at wonderful Panera, starting the day right.

Chicago Red Stars Erin McLeod

Another morning shot of the Red Stars' international flava table: (from left) Rachel Quon (half-Canuck), Maribel Dominguez (Mexican), Lydia Vandenbergh (American) and Jen Hoy (American). Lydia speaks Portuguese with Maribel, who is also learning English with Jen's help.

Golden Girls artCourtesy of Erin McLeod

Floyd's coffee shop in Portland had some killer collectibles on the wall, like this shot of Blanche from "The Golden Girls." I know Robyn Gayle of the Washington Spirit would love this, since she has every season of the show!

Voodoo Doughnut ShopCourtesy of Erin McLeod

The infamous Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, where a doughnut in the shape of a voodoo doll is displayed, pinned down with a pretzel stick. People are often lined up around the block to get in.

Erin McLeodCourtesy of Erin McLeod

Getting my German teammates (Inka Grings and Sonja Fuss), general manager Alyse Lahue (we usually call her GM) and Ella Masar to pose for this was like pulling teeth!

Erin McLeodCourtesy of Erin McLeod

Last of all, this is me working on my 14th piece during a little bit of downtime. I'm getting ready for my art show in September at the Jane Roos Gallery in Toronto.

Fun times -- now back to work

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
2:10
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Carli LloydCourtesy of Carli LloydAt one of Carli Lloyd's annual soccer camps she met a young girl who'd done a biography and poster about her as a school project.

Talk about a blast from the past. I was home in New Jersey over the weekend, running my two annual kids’ soccer camps, and had the opportunity to watch some of my favorite childhood bands as well. I went with three high school friends to Atlantic City to see the Package Tour: NKOTB. That’s right, New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees, all sharing one stage.

It was pretty amazing, though I wish 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men had played a little longer. I was young when New Kids became popular, and Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees were more my era. One of my favorite singers is, and has always been, Nick Lachey, and 98 Degrees played some of my favorite songs -- “Because of You” and "Sunshine After the Rain."

I’ll admit I also liked Joey and Jordan from NKOTB. It’s funny -- I remember buying magazines with pullout posters that I'd rip out and hang on my wall. I’m pretty sure I had Boyz II Men on repeat on my portable CD player. And here I am going to a concert with these bands, all these years later. We had a lot of laughs that night, and it brought us back to our teenager days!

[+] EnlargeCarli Lloyd
Courtesy of Carli LloydCarli Lloyd relived her teenage days with three high school friends at a New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees concert.

Besides the general awesomeness of the concert, it was great being home because the soccer camps went really well. It was a joy to interact with the kids, teach them the drills I do and share with them the struggles and obstacles I’ve overcome and the mental habits I swear by.

It’s very important that the kids get to interact with me at my camp. I like the campers to leave there with an experience they will never forget, and I want them to see that I'm a simple, down-to-earth person and have worked hard to achieve my dreams. So, beyond learning drills, the campers learn all of the off-the-field habits that I live by. I’m actually talking to them and they get to ask me questions, from what I eat on game days (I keep it light: salad, fruit and plenty of water) to when I knew I wanted to be a pro (the truth is, I can’t pinpoint a moment).

It's a pretty cool feeling to know that the information and training is impacting them in their soccer and lives. One girl had done a biography of me for school! She brought in the poster she’d used in her project. She'd drawn a picture of me in my uniform and had written a lot of facts about me on it. Stuff like that that really puts things into perspective for me, and makes me realize I can have a bigger effect on others than I realize. What a great day!

After that unforgettable weekend, I'm back in Buffalo with the Flash. With only five regular season games left, the playoffs are coming up fast at the end of August. We've been sitting in fourth place for a while, which is pretty nerve-wracking because only four teams make the playoffs. But I keep reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race, and as long as we earn a playoff spot we have a good shot of winning the whole thing.

Our last game, against Sky Blue on July 21, was a big win, and our next game, on Wednesday against the Spirit, will be an important one, too. We’ve gotta win, but I’m not worried. We’re meshing well as a team and have learned our teammates' game tendencies. I feel as if I’m starting to really get better at my role, and used to the great players around me. It takes time to gel as a team and we are finding our form at the right time. Training has been intense and the confidence level of our entire team is high.

