Daphne Corboz interview: The chase for a champion sound in the City for U.S. midfielder
Wrapping up her college career as Georgetown University’s all-time leader in goals and points, American midfielder Daphne Corboz then played her part in the rapidly-progressive Manchester City’s qualification for the UEFA Champions League, so it stands to reason that her personal anthem is one packed with a grand sense of stature.
The creatively-minded players with the knack of consistently delivering the incisive moments will always have huge appeal. In her four years in Georgetown Hoyas colours, Daphne certainly had this box ticked, rising all the way to the top of the program’s all-time list of scorers, after netting 47. With 41 assists, her point tally of 134 also ranks as the highest in school history, so the word was more than out on the New Jersey product by the time her collegiate career concluded late last year.
A U.S. Under-23 international, it was Daphne’s home-state team, Sky Blue FC, who selected her in January’s NWSL College Draft, but as it transpired, she would not spend her rookie year with the team she used to watch as a supporter. Instead, her first professional side would be one whose ambition has seen them accelerate in the English game in the past two years – Manchester City.
The crossover between football and music is the idea with each interview on here, and for Daphne, the song which stands out most strongly for her is a track that has been utilised in sport on frequent occasions. The song is a favourite of Pep Guardiola, who drew upon its motivational aspect for use with his team during his all-conquering tenure as FC Barcelona boss, and it is perhaps a fitting choice for Daphne as she embarks on a pursuit of silverware at the top level.
“I would say my favourite band is Coldplay and favourite song is ‘Viva la Vida.’ I mean I really listen to anything; any popular music or I guess alternative music.
“I can’t really say I listen to a lot of rap. Oh and country; they don’t really have it here but in the U.S. it’s big.
“I don’t really listen to rap or country.”
Notably putting off medical school to pursue her on-field endeavours, Daphne, 22, quickly caught the attention in an upwardly-mobile City side this season. She also struck up an instant bond with a player who led Nick Cushing’s team in goals (along with Toni Duggan) in 2015 and scored on her full England debut against Estonia in September.
“I think we have a bunch of leaders on the team. The English internationals coming back from the World Cup really did a great job of welcoming me, I feel, but I have a very good relationship with Izzy Christiansen.
“I love playing with her on the field and she’s been really helpful to me off the field as well.”
Graduating in May, Daphne made the switch to England in July and brought an extra element to City, hitting the target in the 3-0 win at Bristol Academy later that month. Izzy Christiansen’s form was a big reason why the Citizens managed to take the FA Women’s Super League title race with eventual champions Chelsea to the final day and the 24-year-old hits the note with Daphne when it comes to the changing room tracks.
“I think everyone kind of takes their turn and I would say my personal favourite is Izzy’s music. KB (Karen Bardsley) does some, Tash Harding also.”
It can be more than a touch mesmerising when players dare to fully express themselves on the pitch, and even if not every move goes as planned, the same can be true when they bring out the dance moves. A certain Welsh international was the featured player on here while at Bristol Academy in June 2013 and the lively forward is also one of the most eager movers in the current City team.
“Dancing, I would say Tash Harding, for sure. With the national team, there’s a bunch of girls that like to dance and I just like to watch them!
“Rose Lavelle (U.S. Under-23 teammate) did some good numbers for us.”
American-born, but a dual citizen due to her French parentage, Daphne became the first Georgetown player to win both the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year in the same season when she did so in 2014. Her 18 assists last season were a single-season record for the program and Hoyas coach Dave Nolan has told how he would often see her out on the training field honing her game when he arrived early for work.
Moving her life to a different continent and postponing her medical studies, Daphne’s motivation level for the game is undoubtedly high, but does music have an effect on her as the minutes are going by before a game?
“Yeah of course, I think pre-game in the locker room the music (in college) was big and also we blast music during our warm-ups in the U.S. Whoever was the music guru on our team would make a good CD and take suggestions from anybody, so that would usually get me pumped up.”
Starting 80 of her 82 collegiate games, Daphne was a First-Team All-American as a sophomore in 2012 as well as the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year. A year before that, she was one of the newbies on the team and like so many collegiate players in their freshman year she had to give a demonstration of her singing skills to her colleagues.
“I didn’t have to do it (at Man City), fortunately, but with my Georgetown team on our first away trip on the bus we had to sing with the headphones on. I sang something from High School Musical.”
