Katie Stengel interview: Blues forward two-steppin’ out to the big league
A prolific goalscorer in the college game, LA Blues forward Katie Stengel last month agreed her first professional contract with FC Bayern Munich, and the U.S. Under-23 international can look forward to her soundtrack taking on a whole new beat.
Growing up in Melbourne, Florida, the ex-Viera High School student made a blistering impact in her career at Wake Forest University. Katie’s 50 goals in 75 games for the Demon Deacons emphatically made her the school’s all-time leading scorer and she was also a starter for the U.S. Under-20s as they lifted the World Cup in Japan two years ago.
Her trailblazing collegiate form and upward progression in the National Team ranks were acknowledged with a call-up to the U.S. senior squad at the end of March. Currently leading the attack in style for the LA Blues of the USL W-League, the 22-year-old has agreed a switch to the Frauen-Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, a team who have had numerous Americans in recent times including Sarah Hagen, Erika Tymrak and Niki Cross, to name but three.
She is set to make the move to Germany in the coming weeks and there is excitement and nerves at the prospect for the powerful and nifty striker. There is an opportunity to sample a new culture on and off the field, although with that will come an exposure to a certain style of music that is most definitely not to everybody’s liking!
Schlager has been talked about on here by numerous players, including Sweden’s Nilla Fischer, Norway forward Ada Hegerberg, and ex-New Zealand captain Rebecca Smith. It is fair to say that Katie’s musical foundation, in the main at least, is somewhat different to that and she describes the vibe she would go for if she was to record a cover with one of her teammates.
“I enjoy any kind of music but my favourite is country. I’m a big Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, and Josh Abbott Band fan.
“I’ve always wanted to learn to play guitar so I would love to be able to team up with someone who can sing and do a cover to a country song. Maybe a Brantley (Gilbert) one if I could ever get the hang of the guitar.”
On September 8th 2012, the U.S. Under-20s were victorious in front of a crowd of 31,114 in Tokyo as they took on Germany in the World Cup final. Houston Dash’s Kealia Ohai was the match-winner and the captain of Steve Swanson’s team for that tournament, Chicago Red Stars defender Julie Johnston, featured on here in May.
Katie started the game and Crystal Dunn’s cut-back just evaded her before Ohai scored the decisive goal. When Katie was substituted on 60 minutes it was for a forward who has hit the mark in her view when it comes to choosing the right tracks for the team to connect with.
“I’ve had some musically in-tune teammates but my favourite DJ was Chioma Ubogagu who would put together mixes of the various popular songs for pre-game locker room time. I have all kinds of music on my iPod but I wouldn’t be entrusted to play the music for the team.”
In May, Katie graduated with a degree in health and exercise science and she had chosen to forego the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft in order to finish school. One of her fellow players at Wake Forest was selected by NWSL side Western New York Flash in 2013 but as it would have meant missing a semester and the fifth year of her accountancy program she chose to put her studies first.
The defender finished her college career as the Demon Deacons’ all-time leading appearance maker but Katie also remembers her for being a particularly gradual learner in one regard!
“I had a teammate, Jackie Logue, our captain at Wake Forest, who only played the hit songs. She would play them on repeat for months after they were popular because that’s when she finally learned all the words.”
Before she heads to join Bayern Munich, there is a little more to come from Katie’s LA Blues story. The Blues are the result of a merger last November between the LA Strikers and the Pali Blues and they have just secured 1st place in the regular season of the USL W-League’s Western Conference.
The versatile Rachel Daly, an England squad inclusion at the start of the year, was the first Blues player to do an interview for the site when she featured on here last month. The team, led by manager Charlie Naimo and technical director Tracey Kevins, have conceded just three goals in their ten matches, with Sammy Jo Prudhomme and Aubrey Bledsoe the keepers to have played in that time.
Bledsoe, who will be joining IK Grand Bodø in Norway, has featured in three of those games and in addition to being with Katie in the U.S. Under-23s she was also a teammate of hers at Wake Forest. Work in the community was a significant part of Katie’s time in college and she even tutored long-serving head coach Tony da Luz’ son in math.
Influential qualities have been evident when she has been out on the field but a leadership role once backfired for Katie somewhat, as she recalls!
“I once had to sing as a dare for one of the summer camps I worked. It was mortifying because I had to belt out Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’.
“The whole room was silent besides my off-key voice.”
When Bayern Munich manager Thomas Wörle signed Katie he secured in her a player who had made a pivotal contribution in the U.S. Under-23s’ victorious Six Nations Tournament campaign in La Manga, Spain back in March. After setting up the Portland Thorns’ Meleana Shim, she netted a decisive second in the 2-1 final win over Norway and it was her form in the tournament that ultimately sealed her selection in the senior team later that month.