I’m feeling really good physically and mentally, and can't wait for the upcoming challenges. We have a great coach and great players and if we all do our part, I'm confident we will make the playoffs. Let’s go Flash!


Be your selfie

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
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Tiffany WeimerCraig Mitchelldyer/Portland Thorns FCTiffany Weimer's professional career has spanned six countries, but she's happy to be stateside again and playing for the Portland Thorns.

When I first told my grandmother I would be playing for the Portland Thorns, she was pretty stoked (yeah, she used that word) that I would be living in Maine and playing professional soccer. That still kills me every time. The disappointment in her voice was enough to make me feel bad for a few minutes. It always is. But then I remembered what I was getting myself into and that changed quickly.

March, 2013: Hjørring, Denmark

After several conversations with the Thorns coaching staff, eating a bag of Doritos, and then consulting with my board of directors, I made a big decision: I was moving to Portland to play in the NWSL.

Three months later, the time had come to actually make that move. I finished my season in Denmark on June 9, flew home on June 10 and left for Portland on June 12. Just when my cats thought I was staying home for good, I was gone in a flash ... kind of like when they think they catch a fly and it "magically" slips through their paws. Yeah. Gone.

But before we get to Portland, let me give you a quick background.

• I am a lover not a fighter.

• I observe as much as I talk ... which is a lot. But I'm really shy.

• I have an obsession with the number eight.

• I love myself.

• I talk to my mom and grandmother every day.

• And my life goal is to travel a continuous road to betterment.

OK, that is seriously all you need to know. The rest you can Google.

June 12, 2013: Portland, Oregon

Upon arriving in the PDX (just trying to fit in), I realized I had some extra baggage. CASEY RAMIREZ! My teammate from Denmark got the call to be a Thorn, too. It's pretty amazing because every superhero (me) needs a sidekick (Casey) and she has been great playing that role. Except she has this thing against capes ... She watches too many animated films if you ask me.

So, the past month has gone by extremely fast. Time has flown by since I've been here. Not in the cliché way that everyone uses it, but because I actually mean it.

I think the best way to get through everything that has happened is by making a "GIST LIST" -- which I think is pretty self-explanatory. But before we get to that, I need to dispel a couple of rumors that have been circulating.

1. I did not decide to play for the Thorns to steal my, err, Christine Sinclair's two Hermann Trophies.

2. When people say, "Get the cones" at training, Cindy does not think we're talking about her and her husband.

With that out of the way ... let's get into why you're really here ... to hear about my life as a Portland Thorn.

GIST list (I decided to make the list using analogies)

1. "Keep Portland Weird" -- Saw this written downtown on a building. I'm pretty sure no one will try otherwise, so don't worry Portland. It's like saying "Keep Iowa Flat," it's all good.

2. For real though, Portland is beautiful and wonderful and although I'll always be a hard, sarcastic, fast-paced East Coast girl at heart, I really do enjoy this side of the country. It's kind of like when Jay-Z remade "I Just Died in Your Arms" -- it's weird and a little out of place at first, but it eventually it works.

3. My teammates are badass. I don't have enough space to write all the things I want to about them. But let me put it this way. Hanging out with them is like going to college classes that I actually enjoyed going to.

4. Playing at JELD-WEN Field is an unbelievable experience. More than 10,000 people have your back every time you step on the field. It's like nothing I've ever experienced actually. I got nothing.

5. In my free time I still get to work on my other loves -- Our Game Magazine and girlsCAN Football. Check them out. Plus, some of my teammates will be writing for the magazine and they are, as I've mentioned, badass. It's like being in a glee club and getting challenged to a dance off, then finding out every one can dance, too, and no one knew. CRAY.

6. Since I'm one of the older ones on the team, I'm a little late to learn about anything that's trendy ... like being a vegetarian, Snapchat, country music, Candy Crush, "The Voice," fedoras and the fact Miley Cyrus can now "twerk." So, having younger teammates has really broadened my horizons. It's what I imagine Mary Tyler Moore being like if she was learning from Beyoncé.

