One of the most revered defenders in the women’s game, FC Kansas City’s Becky Sauerbrunn has come to enjoy a fresh perspective on the sport she loves, and a mellow rhythm provides the perfect backdrop for the amiable U.S. international.
After establishing her reputation with the Washington Freedom back in Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the former University of Virginia standout eventually made a U.S. Women’s National Team starting jersey her own. With an Olympic gold medal and 61 caps to her name, Becky is one of the stellar defensive figures in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) at present.
The FC Kansas City captain has been an integral factor in the Blues’ ascent to 2nd place in the league, helping the side to seven clean sheets so far. She has remained a key player in the early days of Jill Ellis’ reign in charge of the U.S. and her influence on those around her is as strong as ever.
Fans of women’s soccer are always keen to discover the varying aspects of the players’ personalities, and as many will know, Becky is certainly one of the most thoughtful. As affable as she is engaging, the St. Louisan values her time to recharge, and music comes into play at regular intervals.
Delving deep into discussion on her career, teammates and music, the FCKC number 4 began by sharing some of the country artists that connect with her.
“Luke Bryan, Rascal Flatts, Cole Swindell, Craig Morgan, Garth Brooks. I guess I lean more towards guy singers than girl singers, but Martina McBride, you can’t go wrong with her.
“Reba McEntire’s old school but I love her.”
Asked for some of her best-loved country songs, she went for a mix of contemporary and classic.
“Oh, God, that changes every week! This week, ‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’ (Craig Morgan).
“Growing up, Garth Brooks ‘The Thunder Rolls’.”
With a love of the game that was sent into overdrive watching the U.S. clinch the 1999 World Cup on TV, Becky made her international debut in January 2008. The opponents were Canada, at the Four Nations Tournament in China, for Pia Sundhage’s first game in charge. A 4-0 win for the U.S. came thanks to Amy Rodriguez and Lindsay Tarpley doubles, but Becky had a harsh introduction to the senior team, suffering a broken nose!
Following her first appearances, the ex-Boston Renegades youngster had to bide her time until getting called in again, having established herself in WPS with Washington Freedom. After grasping her chance, she has never looked back.
Becky’s Kansas City teammate Lauren Holiday and Seattle Reign forward Sydney Leroux are usually the DJs on the national team, but what would be the reaction if some country entered the equation before a game?
“It depends if it’s upbeat country or kind of low, slow-jam type country. (Asked how Kenny Rogers would be received) Yeah, that definitely would not fly!”
A 2007 University of Virginia graduate (in English literature and composition), Becky’s feeling for country music is obvious, but are there any other genres that strike a chord with her?
“Yeah, I’m not really sure what (genre) you’d call it, but ones like The 1975. I also like pop music, like Maroon 5; I don’t really think you can go wrong with that.
“Anything that’s catchy, I like it, it doesn’t really matter what genre it is.”
A youth career with the U.S. included playing all six games and serving as co-captain en route to a third-place finish at the FIFA Under-19 World Cup in 2004. Her first major tournament with the seniors was the 2011 World Cup in Germany. The match action began for Becky after a red card for Rachel Buehler in the quarter-final against Brazil gave her a starting spot for the semi with France.
Alongside Christie Rampone, she helped see the team to a 3-1 victory, although the French goal came from her one-time Washington Freedom colleague Sonia Bompastor (more on her later). Buehler was restored to Sundhage’s starting eleven for the final, in which the U.S. were defeated on penalties by Japan, but Becky would be rewarded with a bigger role in the Olympics a year later.
In London 2012, she was on the field for the semi-final, an enthralling clash with rivals Canada, as Alex Morgan grabbed the winner (4-3) deep into extra-time’s closing stages. The 2013 NWSL Defender of the Year has been known as ‘Iron Woman’ by her teammates, and she will be an incredibly-popular scorer when she gets that first goal for her country.
Before becoming the assured professional she is today, she was both a young player and music fan. When we discussed the first tape or CD she ever bought, memories of one film also came back to her.
“Probably the first one that was given to me was No Doubt, and then the first one I bought was probably Aaliyah, or the Now and Then soundtrack.
