The inclusion of LA Blues’ Rachel Daly in the senior England set-up under Mark Sampson is a sign of her progress in the States, and as the 22-year-old continues to make her way up she has formed some notable bonds along the way.
Having represented Lincoln Ladies in the FA Women’s Super League, Harrogate-born Rachel decided at the age of 20 to pursue her career in the U.S. It was a case of ‘now or never’ for her to get a scholarship and New York City was to be her destination.
The long-serving head coach of the women’s soccer team at St. John’s University, Englishman Ian Stone, needed a replacement for one of his injured players. Defender Georgia Kearney-Perry, also from England, had suffered a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at the beginning of her freshman season but she recommended Rachel as a potential new recruit.
St. John’s got a player who would light up the NCAA Division I in 2013, converting from a defender to forward and scoring a team-record 23 goals in just 21 games for the Red Storm. She was named Big East Offensive Player of the Year and also Newcomer of the Year, as voted for by the league’s head coaches. Further recognition came in December 2013 when England boss Mark Sampson named Rachel in his squad for his first training camp, as the squad headed to La Manga, Spain at the beginning of 2014.
Currently with the LA Blues Soccer Club of the USL W-League, she is fully enjoying being part of a winning team as the Blues have made an immaculate start to the season. The team were formed in November 2013 as a merger of the LA Strikers (for whom Rachel played) and the Pali Blues and they have registered five wins from five so far during this campaign.
The Blues lead the Western Conference and the keeper responsible for four of the five shutouts (with Aubrey Bledsoe in goal for the other) uses her vocals for more than just commanding her penalty area. She is the one Rachel went for when asked which of her career teammates she would record a cover version of a song with.
“Sammy Jo Prudhomme on the team now is probably the most memorable for singing. I’d pick her and do ‘Latch’ by Disclosure (featuring Sam Smith) with her.”
A member of the England team that finished 4th at the 2008 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand, Rachel notched seven game-winning goals from her 23 strikes for the Red Storm last year. Her sophomore season could hardly have been more different from her freshman year as she was forced to sit out the entirety of her first season at St. John’s due to NCAA compliance regulations.
While she was unavailable to play during that time she did get to train with and travel alongside the team and connecting with her teammates has been extremely important to her. Whether it is the college game, a domestic club league, or at international level, togetherness is crucial for any successful group and any way for the team to get on the same page as each other is useful.
The tracks the team listen to before they head out for action can certainly affect the mood for the better. When preparing for a game, there is one genre which although quite popular would probably be low on many players’ lists to get the pulse racing before kick-off.
It is one Rachel alludes to and she also shares what takes up most of her listening in general.
“I’ve not really had any teammates with surprising music taste but all the Americans seem to like country which is quite different to players back in England. I’m a fan of acoustic music like Ed Sheeran.
“Honestly, I just put my iPod on shuffle most of the time. I’m not really into heavy rock music, so that’d be the one I dislike.
“One of my favourite songs is Robin S ‘Show Me Love’.”
Rachel was named in the 2012/13 Big East All-Academic Team and although her role in the LA Blues team is considerably deeper than the attacking position she took up with St. John’s, she has applied that same consistency of late. The Blues have a five-point lead at the top of the W-League’s Western Conference and their closest rivals at this early stage are their next opponents – the Bay Area Breeze.
That home game for the Blues will take place this Wednesday (June 11th) at the StubHub Center’s Track and Field Stadium (kick-off 7.30 p.m. PT). Rachel has played in all five of the team’s games so far, with one assist to her name for manager Charlie Naimo and technical director Tracey Kevins’ side.
Keeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme is impressive when it comes to singing skills but has Rachel ever given a vocal performance in front of teammates in her career?
“Yes I have and the one I did was ‘Stan’ by Eminem.”
Just as so many American bands and artists have made a huge impact across the Atlantic, many UK acts have done the same in the U.S. With that in mind, maybe there is a strange kind of English patriotism for Rachel to enjoy about the first record she ever had!
“The first CD I ever bought I believe was the Spice Girls and I was nine at the time.”
Former Rossett High School student Rachel has represented England at various levels so far in her career and she comes from a strong background in the sport. With a father who played semi-pro, Rachel was the only girl amongst brothers and stepbrothers and the fever for the game undoubtedly spread to her.
The North Yorkshire native grew up a Leeds United supporter and still follows the Elland Road side. She was also with Leeds United Ladies for nine years and won the FA Women’s Premier League Cup with the club in 2010 after they had been renamed Leeds Carnegie.
A number of players from Rick Passmoor’s Leeds team of that time have featured on this site including defenders Sophie Bradley and Gemma Bonner, as well as striker Ellen White. Those three have all made it into the senior England team and Rachel’s first call-up to the squad a few months ago can only be immensely encouraging.
Head coach Mark Sampson has stated that the door is open for any player to make the breakthrough into the team and that has been proven in his tenure so far. The University of South Florida’s Demi Stokes is one who has been given a chance and taken it and there is no reason why Rachel cannot follow suit.
When she joined up with the team earlier in the year, although she was fairly composed there was one senior figure in particular who had some advice to share – the team’s former captain and current Arsenal Ladies defender.
“I already knew quite a lot of the girls from playing with them growing up so it wasn’t too nerve-wracking. I’d say Casey Stoney was probably the biggest one for sharing some of her experience and knowledge of the game.
“She was telling me just to enjoy it.”
Although being restricted to the sidelines during her freshman year was frustrating in one sense, it did give Rachel the opportunity to observe the college game and to have more time to integrate herself in general. Her second college appearance yielded a hat-trick and while her 23-goal haul was a St. John’s record it also put her as the nation’s joint-leading scorer along with Jannelle Flaws of the University of Illinois.
Her sophomore season saw her come up with four assists to go with her goal rush and off the field she is majoring in Sport Management. For someone who had such a strong footballing grounding she is in her element Stateside in getting the chance to hone her skills so frequently, even if accent barriers occasionally come into play socially!
“In terms of football, the amount of training we do is the most enjoyable part for me. The most different part is probably how they say certain things over here and being understood sometimes!
“I think there’s a lot of talent in this (LA Blues) team. Every single player brings something brilliant.”
When the LA Blues beat Colorado Storm 6-0 last time out, 21-year-old midfielder Brooke Elby was one of those to get on the scoresheet. She is among the closest to Rachel in the U.S. and although there are others she could mention she had something to say about one of her St. John’s teammates.
“My best friend in football is Emily Cubbage. She’s just stupid, she’s funny, she’s a nice person and she’s always there for me.”
With a desire to travel through her playing career and to work in coaching, Rachel has everything to enjoy at the moment. For a 22-year-old, she has already played on various teams and with a pool of esteemed individuals within the women’s game. The regular closing question on the site required her to think back over those she has worked alongside so far.
Rachel was asked to put herself into a 5-a-side line-up and to choose four of the best she has played with to complete the team. With three England internationals selected for the outfield positions, she went all Southern California between the posts!
“I would have Sammy (Jo Prudhomme) as my goalkeeper. I think she’s the best keeper I’ve played with.
“For a forward I’d say Toni Duggan. She’s one of the most hard-working players and again one of the best I’ve played with.
“Midfield – I’ve played with Jess Clarke a long time. She’s quick, she’s skilful and she also wants the ball.
“For a defender I’ll say Casey (Stoney) for her experience and how she reads the game.”
Follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes
LA Blues striker Katie Stengel will feature on the site soon. Keep on track with that interview and more by liking the Facebook page