7. The soccer. It's not always easy to manage a team with players in and out for the national team, new players arriving midseason and such ... especially a team with a lot of strong personalities. But it's coming together and it's going to be beautiful. It's like when you try to get your foot in your shoe without untying it a few times, then you finally give in and untie it, and it fits perfectly.

8. Last but not least, I'd like to talk about my support. My friends and family have been rock-solid throughout my career. No matter where I am in the world, they watch my live streams or follow along on a match tracker in a foreign language. They are the reason I get to be here. They are the reason I remain sane and continually believe that I'm the best player in the world. (Dude, that's their job). Between my friends and family, my new teammates, coaching staff and everyone that doesn't have a specific classification -- I'm able to do the one thing that brings the most joy to my life every day and call it my "job". There is no greater reward than becoming the person and player you always dreamed of with the help of all the people who helped create that dream. Real talk.

If you made it this far, you must be really bored with your day. Or I'm an awesome writer. Either way, I'll leave you with this little piece of gold.

"Life is not to fear, life is to enjoy." -- Third Eye Blind

Take risks. Make friends. Laugh at your own jokes and take selfies until your fingers fall off. Seriously, just enjoy it. And if you need any help, I am always around.

Aside from that, follow me @tiffanyweimer for more on my life and the rest of the Portland Thorns season in the NWSL.

Juggling my two teams

June, 27, 2013
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Carli LloydAP Photo/Michael DwyerCarli Lloyd is back from a shoulder injury suffered in March, and is splitting her time between the U.S. women's national team and the NWSL.

I've been on a hiatus from my National Women's Soccer League team for the last couple of weeks, but this time it's not because of an injury (thank goodness!). Abby Wambach, my teammate on the Western New York Flash, and I have been at training camp with the U.S. national team, and then playing a two-game series against Korea Republic in Foxborough, Mass., and Harrison, N.J.

It's always good to be in with the national team, but it can be nerve-wracking as well. Every time you step out on the field you're getting evaluated, as our coach Tom Sermanni tries to figure out who he wants to keep on the roster and where everybody should play on the field. It's a process, but the more times we're together competing the better we're going to be as a team for the World Cup in 2015.

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Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesCarli Lloyd enjoyed the support of her hometown New Jersey crowd while playing a two-game series against Korea Republic in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Abby and I missed two games with the Flash, but our team did really well without us. The first game against the Washington Spirit was at the same time as our national team game against Korea, so we weren't able to watch it live. Instead, we finished our game, and as we walked into the locker room, we checked our Twitter feeds to find out who won. (Ours did, 2-0.) For the second Flash game, this time against the Chicago Red Stars, Abby and I were able to watch and root for them. It's hard to miss games, but now we'll be with the team for the remainder of the NWSL season, which finishes in August.

We had some exciting games with the national team, too. I was so honored to be on the field as Abby broke Mia Hamm's all-time goal-scoring record last Thursday. We all knew she was chasing Mia, and it was getting close. I think she wanted to beat it during this series so she could get it over with, since we aren't going to play again as a national team until September.

We all laughed with her about it because she's an all-or-nothing kind of woman. When she wants to do something, she'll do 10 times the amount. I remember telling her after she scored her first goal to score "two more," and she laughed and scored three more in the first half. It was pretty incredible -- you could see it in her eyes that she was going to do it.

I was also psyched to get to play in front of my home crowd in New Jersey for that game, as well. I had a large crew of fans -- close to 100 people from the Medford Strikers Soccer Club whom I am affiliated with at home, as well as Universal Soccer Academy where my trainer James Galanis is the director of soccer operations. I also had a large group between my family and my boyfriend's family and friends.

All in all, I'm feeling really good. There's still some minor residual pain in my shoulder from the injury I had in March but like anything, that's going to take some time to go away completely. I just have to keep up with treatment and strength exercises for the rest of the season.

Playing with the NWSL is a totally different pace from the national team because we often have one game and then don't play again for a month. With the league, we have a game or two a week! It's a really good opportunity to try different things on the field, see what works, improve my game and increase my game fitness.

