Beats & Rhymes FC

Amber Brooks interview: Flash forward with a little Carolina kickback for U.S. midfielder

Photo: @abrooks22

Photo: @abrooks22

 

With a first National Women’s Soccer League season behind her, recently-acquired Western New York Flash midfielder Amber Brooks is in the midst of another loan with FC Bayern Munich, and she is out to build on some success of yesteryear that provides reason for reminiscing.

Capped at senior level with the U.S. Women’s National Team last year, the 23-year-old got her first experience of the NWSL in 2014 after signing with the Portland Thorns. A frequent starter for Paul Riley’s team en route to the playoff semi-final, on completion of the season she returned to her former club FC Bayern on a loan deal.

After settling back into life in Germany and the Frauen-Bundesliga, it was announced earlier this month that Amber had been traded by Portland to Western New York Flash in return for defender Kat Williamson and midfielder McCall Zerboni. It means new beginnings in 2015 for the one-time University of North Carolina standout and although she leaves Portland with a heavy heart it is an opportunity to create more memories in her young career and life.

A two-time NCAA National Championship winner, Amber had an unforgettable collegiate career, notching numerous accolades and captaining the Tar Heels along the way. She describes how music resonates with her and how it still manages to spark recollections of those UNC days.

“Music is an important part of my life. I love music’s ability to alter my mood in an instant and recall memories of certain people and various places in my life.

“I also think that regardless of the language being sung, music is relatively universal and has the power to connect people. In college, I first remember Casey Nogueira and Nikki Washington being the DJs my freshman year.

“At UNC, we have a huge dance party every pre-game and at away games I can remember those two carrying the portable speakers on their shoulders everywhere we went. That was in 2009 when we won the National Championship and Black Eyed Peas ‘Imma Be’ reminds me most of that season.

“Throughout the years, Crystal Dunn, Meg Morris, and Anna Sieloff took over the responsibility of the pre-game dance party music. We listened mostly to the latest and greatest songs on the radio, and Chris Brown’s ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ and ‘Wobble’ (‘Look At Her Go’ with T-Pain) are the two songs I remember from our 2012 National Championship season.”

Amber’s creativity and eye for goal went alongside her leadership as she garnered a reputation as one of the leading lights in college soccer. As well as those National Championships in 2009 and 2012, she won back-to-back Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) titles in 2009 and 2010 for the Tar Heels and was a four-year starter for the team.

Working with World Cup-winning former U.S. Women’s National Team coach Anson Dorrance, she was a two-time All-American and was selected in the NCAA All-Tournament Team in 2009 and 2012. Amber ended her UNC career with 93 appearances, 17 goals and 19 assists, in addition to numerous other accolades.

The Indiana-born New Hope, Pennsylvania native follows Tar Heels such as goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and midfielders Heather O’Reilly, Allie Long and Yael Averbuch in discussing music and soccer on here. Amber shares more of her musical preferences and despite her time at Chapel Hill, she wasn’t taken in by a certain genre, as she explains.

“I like a wide range of music, it really just depends on my mood at the moment; hip hop/rap, pop, rock, basically any genre. Surprisingly though, after four years at UNC in the south, I still don’t care much for country.

“My all-time favourite artist is Bruce Springsteen; I have many fond memories listening to him in the car with my dad and his lyrics just really resonate with me and hit home. I also like OneRepublic, Maroon 5, Macklemore, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Tom Petty, Mat Kearney, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran…like I said, I listen to a variety of music.”

 

 

Amber may be a big fan of The Boss (and has even met the man himself), but while she was running through her favourite Springsteen tracks she revealed the teen pop side to her early collection!

“Most of Bruce’s songs hold special meaning for me but I would say ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, ‘Atlantic City’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Hungry Heart’, and ‘Working on a Dream’ are my top 5 of his.

“The first CD I remember buying was Britney Spears’ first album ‘…Baby One More Time’ and I must have been about eight or nine years old.”

Originally selected by Portland Thorns in the third round (24th pick overall) of the inaugural NWSL College Draft in January 2013, Amber had already agreed to sign for FC Bayern. She featured in two seasons for the German side before finally joining the Thorns ahead of the 2014 campaign, in which she started 19 of her 20 appearances, scoring once and assisting on two goals.

