Rachel Daly interview: Clear blue and unconditional – England youngster building bridges across the water

Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC
Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC

The recent inclusion of LA Blues’ Rachel Daly in the senior England set-up is credit to her progress in the States, where the 22-year-old has combined on-field development with lasting bonds.

Having represented Lincoln Ladies in the FA Women’s Super League, Harrogate-born Rachel decided at 20 to pursue a future in the U.S. It was a case of ‘now or never’ to get a scholarship, and New York City was to be the destination.

The long-serving head coach at St. John’s University, Englishman Ian Stone, needed a replacement for an injured player. Defender Georgia Kearney-Perry, also from England, had suffered a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at the beginning of her freshman season, recommending 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 Newcomer of the Year, as voted for by the league’s head coaches. Further recognition came in December 2013 when England coach Mark Sampson named her in the squad for his first training camp, as the squad headed to La Manga, Spain at the beginning of this year.

“I already knew quite a lot of the girls from playing with them growing up, so it wasn’t too nerve-wracking,” she says. “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.”

Currently with the LA Blues Soccer Club of the USL W-League, she is part of a team making an immaculate start to the season. Formed in November 2013 as a merger of the LA Strikers (for whom Rachel also played) and the Pali Blues, they lead the Western Conference with five wins from five.

Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC
Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC

The goalkeeper responsible for four of the five shutouts (with Aubrey Bledsoe in goal for the other) makes use of her vocals for more than just commanding her penalty area.

“Sammy Jo Prudhomme on the team now is probably the most memorable for singing.”

In one of this site’s regular questions, Rachel goes for the Californian, as she is asked which of her career teammates she would record a song cover with.

“I’d pick her and do ‘Latch’ by Disclosure (featuring Sam Smith) with her.”

Part of the England team that finished 4th at the 2008 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand, Rachel notched seven game-winning goals for St. John’s last year. The sophomore season could hardly have been more different from her freshman year, when she was forced to sit out the entirety due to NCAA compliance regulations.

While unavailable to play, she did get to train with and travel alongside the team. Connecting with teammates has been extremely important to her, in serious, or arguably even more valuable, light-hearted moments.

When preparing for a game, she has found herself locked into an unfamiliar vibe to what she knew in changing rooms back home.

“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.’”

The aforementioned Sammy Jo Prudhomme impresses with her singing skills, but has Rachel ever been called upon to give a vocal performance of her own in front of teammates in the past?

“Yes, I have, and the one I did was ‘Stan’ by Eminem.”

The North Yorkshire native grew up a Leeds United supporter and still follows the Elland Road side. Alongside the likes of Harry Kewell, Alan Smith and Mark Viduka, there was another group who can claim a part in her childhood influences.

“The first CD I ever bought, I believe, was the Spice Girls, and I was nine at the time.”

The former Rossett High School student has represented England at various levels so far, and comes from a strong background in the sport. With a father who played semi-pro, Rachel was the only girl among brothers and stepbrothers, and the fever for the game undoubtedly caught her.

With Leeds United Ladies for nine years, she won the FA Women’s Premier League Cup in 2010, after they had been renamed Leeds Carnegie. While her grit and versatility will be an asset to any team, she has been excelling up front.

Her second collegiate appearance yielded a hat-trick, and with her 23-goal haul a St. John’s record, it also put her as the nation’s joint-leading scorer (alongside Jannelle Flaws of the University of Illinois). Off the field, she is majoring in sport management, and doing her best to manage any linguistic breakdowns from time to time.

“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.”

Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC
Photo courtesy of LA Blues SC

When the Blues beat Colorado Storm 6-0 last time out, 21-year-old midfielder Brooke Elby was one of those 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, there is everything to enjoy in the here and now. At 22, she has already played on various teams, with a pool of esteemed talent within the women’s game. The regular closing question on this site required her to think back over those she has worked alongside so far, to put herself into a 5-a-side line-up alongside four teammates.

“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