Luckily I love my ice baths so I am doing those on a daily basis to make sure I'm getting the recovery I need. Our next game is against Washington on Friday, so I'll be resting up until then. We've beaten them once and tied once, so we're hoping for another "W" on Friday!

W Wants To Know: Alex Morgan

June, 14, 2013
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Alex MorganKris Connor/Getty ImagesFrom coffee to "Man In The Middle" to fashion shows, Alex Morgan shares a few of her favorite things.
In “W Wants to Know,” espnW poses five questions to some of our favorite athletes. This week, U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan of Thorns FC checks in prior to Portland’s game against Seattle on Sunday.

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Michael Buckner/Getty Images Alex Morgan checks out some purses during New York fashion week.

What do you need to consider your day complete? My day would not be complete without coffee, because it wakes me up.

What's one thing you will never do? Bungee jump. I am scared of heights and I don’t trust the cords. I would skydive before I would bungee jump. It is high, but once you hit the ground, you are done, you don’t bounce back up.

What song best describes your life? “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson. It makes you think about bettering yourself and being the best person that you can be.

What is the one thing you really want to do off the field? Go to fashion week in Paris. I went to New York fashion week, and I just want to see the real deal. It was kind of a taste of it. I walked in one runway show and I was just hooked after that, so I want to be able to see it from a European standpoint.

What is your biggest weakness? Confidence. It can be both a strength and a weakness because sports are so mental.

Kids on the road

May, 31, 2013
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Christie RamponeCourtsey of Christie RamponeChristie Rampone's daughter Rylie is a regular in the national team locker room.

I'm happy to say that my National Women's Soccer League team, Sky Blue FC, is tied for first in the league with the Portland Thorns. We've had a good run lately, and six wins this season, so we're really hitting our stride as a team. Best of luck to the girls this weekend in their match with the Boston Breakers!

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Simon Hofmann/Getty ImagesChristie Rampone is excited to wear her U.S. jersey again on Sunday for a friendly match against Canada.

I'm in Toronto with the national team for a friendly game against Canada on Sunday. It's the first home game for the Canadian women's national team since the Olympics. Though some will consider it a rematch of our semifinal game in London last summer (the U.S. won 4-3 in extra time), I believe it is a great opportunity to play a quality team in a pressure situation.

It's also about getting a feel for our new coach, Tom Sermanni. He is still evaluating the team, and we're not sure what lineup will be presented. He is also trying to make us more calm and confident -- having us slow everything down first so we can pick it up when we have better command of the ball.

The game sold out in 57 minutes, so it's definitely going to be an intense environment, and it may be difficult at times to keep our emotions in check.

My 3-year-old daughter Reece is with me in Toronto. We've been on the road together since our last Sky Blue FC game against FC Kansas City on May 25. Reece travels with me a lot, and once my older daughter Rylie, a first-grader, is done with school for the year, she and my husband, Chris, will join us. In Kansas City, Reece and I shared a hotel room with Kelley O'Hara, so poor Kelley got a little sleepover for two nights.

But this trip to Toronto is a longer one, so Reece and I got our own room. Reece travels on all the same flights as the team and buses with us to the locker room; she's basically with the team during everything but training and games. We also have a nanny for the national team trips, which helps. It's my teammate Lauren Cheney's fiancé's cousin, Jade Wilson. She travels with us and Reece loves her, so there's never any crying when I have to leave for practice.

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Courtesy of Christie Rampone Christie Rampone's younger daughter Reece loves to do puzzles with national team goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart.

It can be tough to balance the mom duties with my soccer responsibilities, though. There are definitely times when the kids don't want me to go, which is really tough. When we were in Kansas City, I left Reece with my teammate Taylor Lytle's parents during the game. Since she wasn't as familiar with them, I knew she was a little stressed and there were some tears, but I also knew she was fine and in good hands. It's hard, but once I'm in the locker room, I just have to switch everything else off and focus on the game.

It's fun for the girls to travel with us too. They are still getting to know the Sky Blue FC players, but they've pretty much grown up around the national team. Rylie's favorite team member is Abby Wambach, since Rylie is outgoing and likes to get out of the hotel room and be active. Abby will go to the pool with her and run around the hallways. Reece's favorite player is Nicole Barnhart, who's a little quieter and likes to chill with her. They draw and do puzzles and things like that.

