Christen Press, love, loss and the beauty of sport

I think a lot of people who follow my work know me as a cryer.

I am a sensitive guy and stories tend to move me in visceral ways. In really really profound ways. It’s why I am drawn to sports, it’s theatre of the highest and most authentic order. It’s a tapestry of humanity played out by people we grow to very genuinely love. And so comes Christen Press’ goal in the ninth minute of a World Cup semifinal, burying a header (a technique she has self admitted to be bad at) in the back of the net to give the United States Women National team a lead they would never give back. She raises her hands and smiles to the heavens. “I am because of you” she says on an Instagram post with the iconic photo. “I love you mom” she says on another.

View this post on Instagram

I am because of you ♥️ 🙏🏾

A post shared by Christen Press (@christenpress) on

It’s gutting, its beautiful and it’s true to who she is. For Press this was more than a goal in a big spot, more than a tribute for her deceased mom, it almost felt like validation of a long and complicated career. A moment when everything came together in the most improbable way. A start she wasn’t supposed to have because Megan Rapinoe had a hamstring injury.

Christen Press’ road to be on the national team wasn’t so cut and dry. She was in and out of selection pools when she was young and she ultimately made a hard personal decision to leave her family and go play club soccer in Sweden. She was thrust into a new country, she started blogging while away from home, found meditation and yoga, all searching for not just inner peace but for a road for her dream. To play on this stage, to have this moment.

Her decision to leave home was proven to be the right one, it vaulted her career to a fixture on the national team despite playing with and behind generational talents at her position, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath. She has won and scored in a world cup already, in 2015, and she has been in MVP conversations nearly every year in the National Women’s Soccer League, NWSL (the domestic soccer league).

This hasn’t however come without failures, her teams consistently failed to win championships despite being being a perennial playoff team and in perhaps her career defining mistake she missed a critical penalty against Sweden in the Olympics to give the Americans their earliest exit there. Since then she has been in and out of the starting lineup, usually filling in for an injured Tobin Heath or Alex Morgan but it was never truly her starting spot.

She was traded from her NWSL team The Chicago Red Stars to the Houston Dash and she refused to play in Houston. In a messy situation she went back to Sweden to play for Göteborg FC untill she was moved to a more favorable team. She got her wish and was sent to the Utah Royals to play with fellow national teamers Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O’Hara.

It’s been a strange career, all while Press is very open about her search for peace and happiness. She is one of the players suing US Soccer for equal pay, she started a company with Rapinoe, Heath and former USWNT star Megan Klinkenberg which wants to challenge how industry and gender function.

She has done a lot. A lot of failures, heartbreaks both personal and professional and so so so many successes. It’s why as she looked into the heavens I started crying. I knew everything that had to happen for this specificaic moment to happen. How it’s the intersection of so many points, experiences and tears. All to create this moment. Rapione had to not start, she had to go to Sweden, she had to miss the penalty against Sweden, it all had to happen. It’s all part of the story of that fateful header. “I am because of you” she said. “I love you mom” she said.

It’s more than your mom watching that loves you Christen. It’s the world.

1 reply
  1. Jim Sarni
    Jim Sarni says:

    Great piece, Giancarlo. I almost fell off my chair when I saw a story about a woman athlete on this site… and my favorite player on the team. I was captivated by Press when I first saw her playing for Stanford in a match at Boston College (my alma mater) during her college days. I shared on Facebook. P.S., you’re a talented writer. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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