Beats & Rhymes FC

Jordan Angeli interview: Spirit midfielder finds ‘what dreams may come’

Photo: Christopher Colvin / CP Colvin Photography

Photo: Christopher Colvin / CP Colvin Photography

 

There were more than a few smiles in the women’s game as Washington Spirit midfielder Jordan Angeli returned to top-level play in 2014, with three years of soul-searching bringing her a new perspective, but taking nothing away from a desire that has so far proved infallible.

A former Santa Clara University player, Colorado-born Jordan, 28, stepped up to Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) with the Boston Breakers in 2010. She had displayed her versatility in her collegiate career and her eye for goal was evident with the Breakers as she struck seven times in her debut season.

That form as a rookie had seen her awarded the league’s Player of the Month accolade for July 2010 and also resulted in selection for senior U.S. Women’s National Team camps early on in 2011. The outlook was undoubtedly rosy but having already suffered a torn ACL in her left knee twice in college, it would happen again less than half an hour into the Breakers’ 2011 WPS season opener.

Jordan had scored before she left that game against Atlanta Beat and what followed was three years filled with trying times that could have broken many people’s resolve. With a flare-up in her right knee dealt with, she joined up with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for training last year and made her way back into competitive action leading into the 2014 season.

Women’s soccer seems to hold such incredible stories about people and as we will discover in this interview, music has permeated Jordan’s life, from connections with family and friends, to her struggles and successes inside and outside of her sport. She has much more to share on the likes of her career teammates, but to begin, the former U.S. Under-20 international offers a deeper glimpse into one of her biggest loves.

“Music plays a huge part of my life,” Jordan began. “Whether driving in the car, working out, or working on the computer, I always have music playing.

“I find inspiration in music and really love how people of all different walks of life can connect through the same lyrics and instrumental composition. Going to concerts is one of my favourite activities.

“In that setting, you can really get the sense of how much impact music has on people’s lives and how grateful musicians feel to share that connection with the world.”

In her first year as a pro, Jordan got to play alongside a women’s soccer icon in Kristine Lilly, as the 352-cap U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder played her last season in the game with the Boston Breakers. Numerous players from that 2010 Breakers roster have featured on here, discussing music, soccer and life, including midfielder Leslie Osborne, forward Laura del Río, and defenders Taryn Hemmings and Alex Scott, to name but a few.

With the latter of those, England and Arsenal Ladies right-back Alex Scott, a lot of followers of the women’s game are by now aware of her role as DJ with every team she has represented. Jordan remembers the part she and one U.S. midfield standout played in creating the kind of energy that used to send the Breakers out for the game in the most positive of mindsets.

“I’ve had some pretty good locker room DJs, Alex Scott and Lauren Cheney (Holiday) come to mind first. It was my first year with the Breakers and we were always listening to such good songs in the locker room.

“Between the two, they always had new music, anything from Jessie J to Chris Brown, and all songs that got us up dancing pre-game. It was a party in the Breakers locker room before the game, that’s for sure.

“Gyptian ‘Hold You’ was one of our songs with the Breakers in 2010. I think this song just brings us all back to that locker room.

“I have been DJ a couple of times in my life. During club soccer growing up, I would sit shotgun in the vans and play all our favourite pre-game jams including: Michael Jackson ‘Man in the Mirror’, Little Mermaid ‘Part of Your World’, Billy Joel ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’, Nelly ‘Batter Up’, Missy Elliott ‘Lose Control’, and Queen ‘Another One Bites the Dust’.

“I also was DJ one year in college, but it was mostly because I sat closest to the speakers!”

A one-time student at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Jordan won league championships in 2002 and 2004, as well as being named the Gatorade Colorado High School Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year (also in 2004). Her time away from playing professionally allowed her to spend her first full year back home since she was 17, amongst a family who have always supported her no matter what the situation.

Aside from younger brother Darik, Jordan has a sister a year older than her, Ashley. With their dad as coach, Jordan would play basketball with Ashley and her friends back in high school, but it wasn’t just on the court that the siblings would come together.

“My sister and I always bonded over music. We had many tapes that we listened and choreographed dances to in our ‘dance room’ – just an empty room in our house – including Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Mariah Carey.

“However, I remember when we got our first CDs: she got TLC ‘CrazySexyCool’ and I got Alanis Morissette ‘Jagged Little Pill’. It was a win-win because I really got 2 CDs I wanted thanks to my sister having great musical taste.