It was a 3rd-place finish for Portland before they were beaten 2-0 by eventual Championship winners FC Kansas City in the playoff semi. Thorns coach Paul Riley praised Amber as a ‘massive plus’ for the team over the season and spoke of the ‘very difficult’ decision to part with her in the trade for Kat Williamson and McCall Zerboni.

Amber headed home Mana Shim’s cross to round off Portland’s 7-1 thrashing of Kansas City in July. Whether the performance was down to simply great play, inspirational tactics, or Rachel Van Hollebeke’s tune choice is unclear!

“With the Thorns, we usually listened to Sinead Farrelly, Alex Morgan, or Jackie Acevedo’s playlists, or occasionally Rachel (Van Hollebeke) Buehler’s if we wanted to hear oldies or Disney songs. With Bayern, we also travel with portable speakers and we all contribute to the pre-game playlist.

“Songs vary a lot because of how diverse our team is, with Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Italian, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish, and Americans. I’ve found that the popular songs often don’t hit the radio until a few months later in Europe, so they can seem a little outdated and overplayed already.”

After finishing 4th last season, Bayern currently lead the way in the Frauen-Bundesliga on goal difference from domestic and European champions VfL Wolfsburg after ten games. The 7-0 win over Herforder SV last time out included a clean sheet for Tinja-Riikka Korpela and Amber has got to learn a little more about the 28-year-old Finland international via music.

“I’ve played with a lot of players from all over the world, so I’ve heard my fair share of what I would classify as ‘unusual’ music. Right now, I ride with our Finnish goalkeeper, Tinja Korpela, to trainings, and she has made me listen to some Finnish rap music, which was very interesting and wasn’t so pleasant to my ears.

“She is a fan of oldies and we’ve had some fun car rides listening to her Britney Spears and Michael Jackson albums…yes, she still has physical CD albums. The other day I even learned she doesn’t use iTunes and when I told her that iTunes contains half my life she reminded me that she was born in the 80s, but has advanced to using Spotify recently.”

Prior to her loan move back to the club, Amber had scored ten goals for Bayern and she has worked with a number of fellow American players over her time there. Goalkeeper Bianca Henninger, defender Niki Cross, midfielder Erika Tymrak, and forward Sarah Hagen have all been with the team previously, while defender Gina Lewandowski and forward Katie Stengel are there currently.

It was alongside three of those that Amber gave a rendition of a Canadian singer’s very well-known song.

“I wouldn’t say I am shy about singing in front of teammates and because I have good lyric recall I enjoy sing-alongs, especially while driving. Outside of soccer, I have sung karaoke a few times with teammates at various outings.

“I recall singing (Shania Twain) ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ with Erika Tymrak, Bianca Henninger, and Gina Lewandowski last year at the local Irish pub in Munich.”

Amber won her first senior cap for the National Team in November 2013, playing 81 minutes as the U.S. beat Brazil 4-1 in front of 20,274 at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Erika Tymrak got her first international goal in that game, and the FC Kansas City midfielder, who featured on here last year, possesses some rap skills that Amber has something to say about!

“Erika Tymrak’s attempt at Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ might be the most embarrassing karaoke experience I have witnessed! Quite a few of my Thorns teammates embarrassed themselves during a karaoke outing in Kansas City.

“I remember Celine Dion’s ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’ and Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ were two of the better renditions that evening. And specifically, as Steph Catley mentioned in her interview (on here last month), Kat Tarr, Sinead Farrelly, and Emily Menges thought highly of their singing skills.”

 

Amber (far right on the front row) lines up with the Portland Thorns last season. Photo: Ashley J. Palmer

Amber (far right on the front row) lines up with the Portland Thorns last season. Photo: Ashley J. Palmer

 

Captaining the U.S. to a silver medal at the 2008 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, Amber played in the Under-20 tournament in Germany two years later. She scored against Nigeria in the quarter-final before defeat on penalties and was named MVP at the 2012 Four Nations Tournament in La Manga as the Under-23s were victorious.

Someone else who has made an impression at youth level before getting a call to join up with the seniors is forward Katie Stengel. She gave her own music/soccer interview on here in July and since then she has won the W-League Championship with LA Blues and struck four goals so far for Bayern.

Amber played against her Wake Forest team while at UNC and she tells how her teammate has been settling into life in Germany in what is her first professional season. She also gives her thoughts on being back once again with Thomas Wörle’s team and how she has taken to her adopted country this time around.