“Did you see that movie? It’s a very ‘chick’ movie but it’s based in the ’60s and ’70s, so it’s got that music in it, so I enjoyed that.”
As the Virginia Cavaliers’ only three-time NSCAA All-American, she then became the only player to feature in every minute of the first two WPS seasons, breaking her sequence in the third year of the league due only to international duty. Admitting in the past that she is somewhat uneasy with the tag of ‘performer’, she accepts that is what she and her counterparts are ultimately viewed as.
When her role has been reversed to spectator, for concerts, there have been some notable artists on stage, as she recalls.
“The Fray I really enjoyed seeing in concert. I’ve been to see Dave Matthews (Band) and then I’ve also been to a Taylor Swift concert, where I think I went deaf for two months afterwards.
“My first concert was probably Backstreet Boys.”
Talented vocalists are dotted around the women’s game and there was a college teammate Becky remembers in that regard. The midfielder played alongside her and current Kansas City defender Nikki Phillips in the aforementioned Under-19 World Cup in Thailand. Becky also picks out two contrasting members of the U.S. Women’s National Team when it comes to singing prowess.
“There was someone in college, Jen Redmond, she had a beautiful voice. She no longer is playing; I don’t think she played professionally after college.
“Abby (Wambach) thinks she has a good voice but it’s horrendous! Megan Rapinoe – beautiful voice.”
U.S. keeper Ashlyn Harris was a recent interviewee on the site, sharing how midfielder and three-time Olympic gold medallist Heather O’Reilly started performing her well-known version of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ in their University of North Carolina days. Becky gives her own opinion on that Slim Shady rendition, also responding to the question of whether ‘HAO’ replicates the explicit version, or tones it down for her teammates!
“Oh yeah, gosh my ears are still bleeding from that! It’s super-memorable when she does it, because veins are popping like she’s gonna pass out.
“She censors herself and it’s usually like the first part of it, and I don’t think there are any cusses in that first part. She does it very sparingly, because it kind of has to be a special occasion.”
The inaugural season of the NWSL last year saw Portland Thorns take the big prize but it was FC Kansas City who made a clean sweep of the individual accolades. Lauren Holiday was MVP, as well as taking the Golden Boot award, while Nicole Barnhart (Goalkeeper of the Year), Erika Tymrak (Rookie of the Year), and Vlatko Andonovski (Coach of the Year) were also winners.
As mentioned, Becky was crowned Defender of the Year as the Blues came 2nd in the regular season, although they were ousted in the play-offs by Portland in extra-time. This season, the good work has continued, as the team sit 2nd heading towards the final stretch of the campaign.
The 1-0 win over Portland last Saturday (28th June) was FCKC’s sixth in a row, with Lauren Holiday the scorer. Although Holiday chooses some of the songs in the locker room, a player who this week turned 24 has been emerging as another contender.
“Right now, it’s Merritt Mathias’ iPod. It’s a mixture, we were just listening to ‘Am I Wrong?’ (Nico & Vinz), and then she throws in some Drake, Rihanna, some rap and stuff.”
Asked which of her career teammates she would record a cover of a song with, she went for a mix of alluring vocals, a lack of fear, and a genuine appreciation for artists and genres.
“Oh gosh, man this is rough! There’s a lot of layers to that question.
“I would have to have people that didn’t have any fear. Pinoe (Megan Rapinoe) would be a good one, Meghan Klingenberg because she’s not scared of anything so would be fun to have.
“Probably Jill Loyden, because she’s got a really good ear for music; she gives me CDs’ worth of music. I don’t even know what song we would sing… probably something like Paramore, something a little rocky.”
Before WPS folded, she was signed to play for Sky Blue FC in the 2012 season. As it transpired, she represented D.C. United Women in the USL W-League, and would of course join up with FC Kansas City as the NWSL came together for 2013.
She shares what she enjoys about FCKC as a club, and as a Missouri native, what she likes most about Kansas City.
“I think being part of a city that really enjoys soccer. It’s got a rich history with Sporting Kansas City (Major League Soccer) and you’ve got the indoor men’s team, the Missouri Comets (Major Arena Soccer League), but also the youth in the area.