Although a great amount of girls in the U.S. play soccer growing up, it could be argued that few come from a family quite as surrounded by the game as Daphne’s. Her father, Michel, played for Grenoble back home in France, while her brother, Mael, and sister, Rachel, are both current collegiate players.
Mael is a notable midfielder for the University of Maryland and Rachel also plays the position, as a Georgetown sophomore. Having attended different schools to each other, the 2014 season was the first opportunity for Rachel and Daphne to be on the same team in high-level play.
It was Daphne’s senior year and last September she passed the Hoyas point record set by Ingrid Wells (108) as she got a goal, as well as an assist for Sarah Adams, in a 3-3 draw with DePaul. This was also a game in which Rachel provided two assists, with one of them teeing up her sister for her sixth strike of what would be a stellar season.
Rachel, whose Pingry team were defeated by Daphne’s Watchung Hills side to the high school state championship, wears the number 10 for Georgetown. It happens to be the same number Daphne wears at Man City and she is the biggest fan of her younger sister’s talents on the field.
“Rachel is a very technical player, is very smooth on the ball, very composed. Playing with her was great; not only playing with your sister but playing with a great player that really helped our team last year.
“It was really enjoyable for me because we grew up just playing in our back yard, and so to be together in a competitive match for a whole season was really great. To have someone on the field that you really do trust was very nice.”
All three of the Corboz siblings were born in Mobile, Alabama to Michel and Christine but grew up in Green Brook, New Jersey. In addition to playing in the yard they often had games of ‘soccer tennis’, in which they would juggle the ball back and forth over a net, with their dad and Rachel usually competing against Mael and Daphne.
A senior midfielder and team captain, Mael is a leading creative force for Maryland, having transferred from Rutgers to further his development and to continue with mechanical engineering. Rachel was a three-time state champion with her club team PDA and has also been involved with the U.S. in the Under-18s.
Michel and Christine had all three of their kids in the D.C. area last year, doing all they could to get to the Hoyas’ and Terps’ respective games and see them in action. Daphne went out in style as a senior, leading the team for goals (12) and assists (18), with Georgetown reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row.
Rachel has been in fine form of late, leading the 2015 Hoyas with nine goals and eight assists, as well as recently scooping the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week accolade. Daphne has been proudly keeping track of her sister’s progress and while there are challenges for any teammates to overcome she confirms that they enjoyed a deep level of understanding last year.
“I definitely think so. We grew up watching the game together, playing together, so I think we have a similar way to see the game.
“We watched each other play so many times, so we definitely had a connection and really understood what each of us wanted from the other. It was a lot of fun.
“We definitely do talk about the game, but for her right now, she’s in college and she has those goals, being involved with the youth national teams and everything. For her, the goal is to keep playing but right now she just needs to enjoy it.
“If we ever need to talk about anything we’re just a phone call away.”
The sporting influences were all around for Daphne when she was growing up, but how about music? Can she recall the first tape or CD she ever had?
“Back in the day…it would be like a Britney Spears or *NSYNC. Probably one of those.”
Prior to her collegiate career, Daphne won the Under-17 ECNL National Championship with her club team PDA Tsunami and has undoubtedly continued to progress in the years since, also winning the W-League Championship with Pali Blues in 2013. If she was to take a change of track, however, and record a song, are there any teammates she would nominate to collaborate with?
“Can’t imagine myself ever recording a song! I mean, I wish I could, I grew up playing the piano so I wish I could be decent at the piano now.
“Actually, Jen Beattie here played the guitar for us one night and she was actually really good. I really enjoyed listening to her.”
In May, Daphne appeared in all three matches for the U.S. Under-23s as they won the Four Nations Tournament in Norway. She set up the aforementioned Rose Lavelle, who featured on here earlier this month, for the opening goal in the final as Janet Rayfield’s side beat England 2-1.
As would be expected, Daphne harbours ambitions of breaking into the senior squad, and with the international careers of numerous U.S. players now drawing to a close, head coach Jill Ellis has begun to hand chances to untried talent. Whether Daphne’s club career eventually takes her back Stateside or not, for now she has been doing her best to fully embrace her adventure in the North West with Man City.
“My teammates have been excellent; they’ve really been helpful both on and off the field. What I found the difference between the league here and in U.S. soccer is it’s a lot more physical and there’s definitely a huge emphasis on the tactical side of the game here that we don’t really have in the U.S.
