The USWNT are officially Brazil bound. Jill Ellis’ side claimed the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship Sunday in Houston, defeating Canada 2 – 0 in the final. Not only did the USWNT win all five qualifying games, they outscored their opponents 23 – 0. And, as always, GFOP and new USWNT co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn was unflappable, repelling all comers in the defensive third, and dropping a Rajon Rondo-esque assist to Lindsey Horan for the winning goal in the final. In this issue’s Three Questions, we ask the FC Kansas City star about earning her 100th USWNT cap, preparing for the Olympics, and what she’s reading.
MiB: Sunday’s final against Canada marked your 100th cap. Does a milestone like that cause you to stop and reflect on all that you’ve achieved, or is it just a number to you? Did you allow yourself to celebrate in any way post-game?
BS: 100 caps is a huge milestone with the women’s team. And it’s celebrated as such. On the day the team celebrates a player’s 100th cap there are highlight videos, speeches from coaches and players, gifts, and the honor of wearing the armband during the match. Although my 100th cap aligned with the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying championship, I’ll be celebrating my 100th cap during the SheBelieves Cup. I’m a little worried my highlight tape is going to be a montage of tackles and 15 yard passes, but tradition is tradition. That didn’t stop the girls from buying me mystery shots in our celebrations after beating Canada.
MiB: Jill Ellis made you and Carli Lloyd captains of the USWNT in January. You are only the 13th and 14th players to ever captain this team. It’s still early days, but how have you experienced your new role and how has it changed the way you approach your time with the team?
BS: It’s a big honor and a big responsibility to be a captain of this team. We are a group of strong, brilliant, empowered, opinionated, and often infuriating women. As a captain with Carli, it’s our responsibility to make sure every voice is heard and respected, and that all decisions and actions lead in a direction that benefits the team. In many respects I haven’t had to change how I approach my time with the team. I still embody the same qualities and values that got me on the team and probably got me named a captain. I’ve always put the team before my own personal success, now I have the added responsibility of making sure everyone does that.
MiB: The U.S. are defending Olympic Gold Medalists. You are World Cup Champions. How do you guard against overconfidence and complacency setting in as you approach the 2016 Olympics in Rio?
BS: No Women’s World Cup champion has won a Olympic gold medal the following year. I’ve always thought something was wrong with me that after experiencing success I could so easily start looking towards the next thing. Why can’t I stay in that happy place and bask in our accomplishment? In that respect, my team is very like-minded. We want to make history. We don’t just want to win the World Cup, we want to win everything. And it was very difficult to win this past World Cup, we know it’ll be even more difficult to follow 2015 with a gold medal. We have levels to reach as a team that we’ve only just begun to explore and seen happen on the field. It’s tough to be over-confident when you still feel like you have places to go.
MiB: You were not named in the FiFPro World XI. A lot was made of your omission. Did you click open the team when it was announced? Do you feel disappointed? Do you care?
BS: I did click open the FiFPro World XI. Honestly, it was about time the global player’s union listened to our requests to have female players recognized like our male counterparts. I was very happy to see four Americans on the team. Of course it would’ve been an honor to be recognized as a top player. Luckily, I have teammates, coaches, loved ones, and really wonderful supporters who remind me every day that I’m valued. I’ll take that over anything else.
MiB: You’re a proud, card carrying member of the USWNT’s “Nerd Squad,” a group of players who appreciate culture as much a beautiful Cruyff turn. You’re a voracious reader. What is Becky Sauerbrunn reading right now?
BS: Right now I am re-reading ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman. It’s fantasy with a whole lot of mythology thrown in there. The premise is basically that all things that are worshipped exist in a human form. So there are old gods, like Anubis, and newer gods like technology, and what would happen if the newer gods fought the older gods? It’s like ‘Game of Thrones’ … but with gods.