“I believe I was around nine or ten years old. Perfect CDs for nine and ten-year-olds, right?!”

Those two albums brought a little bit of edginess to the soundtrack of her childhood but what is dominating the playlist for the Jordan Angeli of today?

“I really enjoy most types of music but lately I have been all about country. I’ve been listening to a mix of Sam Hunt, Chase Rice, and Dustin Lynch.

“I’ve always really liked music with piano in it as well. In high school I loved Something Corporate – ‘Hurricane’ – and fell in love with The Fray in college, plus they are from near me in Colorado.

“Ed Sheeran, Ron Pope, Bon Iver, James Vincent McMorrow are some of my favourite singer-songwriters. OneRepublic, Haim, Sam Smith, Emeli Sandé, Jess Glynne, Justin Timberlake, Kings of Leon, Of Monsters and Men.

“I could go on forever, but these are some of the first artists and bands that come to mind.”

 

Heather O'Reilly (left) and Jordan embrace after Boston Breakers vs. Washington Spirit in June. Photo: Ashley J. Palmer

Heather O’Reilly (left) and Jordan embrace after Boston Breakers vs. Washington Spirit in June. Photo: Ashley J. Palmer

 

Back in WPS, Jordan was largely clinical whenever she had a sight of goal, scoring eight times from just 15 shots. The seven she scored in 2010 contributed to Boston finishing 2nd in the regular season as they reached the play-off semi-final before defeat to Philadelphia Independence. Only England legend Kelly Smith netted more than Jordan for the Breakers that year under World Cup-winning coach Tony DiCicco, notching 11.

Named 2010 WPS Rookie of the Year runner-up to FC Gold Pride’s New Zealand full-back Ali Riley, Jordan was enjoying all the game was bringing her but she had already experienced the flipside of course. Separate ACL injuries to the same knee took away her 2007 and 2008 seasons on the field at Santa Clara, leaving her to take a redshirt for those campaigns, extending her final stay in college to six years.

Among the highs in her Broncos career was leading the team with 12 goals in her second season as she played what was an unfamiliar role as forward. Selection for the 2006 Under-20 World Cup in Russia followed, before her college and professional injury roadblocks were sent to test her.

In musical terms, a long injury lay-off could be likened to being caught up in the same song over and over. Only Jordan truly knows the thoughts and emotions she had to deal with during those times but you can try to understand some of what she felt with this next song she mentions, incidentally from an album called ‘Scars & Stories’.

“The Fray ‘Be Still’ helped me through a lot of times when I was pushing for life to go one way, and just needed to be still and let go of control.”

Someone who can relate strongly to what Jordan has gone through is a former Santa Clara midfielder who also missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons through injury. Jordan recalls how she would bring enjoyment and put a lighter spin on certain moments.

“I only remember a couple of my teammates ever really singing in front of everyone. I think the person that comes to mind most is a teammate from college and the Under-20 national team, Amanda Poach.

“She has a good singing voice and would always serenade us with songs. I remember in college we had to do two-to-three-minute wall sits and she started singing ‘Oh Happy Day’ from Sister Act 2 and then we all broke out in the chorus.

“Not only did it make the time pass quickly but it will be something I won’t ever forget. The second time is when we were in Russia for the U-20 World Cup and Poach was dancing up and down the aisle singing to everyone.

“She always knew how to keep everyone entertained.”

One of Jordan’s endeavours prior to returning to playing was coaching the 11 and 12-year-olds for the team she used to play for, Colorado Rush. While playing for the Rush, she won five state, three regional, and one national championship, standing her in good stead for her collegiate career.

During her Breakers days it was time to get lively just before kick-off, and as goalkeeper and teammate Ashlyn Harris revealed on here in June, defender Crystal Dunn has a big say in the Washington Spirit’s pre-game tunes. When discussing more of her most meaningful songs, Jordan took it back to Santa Clara University with the mood-setter for the Broncos on game day.

“Phil Collins ‘In the Air Tonight’ – the first song we always played on SCU warm-up tape. Gives me the chills every time and gets me hyped up and ready to go play on Buck Shaw Stadium.

“Counting Crows ‘Mr. Jones’ – something about this song hits me deep. I have always loved it and always will.