Recommended by Under-23 boss Steve Swanson, Katie was chosen by head coach at the time Tom Sermanni and she became the first Wake Forest player, past or present, to ever make the team. The feat was perhaps all the more remarkable for the three-time NSCAA All-American as she had overcome deep vein thrombosis that had ended her college season in October.
Way before her full international call, Katie was class valedictorian at Viera High School and on the pitch she led the team in goals every year, scoring as many as 170 in 72 games and netting 15 hat-tricks. Even before these days however, she was a young music listener and she recalls the first album she had.
“The first CD I ever got was Now (That’s What I Call Music) 5 when I was about 10 years old.”
Helping to fire the Demon Deacons to their first ACC Championship in 2010 and a first NCAA College Cup in 2011, Katie’s collegiate form was impossible to ignore. Leaving behind that part of her career and life was not easy and one of the many memories she has was thanks to a fellow Wake Forest forward.
“One time, my friend India Winford, again from Wake Forest, sang on a bus trip to one of Beyoncé’s songs. She was incredible so we all just sat back and listened in awe.”
Like Katie, Blues midfielder Sarah Killion has trained with the senior U.S. team this year and there are numerous others from the Southern California side involved in the Under-23s. The 2-1 win at Seattle Sounders Women on Thursday (July 3rd), in which Katie opened the scoring before a late winner from Shawna Gordon, clinched the regular season top spot and the Blues will meet the Western Conference runners-up in the play-offs.
The winner of that game will then face one of the other conferences’ sides for the title. With her eight strikes so far, only Danica Evans of the Colorado Rush is ahead of Katie in the league’s scoring charts (with nine) and she has played two games more. On the field, the results have been flawless and Katie is very appreciative of her time with the Blues.
“I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to play for this team this summer in preparation for my professional career. The location and level of play is unbelievable.
“This is the ideal weather and situation where I can compete with some of the best players in the country. Florida is way too hot in the summer so I love the consistent 70s here.”
In sister Jackie and brother Jordan, Katie has two younger siblings. Jackie was the leading scorer for North Carolina State University’s Wolfpack in 2013, her freshman year, as she struck nine goals and made the All-ACC Third Team.
Katie’s feeling for the game is such that she used to climb the fence to get into the soccer complex at college when it was locked. That kind of innate determination to play is something so many women’s players can identify with and certainly those from England like teammate Rachel Daly.
Coming from England but recently working in the U.S. with the Boston Breakers, I was interested as to whether Katie is a follower of the English game.
“I’ve always wanted to visit England and attend a few games. I don’t follow the English Premier League religiously but I do like watching Arsenal; I used to be a huge Thierry Henry fan.”
It is a very quick return to the action for Katie and her Blues teammates as they prepare to play the Santa Clarita Blue Heat in a home game at Occidental College’s Patterson Field this Sunday (July 6th) at 7:30pm Pacific Time. When this West Coast chapter draws to a close it is off to Bavaria for Katie to officially begin her professional career.
There is no question over her devotion to the game but what about her time away from it?
“Besides soccer, I love the outdoors and just hanging out with friends, whether it’s at the beach, by a campfire, or just around the house. I am interested in becoming a physician’s assistant eventually, but we’ll see how soccer goes first.”
The regular final question in these interviews sees the player select four of the best they have ever played alongside to join them in a fantasy team of five. Often the interviewee will be a player who has a number of years as a professional to look back on, so it is a little different with Katie as she is just getting started in that respect.
Nevertheless, she put together her line-up and a current LA Blues defender apart, each of these played alongside her at Wake Forest. Anchoring the midfield in Katie’s team is a Boston Breaker and besides her energy she will be relied upon to supply the passes for Katie and her strike partner. Here she is to introduce her selection.
“I would choose Aubrey Bledsoe as my keeper because she is one of the hardest working, most humble people who always gives everything she’s got while keeping a smile on her face.
“Abby Dahlkemper is the best defender I’ve ever played against because she reads the game so well and is extremely athletic and technical.
“I loved having the opportunity to play with Bianca D’Agostino in the midfield because she was so technical and smart with the ball. I learned so much from her, especially in regards to training and competing.
“Finally, I would give anything to be able to play up top with Riley Ridgik – she is the most underrated forward I’ve seen.
“Besides being smart, technical, and tactically aware, she is a competitor who is unselfish and gives all of herself for the team.”
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