On a Tuesday evening at a Gallery Furniture in Houston, Texas, many soccer fans park their cars and head inside. But they aren’t here on this July night to buy a new couch or splurge on a new TV. They’re here to meet Alyssa Naeher, the starting goalkeeper on the U.S. women’s national team!
This summer, the USWNT traveled to France, where it competed in the Women’s World Cup. This was Naeher’s second World Cup, but first as the starting goalkeeper.
“I have learned to take everything one day at a time,” said Naeher. “Whether you’re playing, whether you’re not playing—there’s only certain things that you can control, and that’s how I approach every training session and every game.”
The star goalkeeper played extraordinarily well during the tournament, only allowing three goals over 630 minutes of play and compiling 13 saves.
In the final, the U.S. beat the Netherlands 2-0 to win its fourth World Cup. When the final whistle blew, it was an emotional time for the players on the field.
“I think it’s hard to pinpoint one emotion—you’re excited, you feel relieved; I just remember that I couldn’t stop smiling,” Naeher recalled. “It’s something that we had been training for, working for, and being able to celebrate out on the field was awesome.”
But the fun didn’t stop after the players arrived back in the U.S. from France. The team has been everywhere since bringing the trophy home, including to New York City for a parade, to the ESPYs award show in Los Angeles, and to pop-up events around the country like this one.
“The ticker tape parade in New York was amazing,” said Naeher. “It was really cool to be a part of that, and then shortly after that I got to throw out the first pitch at Fenway [Park] at the Red Sox game. That was a highlight because I lived in Boston for five years and grew up in Connecticut. I’m a New England girl, so being able to throw out that first pitch was pretty incredible.”
That brings us to this Texas night, when Naeher visited with many excited fans from all over the Greater Houston Area. The Chicago Red Stars’ goalkeeper drew a large crowd, primarily made up of young, female athletes who sported everything from USWNT jerseys to their own soccer jerseys.
“I tried to watch all of the games,” said Leah, a nine-year-old who usually plays defense on her team. She said her favorite game was when the U.S. played Thailand because “a lot of goals were scored.” However, other fans had different opinions.
“The USA vs. England game [was my favorite],” said 13-year-old Callie. “I have coaches who used to play on the England team, so I liked it because I like [both teams].”
These young fans also had different favorite players. Thirteen-year-old Maya likes Alex Morgan because of “the high level that she plays at,” while 12-year-old Matthaus preferrs Megan Rapinoe because “she scores lots of goals” and 10-year-old Abigail preferrs Rapinoe because “she is very passionate.”
They could all agree that they were very excited to meet Naeher. After seeing how many young fans had come out to meet her, Naeher had a message for her young fans.
“First of all, I want to say thank you,” she said. “It’s great to be in this position and see so many young athletes. I think that the most important thing that I can say is to never stop learning. I am 31 years old, just got done with playing in the World Cup, and there’s still things that I can learn. For kids out there, play as many sports as you can possibly play; don’t pick just one thing. Be well-rounded, and just try to embrace all that you’re trying to do.”