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Dagný Brynjarsdóttir interview: A ‘Sunshine State’ of mind for Bayern’s Star-Spangled Icelander

 

Icelandic international Dagný Brynjarsdóttir had become one of the most coveted players in the college game en route to winning the 2014 National Championship with Florida State, and the current FC Bayern Munich midfielder has some partially tuneful reminders of just why her four years in the U.S. meant so much.

Now 23, Dagný was initially hesitant over taking the college soccer route rather than pursuing an immediate professional career, pondering whether her ability would stagnate as a result. However, since arriving in Tallahassee back in 2011 she has seen her reputation grow considerably, with the past year bringing personal and team success, as well as much interest in her on-field talents.

Ultimately, it was a switch back to Europe that came to fruition last month, with the towering midfield starlet opting to sign for a famous name in FC Bayern. Chasing Frauen-Bundesliga glory is on the immediate agenda, and although overhauling German and European champions VfL Wolfsburg would be a sizeable achievement, it would be rather in keeping with Dagný’s fortunes in recent times.

The NSCAA First-Team All-American might only just be out of college but she is far from a novice, having turned out for her country frequently since 2010 and also scoring the goal to take Iceland to the quarter-final of the 2013 European Championship. Much has happened in her young career over the past few years and driving FSU on to their first national title in December as team captain will be hard to ever forget.

In a season in which the Seminoles won their second consecutive ACC Championship, the unity of the team was in perfect evidence. A league-best seven Noles were named in the 2014 All-ACC Academic Women’s Soccer Team, including Dagný, and also a forward who will be with the U.S. Under-23s in the La Manga tournament in Spain for the end of this month and the beginning of March.

The player in question was the first name Dagný thought of when giving some behind-the-scenes insight into those she played with at FSU, as she discussed music, starting with the most vocal of her Noles teammates.

“Cheyna Williams is an amazing singer, and Jamia Fields, also at Florida State; she always tries to sing really badly. She is actually a better singer than she thinks she is.”

Drafted by the Boston Breakers last month, Jamia Fields will be featuring in the National Women’s Soccer League during 2015. The midfielder/forward came up with the huge moment in FSU’s recent success, scoring the only goal of the College Cup final win over Virginia on 82 minutes as she showed impressive footwork before burying a low effort into the corner from outside the box.

Dagný knows all about game-winners herself, netting the decisive goal on 19 occasions as a collegiate performer. That tally puts her at the top of the all-time list for FSU and she also led the team in points (38) and goals (16) in a stellar senior year.

Every bit the offensive standout, the Noles’ number 7 has just been named the 2014 Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year, following in the footsteps of previous FSU players Tori Huster (Washington Spirit) and Kassey Kallman (Boston Breakers). The Soccer America Women’s Player of the Year has a taste for the big games but could she switch to an altogether different arena and put her voice to the test?

Asked which of her teammates from her career so far she would select to record a song cover with, it was someone she has taken to the midfield battles with who got her vote.

“I would choose Michaela Hahn from Florida State and we would sing ‘Shake It Off’ with Taylor Swift.”

Dagný’s inclusion in the All-Academic Team was the second time she has been selected and she also has the ACC Offensive Player of the Year to add to her plethora of accolades. Her quality is undeniable, but FSU head coach Mark Krikorian, who was recently named Soccer America Coach of the Year, was extremely impressed by the level of her hard work.

Naturally, it took some time for Dagný to adapt to the demands but she went on to make appearances at four College Cups, scoring 44 goals for the Garnet and Gold overall. Such an exciting up-and-coming player, she describes music’s role in getting her focused.

“I like to listen to it before games, when I’m preparing myself mentally. I like all types of music, it does not matter who is singing it, but I listen a lot to American and Icelandic music.”

At Bayern, Italian defender Raffaella Manieri is the pre-game DJ in a truly multi-national squad (not dissimilar to FSU). Dagný definitely enjoys music but she was at a loss when asked about the first CD she ever bought!

“I think I have never bought a CD; I always got it for Christmas or birthday presents when I was younger.”

 

 

Back home, Dagný played in the top-tier Úrvalsdeild kvenna competition, representing Selfoss, as well as Valur from the capital Reykjavík, with whom she won four league titles and played in the UEFA Champions League. After appearing for various age groups at national team level she debuted for the seniors at the Algarve Cup in February 2010 while still only 18. It was a 2-0 defeat to the United States and a game in which Hope Solo saved two Iceland penalties.

Although Dagný has played in four Algarve Cup tournaments and won over 40 caps, her standout moment thus far certainly came in Euro 2013. In the final group game, she headed the winner against the Netherlands to send Iceland through to the last eight along with fellow Group B competitors and eventual finalists, Norway and Germany.

Dagný started each of her country’s games in the tournament, including the 4-0 quarter-final defeat to hosts Sweden. Iceland finished 2nd in the group phase of the 2015 World Cup qualifiers, ahead of Denmark but behind Switzerland, and with the least points of the seven group runners-up, putting them out of the play-off reckoning.

In the upcoming Algarve Cup, Iceland will face the United States, Norway and Switzerland in Group B, providing an opportunity for Freyr Alexandersson to assess the options at his disposal. It will also be the next chance for Dagný to see who is running the rule over the team playlist, and as she explains, a two-time FA Women’s Super League champion and fellow midfielder is usually a good bet to be involved.

