In 2012, Christen Press woke up to an email informing her that she was out of a job. The WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) League had officially folded.
Press, just weeks ago, had been playing for the WPS team magicJack and had plans to play for Atlanta Beat. With no club team to play for in America, and no call-up to the national team, Christen Press made a decision that altered her life. She picked up a deal with a team called Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC-located in Sweden.
In Sweden, Press learned the European style of play that allowed her to relax and think about something other than getting a call-up to the national team. Press found herself enjoying soccer more and more-and eventually, she was asked to come to play with the United States Women’s National Team and got her first appearance in 2013 under then-head coach Tom Sermanni. Press’s journey to the top tier of women’s soccer was not easy, and it didn’t become any easier once she achieved the call-up.
Even though she was continuously being called up to camps with the USWNT, she was being used as a substitute in favor of players like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. She played lots of games, but started few, and sometimes played just a few minutes when she was subbed into a game. There is no denying that the talent pool of the USWNT is deep, and there are a lot of players who deserve to have playing time. But there is definitely room for Christen Press for six reasons, explained below.
1. Her Work Ethic
Christen Press worked hard to get to where she is today, and that work ethic developed when she was young. Inspired by the soccer legend Péle, Press would kick a soccer ball against the wall one hundred times with her right foot, then another one hundred times with her left foot. She eventually went to Stanford University, working her way to her first goal, a starting position, and Pac-10 honors.
She won the Hermann Trophy in her senior year, and broke half a dozen school records, rounding out a quite impressive college career. Even though her fair share of hardships, Press never gave up on her dream and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to make sure she could still play games that could gain her recognition. Press recently demonstrated her willingness to work hard in the USWNT’s friendly game against Spain in January.
The game was tied 0-0, and Press, a second-half sub, received the ball before mid-field, then sprinted up the middle of the field, dodging Spanish defenders as she went. Press dribbled until she reached the six-yard box, showing off her speed, and took a shot that ended up being the game-winner for the red, white, and blue. It isn’t as if the other players on the USWNT don’t work hard. But Press’s work ethic in both the physical and mental sides of the game definitely set her apart.
2. Her Leadership & Positive Attitude
One of the things Press is most well known for is her positive attitude she always maintains, as well as the big smile she wears when she plays. After she left the WPS and went to Sweden, Press began meditating and reflecting more on the positive side of her life, which allowed her to be grateful for the opportunities she had and take advantage of the ones she got with the national team.
Press recently told reporters that, “I’m very much a person that intellectualizes everything. So with football, I’ve started to let go of that and stop psychoanalyzing everything and start just feeling and being-because playing football actually feels pretty good.” Many would believe that a positive attitude can’t surpass skills in terms of evaluability, but having someone who really believes in the team and who shows that she can be a team player can contribute greatly to not only the games but the mentality of the team.
Press also has experience in leadership positions and captained her former club team, the Chicago Red Stars, for two years. Head coach Rory Dames explained that “Christen was phenomenal for us-raised the standards on and off the field [and was an] unbelievable role model for that young core.” Although Press began her playing career in her early twenties, she is now in her thirties and has transitioned from a young, new player to a veteran who now has the responsibility to lead the younger generation.
With over one hundred appearances for the national team, Press has plenty of experience at the national level and has helped younger players like Mallory Pugh develop as a player. Sometimes all it takes when a team is down in a game is someone to ignite the fire and encourage players that they can come back-and Press has proven to be that player.
3. Her Goal-Scoring Abilities
When it comes to goal scoring, Christen Press is very diverse, scoring with both her feet and her head, as well as shooting from outside the 18-yard box or tapping in a loose ball in the 6-yard box. She also has a rare ability to bend in balls and make the shot curve, even from a tight angle. Over the past six games with her club, the Utah Royals, Press has scored five goals, winning Goal of the Week twice.
For the national team, Press has scored 49 goals and has added 30 assists, showing that not only is she able to score goals, but she can create them and help others score, too. The statistics show that the more Press starts for the national team, the more goals she scores. In 2014, Press started 14 times and scored 11 goals. In 2015 she started 13 times and scored 10 goals, and in 2016, Christen Press started 9 times and recorded 12 goals.
Time and time again, Press has shown that she is not just a target player and doesn’t simply have to have the ball passed right to her. She is willing to create her own opportunities, and that trait is crucial for the national team and her club team.
4. She Shows up in High-Pressure Situations
On July 2, 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Team was set to take on England in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. To the shock of fans and commentators alike, Megan Rapinoe, one of the team’s superstars, was not in the starting lineup. Who had taken her place? Christen Press. The stakes were high, and the U.S. was looking to score early to get a lead within the first fifteen minutes and keep the English players on their toes.
And in the tenth minute, midfielder Rose Lavelle let the ball slip through her legs to outside back Kelley O’Hara, who sent a floating ball into the box right onto the head of Christen Press, who got her first goal of the tournament; a very important goal for the national team. The eyes of the world had been on Press, Rapinoe’s “replacement”, and she had shown up. Press has also shown that she works well under pressure with her club team.
Press has scored many times in games with the Chicago Red Stars or the Utah Royals where the team has been in desperate need of a goal, and Press’s success brings them up to a tie or a win. For example, in the 2016 Semi-Final of the NWSL Playoffs, Press scored the equalizing goal for the Red Stars in the eighty-first minute, and in 2017, Press scored the equalizing goal against the Boston Breakers in the eighty-ninth minute. In tight games especially, someone who isn’t afraid of pressure and continues to work even at the end of the game is crucial.
5. Her Dedication to her Teams
Press has been with the national team for seven years, and even though she has just been gaining more attention in recent years, being used as a bench player for most of her career, she has never complained about her role and has always wanted to do what was best for both the national team and her club team. No matter the situation, Press worked hard and is still working hard to make a name for herself on the national team and further within her club team, where she has earned a starting position and is thought of as one of the most valuable players.
Press explained that “… the goal that I’ve had probably since Stanford was just to get better every single day, to commit to growth. Because I believe in my potential…”. Press’s former club coach, Rory Dames, vouched for Press’s commitment and her ability to do what was best for the team, saying, “Christen and I together had run our course. Christen put every bit as much sweat, blood, emotion, and commitment into it as I did.
Christen was phenomenal for us-raised the standards on and off the field [and was an] unbelievable role model for the last few years for that young core… For three years she did everything we asked her to do.” Christen Press’s commitment to both the national team and her club team, as well as her willingness to do whatever is needed for the team, has certainly set her apart.
6. Her Performance in Club
Perhaps the most convincing reason for a starting position for Press is her performance with her club teams; the Chicago Red Stars in the past and the Utah Royals in the present. Press played for the Red Stars for four years and captained the team for half of that time. In those four years, Christen Press won Best XI, an award for the best eleven players in the league, three times, and won Second Best XI once. She also won Player of the Month and Player of the Week once each and was awarded Goal of the Week six times with the Red Stars.
During those four years in Chicago, Press recorded an astounding 36 goals. Christen Press was traded to the Utah Royals halfway through the 2018 season. Head coach Laura Harvey said, “Christen Press is somebody that I have watched and admired for a long time and wanted to be part of my team… I have worked hard to try to make that happen.” Press made a seamless entry into the Utah team, forming relationships with striker Amy Rodriguez and the Spanish midfielder Vero Boquete.
In her time with Utah, Christen Press has scored eight goals and has had countless important plays, shots, and passes. The numbers don’t lie, and neither does Press’s performance. The U.S. Women’s National Team are talented now, and they can only get better if they utilize Press to her full potential.