“Same with Marc Cohn ‘Walking in Memphis’ and Tracy Chapman ‘Fast Car’. I just love them so much for some reason.”

At Harvard Stadium on June 13th 2010, Jordan scored for Boston against Sky Blue FC, slotting home her first professional goal after Kasey Moore’s corner. It went down as a special moment in her personal story and it is certainly not one to slip her memory.

She remembers another day vividly, but for altogether different reasons. On April 9th 2011, she suffered her third ACL injury, in the first half of the Breakers’ clash with Atlanta Beat. Jordan had scored that day and was anticipating all that the 2011 season held for her, but as much as that injury changed her life, numerous positives were also able to ultimately come from it.

There was a lot for her to take in and on many days she felt far removed from the person she had been previously. Her outlook undoubtedly changed over time and having gripped so firmly to her dream of still being a pro soccer player, believing that it would make it happen, she eventually came to relinquish that hold to a certain extent.

She learned that you don’t constantly have to be strong and that there is a reason for where she is on her journey. Majoring in marketing in college, she delved into sports broadcasting while away from playing, as well as a lot more yoga!

Jordan was also able to connect further with her Christian faith and there is a song that resonates with her in this respect. The track is by Hillsong United, who might sound like a soccer team but are actually a worship band. Featuring the lyric ‘spirit lead me where my trust is without borders’, Jordan describes why this offering of theirs means so much to her, as well as sharing more of her collection.

“Hillsong United ‘Oceans’ gives me strength and the lyrics really speak to me. Zac Brown Band ‘Chicken Fried’ – fun and upbeat but also gives me chills when he sings, ‘thank God for my life, for the Stars and Stripes, let freedom ring.’

“Fun fact: I saw them perform at Red Rocks two years ago and as he sang that part, a shooting star flew above the stage. Everyone was in awe and it was a special moment.

“Sam Hunt ‘Speakers’ – I have listened to this on repeat the last week or so. Worth the listen, or YouTube look-up.

“Justin Timberlake – ‘LoveStoned’ and ‘Amnesia’. Anything from this musical genius.

“Elton John ‘Your Song’ – my dad sang this to my mom at their wedding, so I just have a special place in my heart for this song.”

The list of players in women’s soccer to have suffered a torn ACL is notoriously long and there has been much discussion around the topic. Jordan’s teammate, Washington Spirit forward Tiffany Weimer, had her 2014 NWSL season ended by the injury before it had even started, but she is now well on the road towards a comeback in 2015.

She featured on here in her own music/soccer interview in December 2012, and as proved to be with Jordan, it feels as if she has too much to give for her story on the field to even be close to done. ‘Ocho’ was the one Jordan thought of when it came to discussing noteworthy music tastes of her fellow players.

“Tiff Weimer is a teammate of mine who has a very particular taste of music. It is not bad by any means, it is just unique.

“Tiff loves 80s and 90s music and I think we share the same love for Taylor Dayne and ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ by Go West.”

Following her exploits in her rookie year, Jordan made it into the 2010 WPS Best XI alongside two Boston teammates in defender Amy LePeilbet and forward Kelly Smith. When asked which career teammates she would record a song cover with, she named two others from that Breakers roster in her Spice Girls selection.

“I would choose Taryn Hemmings as Posh, Chioma Igwe as Scary, Veronica Perez as Sporty, Rachel Jones as Baby, and I would be Ginger. We would do the best rendition of ‘Wannabe’ that you have ever seen.

 

 

“I did sing karaoke with my team in Boston. I actually sang a duet with Alex Scott and we chose no other than Jessie J – pretty sure we nailed it!”

Selected by Washington in the 2013 NWSL Supplemental Draft for the league’s inaugural season, Jordan played in ten games for the team this year as they took the fourth and final play-off spot. Mark Parsons’ team were then beaten 2-1 by regular season winners Seattle Reign in the semi-final, although they had led through Jordan’s chosen Sporty Spice, Veronica Perez.

There were certainly positives to be taken from the Spirit’s season, but for Jordan, it meant that little bit more. She looks back on her return to professional soccer, also responding to a brief mention of a red card given to her in a June game with Portland Thorns, where she was curiously awarded a second yellow despite the foul coming from teammate Tori Huster.

“Knew the red card question would come out eventually… just kidding! I look back on the season as a huge success for me.