“Coming to such a big club I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the personalities but everyone has been so nice, whether it’s been my teammates, the coaching staff or just the staff in general. I was really blown away by it and it’s made me feel a lot more comfortable.
“I didn’t really know how I would adjust to being here so far away from the family and my friends and everything I’m used to. It’s something you can’t really predict but so far it’s been going really well.
“I would say the one thing that’s really different would be the weather! There really isn’t too much I miss in particular.
“I would just say that I’m so happy to be here that I’ve taken everything as a new experience and enjoying being in Manchester. I can’t really compare the two populations because I really only hang around the team.
“I’ve gone into the town a little bit. I’m an avid reader so I’ve gone to a few libraries, which has been nice because we don’t have the history in the U.S. that’s in England, being a relatively new country.
“I’ve gone to some museums. It’s nice being in a big city.”
As a biology major and a collegiate athlete, it would have been somewhat impossible for Daphne to coast through her time at Georgetown, even if she had an ounce of that kind of mindset. There wasn’t room for a great deal extra in her life, although she does have a couple of other activities that are high on her list, outside of studying and soccer.
“I have to say my life in the U.S. really did compose of those two things! My family is from France so when we go visit the rest of my family I enjoy skiing and hiking.
“Obviously that’s not very compatible with the life of a professional footballer but those are two activities that I really enjoy.”
Winners of the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 before the particularly impactful success on home soil in 1999, for a long time the U.S. could not quite manage to go all the way in the biggest tournament of all. That was put to bed with this year’s glory in Canada and Daphne explains how two standouts from ‘The 99ers’ inspired her, before the hat-trick hero of the final for the Class of ’15 did the same for her while she was growing up in New Jersey.
“I think, for me, when I was really young it was the Mia Hamm / Julie Foudy era. I really looked up to them – Julie Foudy in particular because she pursued medicine at Stanford (University) – but I have to give a special mention to Carli Lloyd.
“She played at Rutgers University so I went to see her play all four of her years; I think I was 11, and then growing up. I saw her play and she really took over the university game and I tried to take as much as I could from her because you could tell then that she was a spectacular player.”
January’s NWSL College Draft enjoys added anticipation each year, as the most coveted youngsters in the U.S. hope for the opportunity to be picked up by one of the nation’s pro teams. Nine months ago, Daphne was selected at number 22 overall in the draft, by Sky Blue.
Before Boston Breakers trading their pick had forced a rethink, Sky Blue had intended to select a certain midfielder with their second pick. The former University of Virginia star in question ultimately won the 2015 NWSL Rookie of the Year award and she is also someone Daphne knows very well.
“One of my best friends from my club team is Danielle Colaprico from Chicago Red Stars. We loved playing with each other growing up and being together with the national team has been great as well.
“We follow each other and talk almost daily.”
It was while Daphne’s dad was at a tournament with Mael that he saw girls playing football for the first time and realised that it could be a game for his daughters and not just his son. Far more than just something that passed the time as a kid, the sport has become a vehicle to helping Daphne toward the kind of human being she wants to be, and even with the struggles the enjoyment has never really subsided.
“I think through soccer you learn so much and you grow as a person, but for me I think I’ve really learned and taken out the importance of hard work. With hard work, anything truly can happen and with that I really found my passion and a joy which makes the hard work really easy to do.”
Among other aspects, one of the greatest compliments that could be paid to Daphne as a player is that there is genuine adventure in her game. Those who bring it back to its simple essence of enjoyment by how they play are always worth watching and small-sided games provide even more of this.
Supporters generally don’t get to see the players in 5-a-side line-ups so in the final question of each interview on here it is a chance to find out who would make their fantasy team of this ilk. The idea is to name a side consisting of any four teammates they have ever had in their career, to play alongside them, so with Daphne opting for five names it means she gets to start this game from the sideline!
“Brittany Cameron in goal because she is a great goalkeeper, organises well, and is a great character. Lucy Bronze because she’s a great defender who loves to get forward and it is amazing playing in front of her.
“Danielle Colaprico because I adored growing up playing with her. We love to combine and she has no weaknesses as a player.
“Izzy Christiansen because of her technical ability and tireless work rate. Upon joining Manchester City, I immediately enjoyed playing with her.
“Toni Duggan up front because I’ve already seen her score too many wonderful goals and she is a lot of fun.”
You can keep track of each of these interviews by following me: @chris_brookes