We’re closing in quickly on training camp, but before we get back to work, I wanted to talk about one of my most amazing experiences of the offseason.
As I wrote in my last blog, my girlfriend Julie is a defender on the United States Women’s National Soccer Team. I was lucky enough to watch her battle through the World Cup, and win whole thing.
Being a World Cup champion doesn’t happen every day — it hadn’t happened for the U.S. in 16 years. For Julie to be one of the 23 players to win it again is just an amazing accomplishment. My hat’s off to all the women on the team.
I’m so proud of Julie and all that she has achieved, especially knowing how hard she has worked to get there. It was an unbelievable time for her, and she had a great World Cup. People were surprised at how well she played, but I truly wasn’t. I’ve seen all the hard work she’s put in over the past year and a half to get to where she is now.
She’s trained at this level for that entire time, so while the perception of how she’s played has probably changed a lot, the way she’s approached the game and trained for the moment never changed at all. She still puts everything she can into the sport, and her hard work has really paid off. She’s worked so hard in every aspect — not only training-wise, but off the field in the way she approaches taking care of her body, what she eats, everything she does. She’s approached it with a great mentality.
Julie wants to be the best player that she can be, and I think once she was given an opportunity, she was able to show how good she was. All that said, I know she’s not satisfied with what she’s accomplished by any means, and she’s going to continue to work hard.
GOING FOR THE CUP
Being at the World Cup was an unreal experience. The fan support that Julie and the U.S. Women’s National Team received was incredible. Cheering for your country is a lot different than cheering for an individual team, and I think everyone in the U.S. rallied around the team. It was great to see and to be a part of as well.
I was lucky enough to attend several games during the tournament. First, once minicamp was over, I went up to Canada and was able to see the first couple games of tournament play against Colombia and China, which was a lot of fun.
I spent some time up there with Jrue Holliday, whose wife Lauren is also on the team, and we got along great. He’s an unbelievable guy and became a friend that I’ll probably have forever. He and Lauren have a great relationship, a very similar situation as ours. So it was great to hang out with him the entire time. I was glad to get to talk to him about what he’s gone through, and what Lauren has gone through.
After the game against China, which was in Ottawa, the team went off to Montreal and I headed back to California, so I didn’t get to go to the game semifinal against Germany. I watched it on TV with my family instead, which was definitely a different experience after being at the previous two games.
Being at the stadium, there’s so much fan support and so much enthusiasm. But it was fun in a different way. All my family members love Julie, and they’re all big supporters of her as well, so it was cool to get to watch a game with them. I also kind of like watching it on TV because you can see the replays and gives you a better perspective on each play.
We knew going in that it was going to be a very good game, and it did not disappoint.
That was the game where Julie got called for the foul in the box that resulted in a penalty kick, so seeing it on TV helped me understand what actually happened. It was nerve-wracking for sure, but I just had this feeling that Julie was going to rebound, and she did. Her teammates picked her up too, and that’s what teammates are for. If someone messes up, everyone else rallies to lift them up, and this team was great at doing that throughout the tournament.
Hope Solo is the best goalkeeper in the world, and I knew that she was going to do what needed to be done to stop the goal on the PK. Then the shooter missed, which was great. It ended up being a pretty big momentum swing. They had the possibility of going down 1-0, and they ended up winning 2-0.
Germany was a great team, and they knew they had to bring their A game, so everyone was very relieved. They were very happy that they won and very excited for the championship.
So was I, and that was something I wasn’t going to miss.
My mom actually flew up with me to the Final, so having her there with me to witness that was a lot of fun. We arrived in Vancouver on Friday and even though the game wasn’t until Sunday, there was already a ton of fan support all around the city. Even though the games were being player in Canada, it felt like a home game for the U.S. I would say that 90- 95 percent of the fans there were American. Everyone was wearing their USA t-shirts, bandanas, and whatever else they could find.
I imagine that’s kind of what it’s like around Philadelphia on Eagles’ Game Day, or game weekend, so it was a lot of fun to be a part of that from the fan perspective.
The night before the game, Julie was very relaxed. It was a little different with her than it is with me. Personally, the night before a game I don’t want to see anybody. I like to be on my own before the game. That’s just kind of how I like to do it. So for this one, I was pretty much going with whatever she wanted to do. She wanted to see me the night before the game, which was great. We went out to dinner and hung out for about an hour after just talking. We didn’t really talk about the game. I just let her talk about whatever she wanted talk about.
Then she went on her way and I didn’t see her until after the game.
The atmosphere in the stadium on the day of the game was great. We sat with Julie’s family and had like a dozen people in our little section alone. We were also right behind Jrue and Lauren’s family, so that was pretty cool.
I was pretty confident going into the game after they’d beaten Germany the way they had in the semifinals. Obviously, Japan has a great team and we knew anything could happen, but I thought Germany was the biggest test in the tournament. I knew as long as we played our game, we were going to have a pretty good shot to win the World Cup.
But I never would’ve thought it could unfold the way it did.
The way we started the game, with Carli Lloyd scoring a hat trick and the team going up 4-0 so quickly, created an electric atmosphere in the stadium. It was an unbelievable sight. The fans were going crazy. The players were going crazy. It was an unbelievable experience just being up there and watching the girls do their thing, and score pretty much at will in the first half. It was a lot of fun and the whole crowd was going nuts. I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Carli played phenomenal. Julie has been training with her in New Jersey for a while, so I’d met her a few times before and I knew from talking to Julie that she had an unbelievable work ethic. I also knew she had a lot of talent, and it was on full display. She trains that hard and that’s a big reason she’s able to bring that out in the final.
She’s a special player, and that was an unbelievable performance. Notching a hat trick in less than 20 minutes, in a game that big, I don’t really know how you compare it to anything else in sports history. It’s like scoring three touchdowns in the first half of the Super Bowl.
Once we had that 4-0 lead, I knew Japan was going to try and bring it to Julie and the defense. Japan tried attack them pretty much all out the rest of the game. But the back five was unbelievable, as they had been all tournament. Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie’s other center back mate, was the unsung hero for the entire team.
Japan selling out to attack managed to free up some opportunities for us on the offensive side as well, and we scored another goal after halftime to help keep them at bay. To have the two teams score seven goals combined in the final was unheard of.
After the game, we were able to go with the team to the little get together after, and it was great to see Julie just so incredibly happy. The whole team was on cloud nine. For the last few months they’d been so focused, so it was great to see all of them kind of unwind. They didn’t have to worry about the next game or anything. They were all just having a lot of fun, and that was great to see.
I went down to San Diego from there, but Julie and the team went to LA and New York, and she told me how amazing it was. She’s really enjoying the whole experience. The fan support they received at each one of those gatherings has been incredible. She said the parade in New York was an unbelievable experience. To be a member of the first women’s team ever to participate in a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City — and see the fan support — is something that she’ll remember forever.
It makes me proud. I think Julie and I would both say that the fan support was second to none, and she’s very grateful for that. It certainly helped the team along the way, pretty much the same way as the Eagles’ fan base helps get our team going before, during and after games. I’m very grateful for the fans that we have, and I can’t wait to experience that again myself this coming season.