DURHAM, N.C.-- I just returned from spending almost two weeks in Falun, Sweden playing for the U-23 National Team, and what a great experience. There were definitely highs and lows.
Playing for your country and especially in international competition is always both very gratifying and a bit intimidating. We played three games over five days, the first against Norway and the latter two against Sweden. Finishing with a 1-1-1 record was a bit disappointing, but I know we all learned a lot and would be very anxious for rematches.
We lost our first game to Norway, 3-2, with Norway scoring in the last minutes of the game off of a free kick to take the match. While we had the majority of the possession and significantly out shot our opponent, we were shown what can happen when you do not capitalize on your opportunities and do not keep a clean sheet.
We came out in our second game against Sweden with a lot to prove. We scored early and kept a clean sheet throughout the entire match leading us to a decisive 4-0 victory.
Our second game against Sweden proved to be more difficult as Sweden had a chance to review the game and figure out where we had exploited their weaknesses. While we were able to score first, the equalizer came soon after and the game then remained 1-1 to its conclusion. It was apparent we were fatigued from playing three matches in five days and Sweden was playing more physically.
All in all, I think we learned valuable lessons about playing on an international stage in the opponent’s home country and game management. The international walk-outs were a highlight of the experience. Holding the little girls’ hands as we stepped out onto the field and listened to both countries’ national anthems was particularly rewarding.
While I am happy to be back in New York finishing up my internship and preparing for preseason, I am very appreciative of the opportunity I experienced with the trip to Sweden. I not only received world class training and coaching, but got to face some of the up and coming top players in the world. I was also reminded of what it feels like to both win and lose in the name of my country, which are experiences that will stay with me a lifetime.