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Women’s Soccer: The New Generation

Houston Dash players headed to the Olympics (Photography by Kennon Evett)

Houston Dash players headed to the Olympics (Photography by Kennon Evett)

The recent popularity of women’s soccer is undeniable. Almost a year ago, on July 5, 2015, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team made history. Not just with an incredible World Cup win over Japan (5–2), but making it the most viewed soccer game in U.S. TV history with 25.4 million tuning in.

No one knows the excitement, the momentum and the pressure that comes a year later than the women who play the sport professionally, especially those heading to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. We had a chance to sit down with JANINE BECKIE, MORGAN BRIAN and ALLYSHA CHAPMAN, Houston Dash teammates and fresh faces of women’s soccer. Here’s what they had to say about their sport and their road so far.

MORGAN BRIAN | MIDFIELDER | TEAM USA 

Morgan Brian, Houston Dash, Team USA (Photo: Kennon Evett)

Morgan Brian, Houston Dash, Team USA (Photo: Kennon Evett)

Midfielder Morgan Brian has a vision of where soccer is going, not just for women, but for everyone; and it’s something she’s excited to be a part of. More than just looking forward at what’s to come, Brian realizes all the hard work of those before her that have helped grow the sport to where it is today.

“As a kid it was my dream to play on this (national) team and I think the women before me have allowed me to do that, and play it as our job. I feel like it’s my duty to continue to pave the way for the younger kids like me who have a dream to play on the national team,” Brian shares, with love and respect for the sport. Never in a million years (or at least the 23 she’s been around) did she expect to get paid to play her passion. There’s not a day or a moment that passes that she forgets that.

It’s the maturity and knowledge of how the sport got to where it is today and all the blood, sweat and tears that others put in to get it there that gives Brian an advantage on the field and in the public’s eyes. Brian was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, and she continues to be a headlining name. “I think the women who have come before me have done a really good job at pushing the limits in women’s soccer,” Brian says. She admits the sport, and her role in it, has come full circle.

Brian says playing on a World Cup team was her biggest dream since she was a kid, but the Olympics are a dream all their own. “The Olympics are something the world watches for every sport. Everyone says the Olympics are so different from the World Cup because the World Cup is every soccer player’s dream but the Olympics are every athlete’s dream. I’m excited to compete with the United States and hopefully be the first team to win a World Cup and a gold in the Olympics,” she says.

“Brazil will be a great experience for everyone and obviously we want to compete and hopefully bring back a gold medal,” Brian says optimistically.

 

Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash, Team Canada (Photo: Kennon Evett)

Allysha Chapman, Houston Dash, Team Canada (Photo: Kennon Evett)

ALLYSHA CHAPMAN | DEFENDER | TEAM CANADA

Originally from Courtice, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto), and just 5-foot-3 inches, Allysha Chapman looks like the girl next door. From a quick glance, you’d have no idea how aggressive she can be on the field, how hard she’s worked to get to where she is, and just how passionate she is about her sport.

The 27-year-old defender takes her job, the same job she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl, incredibly seriously. She knows firsthand it’s been a long road to get women’s soccer to where it is today and she’s using her aggressiveness, persistence and uplifting attitude to help keep it on that track. “Women’s soccer has come a long way in the last 10 years and I’m lucky to be benefiting from women who had to work really hard to promote the game. It’s only growing and getting better, and women are getting more recognized. I think it’s all great – the World Cup we just had in the summer generated a lot of viewers and fans,” she says.

Chapman not only played in every game for Canada in last year’s tournament, but every minute. So yeah, she’s kind of a big deal – for the Houston Dash, Canada and women’s soccer. And those are big shoes to fill. Chapman, or Chappy as her friends call her, has been a fan of the Olympics since she can remember and knows it’s a huge honor. “The Olympics are the pinnacle of sports. Every athlete dreams of going to the Olympics – it’s a lot of pressure but I think we can build on our (Canada’s) Olympic bronze four years ago and I’m really excited for my first Olympics,” she says. No matter how long she’s dreamt of this opportunity, there are still a lot of unknowns, which keeps it exciting. “I have no idea what it’s going to be like,” she admits, not afraid of any challenges.

Chapman realizes she has a huge stage to help other young girls realize their dreams of one day playing the sport she loves so much. Being a role model to so many and representing her country puts the pressure on, but Chapman says there are others she wants to make proud, like her parents who have been taking her to practices since she was five. Chapman says dedication is a word she feels accurately sums up her career thus far.

“I’m really happy with where women’s soccer is right now, but it can only get better from here,” Chapman concludes.

JANINE BECKIE | FORWARD | TEAM CANADA 

Janine Beckie, Houston Dash, Team Canada (Photo: Kennon Evett)

Janine Beckie, Houston Dash, Team Canada (Photo: Kennon Evett)

No matter the circumstance, rejection is never easy. But it’s what you do after someone tells you no that truly defines who you are.

You have two options: give up or work harder.

Janine Beckie, a 21-year-old from Denver, chose to work harder. And it’s paying off incredibly well for her. Beckie is the all-time leading scorer at Texas Tech and was selected with the no. 8 overall pick in the 2016 NWSL College Draft. “I was in the group for the (Canada) World Cup last year and got cut right at the last minute. I used it as motivation. I knew there were some things I needed to be better at. I had good conversations with my coaches – there were no burned bridges there,” she says. “They just kind of said, ‘We don’t think you’re ready, this is the group that we are going to go with but you’re not at all done, this is not the end,’” she recalls.

Keeping a positive mindset was something Beckie says was instrumental in keeping her motivated. “My faith and family are definitely what got me through that time,” she explains. In just a year’s time, that extra motivation is paying off nicely. Beckie played for Canada in Olympic Qualifying where she scored two goals, proving she was far from done with the sport. The recent growth of women’s soccer in North America has been unprecedented, and Beckie is using this newfound platform for good. “We have a platform we’ve never had before and it’s us taking that and running with it. And not stopping until we get the sport where we want it to be – I think we’re still far from that and we’re moving in the right direction,” she says, happy to be a part of it all. Like others, Beckie dreamt of being in the Olympics since she was a little girl, but had no idea it would be soccer that would take her there. “I played all kinds of sports growing up so I never thought that soccer would be my thing,” she laughs.

As for the pressure and attention that comes with the Olympics, Beckie is eager to embrace it. “It’s definitely pressure but it’s the best kind of pressure. It’s just an incredible opportunity that we get – it’s not something everyone gets to do. We are in the spotlight naturally with our job – that is a huge blessing and opportunity,” she explains. Beckie has dual citizenship and will be heading to the Olympics with teammate Allysha Chapman to play for Canada. “We have an opportunity now that we’ve never had before to help shape young girls’ lives in terms of sports. We’re looking forward to building a culture and playing better in the next few months because it’s way closer than we all think,” she says.

By Jayme Lamm | Photography by Kennon Evett Assisted by Josue Salinas | Hair and Makeup by Sherrie Evett Styled by Marzifat + Carla Valencia de Martinez
Shot on location at BBVA Stadium

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