“Yes we always listen to music when we are preparing for our games. I think Katrín Ómarsdóttir, who plays for Liverpool, is usually the DJ.”

The Hermann Trophy is given to the top male and female college soccer players in the U.S. each year, with past winners of the award such as Kristine Lilly, Claudio Reyna, Alexi Lalas and Christen Press each featuring in their own music interviews on here in the past. Although Dagný was ultimately named as runner-up to Virginia’s Morgan Brian in January there is no uncertainty surrounding just how highly rated she is in the game, in the U.S. and much further afield.

Despite her importance to the Seminoles when game time came around, Dagný would not be one you would find trying to hijack the locker room sound system!

“I don’t know enough about music to be the team DJ; I can never remember the names of the singers or the bands. At Florida State, we usually listened to American music and we also do that with the national team, as well as some Icelandic music.”

Majoring in Sport Management, Dagný graduated in December and even though that brought the conclusion to her time at FSU she will always be a Nole. Playing alongside compatriot and friend Berglind Thorvaldsdóttir, the duo have frustrated a few opponents during games by discussing openly what they are going to do, but doing so in Icelandic to leave them none the wiser!

When Dagný came around to the thought of playing collegiately, she actually envisioned Tallahassee as similar to a setting like New York City, but she was to find the Florida capital much more to her liking when she arrived. As somebody who had struggled to take to learning English in high school, her first semester in the U.S. was far from easy, but she went on to be good enough to even try her hand at presenting Seminoles videos a few times.

Last month’s return to the state as part of FC Bayern’s break from Bundesliga action – this time with a week spent in Gainesville – brought back a flood of happy memories for Dagný, and more than a little yearning for a visit to Tallahassee. She explains how her previous time in Florida would usually be taken up and the juggling act she had with academic and soccer responsibilities.

“I didn’t have a lot of social life because when I was supposed to study I trained extra, so when I was supposed to do something with my social life I had to study. When I had time, I really liked to go to the pool with my teammates and tan in the sun.

“I really loved waking up in the morning and being able to train outside whenever I wanted to in an amazing facility with great coaches and knowing I could always go on a field which has regular grass on and being able to train because it was never going to be too cold.”

There is a huge amount of appeal about Florida and it is not difficult to see why so many come from far and wide to spend time in the Sunshine State. It could hardly be more different to where Dagný comes from however – the Icelandic town of Hella.

She has previously had the honour of being officially recognised as Hella’s top athlete so she is a pretty good person to paint the picture of the place she calls home. This is the virtual guided tour, courtesy of Dagný Brynjarsdóttir!

“It is a very small town, with only 700 people. You drive over a bridge before you get into the town, so there is a river next to it which makes it really pretty.

“Everyone knows each other. We have two restaurants and one grocery store, one school from first to tenth grade with about 170 students.

“I grew up in a class with 18 boys and five other girls. I was one of the boys and played soccer and basketball with them until I was 15 years old and I loved it.

“I also did track and field until I was 12 years old; I did all the sports that were available in my town. All the kids are friends growing up there.

“We left our houses in the morning and came back when we had to go to bed during the summer time. There is no danger there and we could basically do whatever we wanted to do…if the adults didn’t find out!”

It was a proud day for Dagný and those close to her on Sunday February 15th, as she played a competitive match for the first time as a professional, starting and finishing Bayern’s 2-1 Bundesliga win at Hoffenheim. Eunice Beckmann fired a 68th-minute winner for Thomas Wörle’s title challengers, with American striker Katie Stengel (who featured in an interview on here last year) scoring the opener.

 

Dagný (right) alongside Bayern teammate Katharina Baunach. Photo courtesy of FC Bayern.

Dagný (right) alongside Bayern teammate Katharina Baunach. Photo courtesy of FC Bayern.

 

Bayern are still unbeaten after 15 league games, with 11 wins putting them in 2nd place just two points behind Wolfsburg, who they drew 0-0 with yesterday (February 22nd) as Dagný started again. She has a genuine opportunity to push for success, but away from the pursuit of titles there is a 23-year-old trying to get used to a new country, so how is she finding it all?

“Germany has been good so far; I needed that change to keep improving as a player. The biggest change for me has been the language; it is pretty hard to live in a culture and be on a team where you don’t speak or understand the language.

“I’m also trying to get used to training on a turf in minus six degrees – I guess I miss the warm weather a little bit. I have only been in Germany for a month so I haven’t seen that much of it, but I’m excited for the upcoming five months.”

To a certain degree, we are at the beginning with Dagný, but she’s also a player with five years of national team experience, a major tournament behind her, and a National Championship, so let’s hear some of those she has been most impressed by in the opening years of her career. Each player on here is asked to conclude the interview by placing themselves into a fantasy 5-a-side line-up and choosing four of their best career teammates to complete the side.

Here is Dagný to introduce her team, and perhaps just like her it is built on an Icelandic foundation, with a Florida twist going forward.

“One keeper: Guðbjörg Gunnarsdóttir – one of the best keepers in the world. One defender: Sif Atladóttir – very fast and the best defender I have played with.

“One midfielder: Isabella Schmid – smart and technical. One striker: Cheyna Williams – very fast and good at taking players on one-v-one.”

To catch each of these interviews in future, follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes

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