Despite my best efforts to hold off on getting her into competitive soccer, Rylie started playing in a recreation league a few years ago and recently started asking about the travel teams. Now she's on the Under-8 Neptune Dolphins travel team. She's doing well and loving it. She wants to be just like Abby and Alex Morgan.

For now, though, I'm still the top soccer player in my household, and I'm looking forward to this game against Canada on Sunday. I hope we will impress the crowd, stay calm and come out with a win!

Back on the soccer field

May, 24, 2013
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Carli Lloyd Courtesy of Carli Lloyd Carli Lloyd is back from a shoulder injury and has joined her Western New York Flash teammates on the field -- and on team outings like this one, to a meat-packing plant owned by Flash owner Joe Sahlen.

I'm finally back! After being out with a shoulder injury for the first month of the season with the National Women's Soccer League, I got my eight-week X-ray on May 7 and my last physical therapy evaluation on May 8. My X-ray and my strength all looked good, so my doctor gave me the green light to join my team, the Western New York Flash.

I had been waiting for this day, so when it arrived, I was ready. Throughout my recovery process I was allowed to train, but not allowed to do any contact drills. So my workload consisted of a lot of physical power exercises but no soccer games.

As soon as I was cleared for contact I had to test the shoulder in a game. So I hopped in to an Under-18 youth training session with my former club, the Medford Strikers, and logged 30 minutes of full-sided soccer against enthusiastic boys. Although I kept it simple during the game, my shoulder didn't feel uncomfortable at all, and knew I was ready and had handled my injury the right way.

At 9 a.m. the day after my PT evaluation, I started my six-and-a-half-hour journey up to Buffalo. The long drive was occupied with thoughts about my performance and how I could help my new team. I was also thinking about all of the good things that can come out of playing in the NWSL. It really felt like a new journey was starting for me.

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Mark Novak Back in action! After eight weeks of rehab, Carli Lloyd played her first game with the Flash on May 11.

As soon as I arrived in Buffalo I was greeted by the great staff at WNY Flash. Everyone at the Flash organization made the move go extremely smoothly for me. Before I knew it, I had moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the same complex as many of my new teammates.

I got settled in, made a few trips to Walmart and Wegmans to get essentials and then got my head into team mode.

My first session with the team went very well. I felt comfortable with the coaches and players, and the girls were super-welcoming and nice, which made my transition really easy. I got a good sense of the game plan for our upcoming match against Kansas City, and was ready for whatever minutes I would get. I wanted to see the field but knew it was up to the coach.

We played really well against Kansas City in a 2-1 victory. Abby Wambach scored two great goals and our team came ready to play. We executed the game plan, and it was exciting to watch my teammates from the sideline. When Coach Aaran called me up, I played about 25 minutes and felt great! I felt connected with my teammates. We have a lot of really good technical players who understand the simplicity of the game, which makes it easier for me to come in and link up with them.

It can be a tough situation to miss out on a month of the season when everyone is getting to know one another and form special bonds on and off the field, but all the girls and the coaching staff have made it enjoyable. I also know a good number of the girls from previous teams, which has made things easier.

We've had some team outings, too, which have helped me to get to know everyone. Joe Sahlen is our owner and also the owner of Sahlen Packing Company, which is headquartered in Buffalo. Joe wanted the team to see how everything operated and what went into making the plant successful, so we went for a visit on Tuesday. We even saw how hot dogs and ham were made! It was very interesting -- and I enjoyed it a lot.

Now we're coming off a bye weekend and will be entering a very busy couple of months. It is important for us to take it one game at a time. Our goal is to win the NWSL championship, and I will do whatever it takes to help my team accomplish that. I still have a lot to prove and I'm up for the challenge.

We're back in action against Chicago on Friday night, and then on Sunday I'll travel up to Toronto to meet up with the Women's National Team for a game against Canada on June 2. I'm so excited to be back on the field!

Enjoying the break in our schedule

May, 16, 2013
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Erin McLeodCourtesy of Erin McLeod Erin McLeod, right, playing tour guide for her sister and brother-in-law in Chicago.