“I haven’t played at a high level for over three years and I was able to come in and earn a spot on a 20-man roster. I will always be proud of that accomplishment.

“I also made it through the season healthy and was able to work day in and day out on getting back to feeling like me on the field again. My soccer-specific movements definitely improved and I think I got the confidence once again that I can play at this level.

“The thing I always enjoy about being part of a team is my teammates. I missed being a part of something bigger than myself and helping us achieve our goals in whatever way I could.

“A lot of the time that meant supporting my team from the bench, but I was still helping. I was still a part of the team and that meant a lot to me.

“Since the season ended I have moved back home to Colorado and took a wonderful vacation to magical Maui with my family. Since then, I have been working on a new website to help people who are going through an ACL injury and I have been playing soccer as much as I want.”

Once you step onto the field and the game begins, soccer has a way of setting you free and it shares many characteristics with music. It can be the tingles and the surge of emotion that you get from listening to a song that stirs something within you, or the way that time seems to stand still for a moment just for you as your shot hits the net.

For Jordan, that feeling of pulling on the number 28 jersey for the Spirit, or the maroon of the Broncos once upon a time, is almost indescribable. It’s something she wondered if she would ever have again, looking back on those days when she didn’t feel herself, having so much to express but feeling numb from the struggle at the same time.

Once she had her first training session with Washington, a lot of the thinking could subside and be replaced by that liberation and sense of belonging that makes the painful moments worthwhile. With a full season in the NWSL now to her name, she also harbours ambitions of being a businesswoman in a creative, team-oriented company, as well as having a desire to raise a family.

Thinking back over all the progression, the heartache, and the successes and new beginnings, what does Jordan feel her life in soccer has taught her the most?

“I think one of the characteristics that makes me who I am is how I fully commit to something once I put my mind to it. Through the ups and downs I have experienced, I almost feel like I care too much or commit too strongly to something.

“Would I go back and change my intensity? I can’t say I would, but I would tell myself to find another outlet.

“Right now, writing is helping me release some emotions but I always think that playing the guitar or an instrument would really help. I have a guitar, just need to learn how to play it!”

Wiser from her experiences, Jordan has not lost the fun side that goes with her great work ethic. From supporters to past and current teammates, to her brother Darik, sister Ashley, father Art, and mother Lindy, the people who know her want to see her succeed.

In the midst of her scoring success in her debut season, Jordan said it was all like a dream for her. Despite the wake-up calls along the way, she now gets to dream again for real.

 

 

There is just one more contribution from Jordan before she leaves the interview and that is to take on the regular final question on here. Choosing from the best players she has ever worked alongside, she was asked to put herself into a fantasy 5-a-side team and to select four of her career teammates to join her.

It is important to say that it is not necessarily the definitive best four but rather just a light-hearted selection of the many who could be chosen. Here is Jordan to introduce her team. She just has to hope that the referee wouldn’t notice there are six lining up to start the game, and that’s before her rather accomplished coach sneaks on in the second half!

“Wow! I am just imagining this game and wishing this were real life and I had some subs!

“Lauren Holiday (Cheney) – Cheney is one of the most creative and versatile players I have ever played with. Her style of play is unique and she makes hard things look easy.

“Becky Sauerbrunn – I got to play with Becky a little last offseason and she is one of the most technical players I have ever played with – not something people usually say about a centre-back. Her ability to read the game and her calmness on the ball is something I admire.

“Alex Scott – I loved playing with Alex. The way she flies up and down the field without ever looking tired makes me tired just thinking about it.

“You can just count on her, both on offence and defence, and she always gives me good new music.

“Kelly Smith – because she’s Kelly Smith. I have seen her get out of the most unlikely situations.

“Her perseverance is inspiring and she helped me learn how to manage training/playing with injuries. Kelly is world-class and will go down as one of the best female soccer players ever.

“Kelsey Davis as my goalkeeper – Kelsey and I played together on the (U.S. Under-)20s and on Boston. She was one of those goalies that you just want on your team.

“Her distribution was unreal and she is so tall she just makes the goal look small. And she makes me laugh, that always is a bonus.

“I would play midfield and Kristine Lilly would be our coach! I just changed all the rules but I don’t care, I want all those people involved!

“Sounds like too much fun.”

Follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes

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