13114_isi_presschristen_uswnt081 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
U.S. Women's Soccer

ASN Exclusive: Christen Press Talks National Team

The 25-year-old striker spoke with American Soccer Now about the U.S. women's national team, the rising stars on the squad, and her imminent return to the National Women's Soccer League.
BY John D. Halloran Posted
January 31, 2014
12:11 PM
CHRISTEN PRESS SPENT most of 2011 and 2012 standing in the shadows of the U.S. women’s national team as the squad went to the World Cup final and won Olympic gold. But the former NCAA scoring leader and Hermann Trophy winner has made a name for herself in Europe and has set her sights on becoming a U.S. regular as the 2015 World Cup approaches.

With a friendly against Canada scheduled for Friday (9p.m. Eastern, Fox Sports 1)) American Soccer Now spoke with Press about her national team ambitions, what it’s been like to play abroad and in the Champions League, and her decision to come home to the National Women’s Soccer League in 2014.

AMERICAN SOCCER NOW: A lot of fans that followed the team in the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics might not be that familiar with you. What can you tell us about yourself?

CHRISTEN PRESS: I’m a forward. I currently am playing abroad in Sweden [with Tyreso]. It will be my third season there. I play with [fellow U.S. national team players] Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg on a team based in Stockholm. I graduated from Stanford in 2011 and was born and raised in southern California. I enjoy writing and have two sisters that I am very close to.

ASN: You’re in camp right now with the national team (preparing for friendlies against Canada and Russia). How’s camp going?

PRESS: Camp is going well. It’s a little colder here in Texas than it was in sunny, southern California. Other than that, I can’t complain.

ASN: Obviously there is a lot of competition in the U.S. squad right now. Coach Tom Sermanni has brought in 45 different players in his first year in charge. How do you stay positive when you know there’s so much competition for spots on the team?

PRESS: Honestly, that’s the best thing about this team. On any sports team, that’s how you continue to push yourself and continue to develop. We always have someone ahead of us to run after and someone behind us to run from, so we’re always moving. It’s a huge honor to play for your national team and it really keeps you humble.

ASN: When did you first realize that the national team might be in your future?

PRESS: I guess when I started playing for [U.S.] Under-23 team in college. That’s when I started to have my eye on the full national team and started to think about long-term professional career goals. But, after I graduated from Stanford and played my first professional season, I lost sight of that. When I went to Sweden…I sort of left my national team goals behind me. I thought I needed to become the best player I can be and see what happens after that.

ASN: I wanted to ask you about how you ended up in Sweden. You’re a senior at Stanford, you score 26 goals to lead the nation in scoring, you win the Hermann Trophy, you have a great rookie season in WPS and then the league folds. How did you feel when you heard the news?

PRESS: It was a little scary because I was so new in the professional soccer game. I didn’t know what to do or what to expect. It was scary that I was unemployed and didn’t know what to do. As professional soccer players, it’s a small circle and everyone stays connected. The players that didn’t have any other available place to train all looked abroad. I never thought—"Oh, I’m not playing soccer again,"—I just thought—"How am I going to play, where am I going to play?" We found out in January that the league was no longer going to exist and by the end of the month I had already signed my contract to go to Sweden. There was never a hesitation from me of whether I was going to continue. It was just a question of how and when and where.

ASN: How did you decide on Sweden in particular?

PRESS: I always say that I didn’t decide on Sweden, Sweden decided on me. I was open to anything. I knew very little about the country, the people, the culture or the soccer there. I went because I knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who put me in touch with the coach. I spoke to him on the phone and I spoke to the general manager and they just seemed like good people. They could speak English and there was another American [Ingrid Wells] on the team.

ASN: What has it been like playing abroad?

PRESS: It’s been fantastic, I couldn’t say better things about it. The American college soccer environment is one of the most professional and best environments for a female athlete today. When you leave that environment, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Moving abroad was a huge blessing in my life. It was unexpected, but it taught me how to live my life and be an adult and take care of myself. I’m learning a new language and navigating streets with signs in another language and finding my own apartment in a foreign country.

ASN: Since you’ve gone to Sweden you’ve taken your game to another level. Is that because of playing in Sweden, is it the coaching?

PRESS: It’s hard to say. I think that being exposed to a different brand of soccer in Europe really helped my game. [Europeans] have a different emphasis on moving effectively and being more patient and waiting for plays to develop. When I went to Sweden, it was a refreshing perspective on the game. It really helped me find my joy in soccer that I’d lost trying to make it to the top.

ASN: You’re in the Champions League right now with Tyreso. What has that been like?

PRESS: This will be my third Champions League season. My first two were with my former team [Goteborg] and it was really different. The expectations weren’t to win it, they were just to see how well we could do. And now with [Tyreso], since the moment I signed, it’s all I’ve heard about from my teammates, the staff, reporters and the fans. It’s such a clear ambition for this team. It’s really cool to have such a big tournament to bring together the best women’s teams in Europe. It’s an incredible opportunity. The Champions League final is one of the most watched games in women’s soccer. We’re really excited about our prospects. We just have to keep our focus on [our next game] and see where it goes from there.

ASN: You beat Paris Saint-Germain—one of the favorites—in the first knockout round. How are you feeling about your chances for Tyreso to go all the way?

PRESS: When we drew Paris Saint-Germain, it was a big shock for all of us. We’d been talking about making a run at winning the Champions League and then there was this real, potential loss right in front of us. It humbled us. It made us focus on just the next game instead of the whole tournament and it ended up being such a blessing. You can’t take any round for granted. On paper, we have a great opportunity to go the whole way.

ASN: You’re coming back to the NWSL this summer. What was the primary motivating factor in deciding to come back?

PRESS: When I went abroad I always knew I wanted to play in the United States. It was always something that was important to me. It’s always been in the back of my mind. I can go on and on about how much I love playing abroad, but it was always a stepping stone. [Coming home] was always something I was going to do. A couple of factors played into my decision, the first being the birth of the NWSL and its successful first season. Being a more regular part of the U.S. national team was part of the decision. It’s an advantage for a player to be playing in front of coaching staff. Also, being an hour flight away from [national team] camp, as opposed to 20-hour flight—that’s a big advantage. As we get closer to World Cup qualifying and cuts are going to be made, every little advantage counts.

ASN: You’ve had such an amazing run in Sweden the last two years, even outscoring [Brazilian legend] Marta the last two seasons. But when you come into national team camp, things don’t get any easier with Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan. What’s that like when you come into camp and there’s so much competition at your position?

PRESS: It’s a blessing. When there are such talented players, there’s an opportunity to grow. They all have very different talents. It allows me to see what my strengths and their strengths are and see how they implement them in the game. All three of them are incredibly effective at using their strengths to change games and it’s something I really admire about all of them. I understand my position on the team and I have ambitions and goals. But fighting for a position with those three and others who come into camp is a great opportunity and I’m very thankful for it.

ASN: With Alex Morgan out of this camp, do you see these next few games as an opportunity to show the coaching staff what you can do?

PRESS: Tom has done a great job in the last year giving everyone opportunity. Every time I come into camp I feel like I have a shot. Every moment that you’re on the field, I just try to appreciate it and enjoy it and do the best I can.

ASN: There’s new faces every camp with Coach Sermanni. Outside of the usual suspects, is there anyone in the camp right now who has impressed you?

PRESS: Two of our collegiate players, Crystal [Dunn] and Morgan [Brian], fit right in every time they come to camp. They’re right here at this level and they never miss a beat.

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