With three games in the past week and a half, the Chicago Red Stars have been traveling a lot lately. And there are challenges that come with such a schedule.

We do all the old tricks to help our bodies recover during the crazy travel calendar: compression pants and compression tights on the plane, ice baths after workouts and games, and hydrating like it's our job, which I guess it pretty much is.

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AP Photo/Damen Jackson/Triple Play New MediaThe Red Stars have had a rough start to their season, with three losses and two ties, but Erin McLeod is optimistic that the team's grit will come through as the season progresses.

There has been one major highlight, though. Jess McDonald's 1-year-old son, Jeremiah, comes along with us, and everyone absolutely comes out of their shell when he's around. I think I am normally I'm pretty good with kids, but Jeremiah plays hard-to-get with me. He's finally giving me high-fives now, so I've come a long way, but it wasn't easy to get to this point!

On the field, there have been plenty of up and downs so far. We kinda got pummeled by the Boston Breakers (4-1) at the beginning of last week. We made some simple errors; and, in this league, there are so many great strikers and offensive players that, if you make mistakes in the back, you're going to get punished. But I was proud of how we came back just two days later against the New Jersey Sky Blue. It was a tie – so, still not the outcome we're after -- but when they scored on us in the 88th minute of play, the fact that we didn't let up and came back and scored again just four minutes later in stoppage time showed a lot of character and heart.

Our coach, Rory Dames, is no-B.S. -- he will call you out for your mistakes -- but he told us after the New Jersey game that we showed a lot of character in those closing moments. He has also been telling us that we need to figure out who we are as a team: what we want to be known for, do the work to back it up and not let other teams define us. The city of Chicago is known for its hard-working people who have a lot of grit, and that's what we keep coming back to as a team.

There's no doubt it's been a rough start. I've been on a lot of teams, and it's easy to get along when you're winning; but I think we've become closer as a team through the wins, losses and ties. Even with all the travel we've been doing, as soon as we get back home, we all hang out and go out for team dinners. That's actually one of Rory's philosophies: If you genuinely like the people you play with, you'll play harder for one another.

Shannon Boxx had the idea that we should get together and cook once a week. A lot of us on the team, myself included, are gluten-free, and cooking that way can get kind of boring if you don't put some effort into it. About four or five years ago, I had a bunch of work done to figure out what my allergies are and what I should eat, and not eat, to be a more efficient athlete. I've heard that nutrition can make up to a five-percent difference in your athletic performance, and when you multiply that across a team, it can really add up. Plus, when we only have two days between games to recover, what we eat is even more important.

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Courtesy of Erin McLeodErin McLeod likes to paint and sketch in her free time. This drawing of a homeless man came from a photo she found online.

As women, even as athletes, a lot of times we fall into calorie-counting, and it's just so important to make sure we're getting all the nutrients. I don't believe in diets -- I believe in a healthy lifestyle -- so it's a commitment. On top of avoiding gluten, I try to stay away from corn syrup and other high-fat, high-sugar stuff. And I'm always working to make sure I have the electrolytes and protein I need to recover for workouts and games.

But I still enjoy food quite a bit! My sister and brother-in-law came to visit this past weekend, and we did some good eating in Chicago. We went to this sushi place called Yuzu, where I had to get reservations four weeks ahead of time -- talk about exclusive. We also went to the Hancock Tower, which has the best views of the city. I've had so many friends and family come to visit already that I'm becoming quite the tour guide.

I've also been getting back to my artistic side when I'm not playing. I just bought five massive canvases so now I've got to fill them with something. I mostly sketch, but I bought some acrylics so I'm going to be using those, too. I usually look at black-and-white photos online until something sticks out and resonates with me, and then I start sketching. I have this photo of a homeless man with a Raiders hat, for example. I just loved his face, so I printed it out. I also have a photo of a cassette tape. I guess you could say my sketching is super random!

We don't have another game until May 24, so I should have a bit more downtime to sketch and do other fun things. Did I mention I have tickets to a Bulls playoffs game? I'm a big basketball fan, so I'm pretty much going to be the happiest kid alive.

Here's to a little bit of recovery time. I know we'll come back filled with grit and determination for our game next week.

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