“I think Katie is really doing well in her first professional playing experience, especially considering it is abroad. I think her choice to come play in Germany says a lot about the quality of the league and the enjoyable experiences past Americans have had with Bayern.

“We have become quite good friends and I think she will only continue to develop and improve playing with Bayern in this competitive environment. I think my experience the second time around with Bayern is just easier and more fulfilling.

“Soccer-wise, I am familiar with the coach, his philosophy, and even though there are a lot of new players, we have come together very well in a short period of time. So far, we have had a lot of success this season, which is always rewarding, and I think playing with the quality of players on this team has helped my game and improved my confidence.

“Culturally, I feel more comfortable and less like an ‘Ausländer’ because I am more familiar with the city, the German language, using public transportation, restaurants, and shops. I also love how passionate German fans are for their teams and I think it is an advantage for players who are able to watch the quality of teams such as Bayern in this environment.”

 

Amber and Bayern teammate Katie Stengel. Photo: @abrooks22

Amber and Bayern teammate Katie Stengel. Photo: @abrooks22

 

Next year will of course see Amber back in the NWSL, as she joins 2013 regular-season winners and Championship runners-up Western New York Flash. Last season, the Flash finished down in 7th and some re-shaping has been taking place with changes including National Team midfield mainstay Carli Lloyd’s move to Houston Dash.

The Flash were 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) champions and took the Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL Elite) crown while a pro league was absent in the U.S. in 2012. Amber describes her feelings on the trade from Portland, her new team, and also what she feels could be done better as we approach season three of the NWSL.

“To be honest, I was very surprised to be informed that I was traded. I really love Portland, the club, my teammates, and the fans, so I am sad that I will not be going back to that environment.

“However, I understand the business of professional sports and think a new experience with a different team and coach (Aaran Lines) where I can play more of an important role will be good for my career and future aspirations. I recognise the success Western New York has had in the past and am looking forward to being a part of the rebuilding process as we look to get back to winning ways.

“Considering the NWSL is just entering its third year of existence I think the league is doing well. However, I think there needs to be more transparency and communication amongst all the parties and more stability for the players in terms of length of season, salary, and just basic employment rights.

“Continuing to broadcast games on television on a weekly basis is important for showcasing and marketing to a vast demographic and increasing interest in the women’s game.”

A one-time Pennington High School attendee and communication studies major in college, Amber enjoyed playing basketball growing up but naturally it came second to soccer. With much to enjoy about the present with Bayern, as well as new challenges ahead, she assesses what she feels she has learned from the game up to now, in a wider sense.

“I think soccer has taught me a lot about perspective and how to better deal with difficult situations in life. There are a lot of uncontrollable factors in the game of soccer, just as there are in life.

“You must focus on the variables you can control, such as your preparation, attitude and effort, and let the other things go. Whether we complain about it or not, life is unfair, but our attitude is our own choice and determines how we let unfortunate events affect us, either positively or negatively.

“You will only be successful if you give maximal effort and are willing to make sacrifices for what you ultimately want to achieve.”

Anyone who has read the site before will be familiar with the closing question. For anyone else, this works by the interviewee selecting four from the best they have ever played alongside to go with them in a fantasy 5-a-side line-up.

It is about naming just a selection of the numerous players they could pick rather than necessarily choosing their ‘top four’ teammates, so there is space for a few others to enter the game later on! Here is the team Amber put forward, and UNC, FC Bayern, Portland, and Western New York are all represented.

“Goalkeeper – Tinja Korpela. I’ve only played with her the past few months here at Bayern but she possesses all the attributes of a great goalkeeper and also has great feet and a positive voice.

“Defender – Whitney Engen. I played one season with her at UNC and am looking forward to playing with her again with Western New York this season.

“I love how aggressive and tough in the tackle she is, but she is also very good on the ball, a vocal organiser, and her effort is contagious and pushes you to work harder.

“Midfielder – Vero Boquete. I loved playing with her in front of me at Portland this past season and she can do magical things with the ball, but she also looks to set up her teammates, finishes well, and works hard defensively.

“Forward – Christine Sinclair. She is simply the best finisher I’ve played with to date.

“She can score from all angles and distances, using various surfaces of her feet, and she also works back defensively, which I appreciate and admire from a forward.”

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