“Soccer is one of the major sports, so it’s fun having that support. People know us, so that’s been really enjoyable, going places and them noticing our logos and stuff and asking us questions.
“I’m from St. Louis, so it’s not a far cry from home for me, but Kansas City has really cool pockets: downtown’s fun, there’s a Power & Light District that has a lot of restaurants. Good music goes through Kansas City, and the barbecue’s phenomenal, so if you’re a foodie, there are a lot of places to eat.”
Turning 29 last month, she highlights the moment in her living room as a 14-year-old watching Brandi Chastain sink the winning penalty in the World Cup final as pivotal in securing her affection for the sport. There is no understating the importance of that July afternoon in 1999, when 90,185 gathered at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for the game with China.
As she took in the pictures unfolding, Becky wanted to one day sample what the likes of Briana Scurry, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm were feeling. She speaks of the emotion that flows through her every time she wears her nation’s jersey, and cites her achievements with the team when reflecting on what her years in the game have taught her.
“I think for my own personal journey through the game, I’ve definitely had ups and downs. I think it’s shown a lot about me and what I’m willing to put myself through in order to follow what I love, and I love soccer.
“I’m really passionate about it and I’ll play until literally my body will not let me play any longer. For me, it’s been really reaffirming to work so hard and care so much, day in, day out, and be reaping some of the rewards for that.
“Playing for the national team and in the World Cup and Olympics, those are things that I never really thought for myself. To actually be here now and to have played in those things and won a gold medal, all those things leading up to that point have been completely worth it.”
As alluded to, it would be wrong to think it has been a seamless journey for the former Ladue High School student. If handed the opportunity, here is the advice she would give the teenage version of herself, as she took her early steps on the way to making a career.
“I would probably say not to take things so hard. I’ve always been one to take a lot of responsibility for things when it wasn’t really my place to take responsibility, so I would have told myself to probably lighten up a little bit more.
“Crap happens, you’re gonna lose games, sometimes you’ll be responsible and sometimes you won’t be. What’s important is how you respond and how you play that next game.”
Dedicating time to promoting healthy lifestyle choices, and giving information on injury prevention through her work with Signature Sports Medicine, recuperation between games is a priority for her. Aside from that, she details how she prefers to make the most of her downtime.
“I love reading, love seeing movies, love listening to music, obviously. I could spend hours on iTunes cruising through the little blips that they have of each song.
“Most of my time away from soccer is trying to recover from soccer, so I like to do things that are low-key and enjoyable. (Asked if coffee shops are a regular haunt for her) Oh, I would drink coffee the entire day if I could!”
In each of the interviews on here, the player is asked to put themselves into a fantasy team of five players, and to select four of the best they have ever played alongside to complete the line-up. Here was the off-the-cuff selection Becky put together, representing just some of the many worthy names she has shared a field with.
“For goalkeeper, I’m gonna pick Jill Loyden, just because I know that she will get on anyone’s ass no matter who they are and tell them what to do. She’ll keep talking and talking, so she’s important to have in there.
“A defender next to me – dang, this is rough! I’m gonna pick Sonia Bompastor from France; she’s recently retired, I played with her on the Washington Freedom.
“She’s a leftie, she’s got great service, she’s an amazing defender and she can do practically anything. I don’t think I’ve ever played with a more well-rounded player than Sonia.
“I would have Christen Press somewhere up top, so I don’t know if she’d be a starter or on the bench, just because she’s phenomenal in small-sided games. She’s one of the most difficult people to defend against.
“It’s funny because she’s into meditation and she loves yoga, so there’s a part of her that’s very focused and Zen. Then she’s also like goofy and happy-go-lucky, and you get her talking and you’re just so caught up in her excitement that you can’t help but share it with her.
“(Midfielder) I would say Homare Sawa – I would definitely have her somewhere in there. This is so hard because I don’t wanna hurt people’s feelings by not saying them!
“I need like a Pinoe (Megan Rapinoe) or Tobin-esque (Tobin Heath) midfielder as well to give some of the creativity. Lauren Cheney (Holiday) I would put in there.
“They would all split time!”
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