It is a handful of games into the most eagerly anticipated W-League season yet and the action has not disappointed, with Canberra United’s US international midfielder Lori Lindsey encapsulating everything great about the league.
As Australia welcomed the beginning of the sixth season for its elite women’s football division in November, those involved could take great heart from the widespread interest and excitement. The 2013/14 W-League campaign has just had round five of its fixtures and will continue up until the Grand Final in late-February.
The league this year is colourised by homegrown and international characters each with a story to tell. Midfielder Lori Lindsey’s chapters have largely been written thousands of miles away but the US Women’s National Team member chose a new path when she signed for Canberra United.
Still only a matter of weeks into her life Down Under, she has really embraced what it is to be a part of the women’s football community in the country. On the field, she has been at the heart of the engine room as Canberra have won three of their opening four games and off it she has adapted instantly.
“The experience has been amazing. It’s been a good start to the season and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the team.
“Canberra United is a close-knit family-oriented club so the transition has been quite easy. We have about ten days off around the holidays so I’ll be able to travel and see other parts of the country then, which I’m looking forward to.”
Nicknamed ‘Lightning’, Lori helped the team to a 3-0 win over Newcastle Jets at the weekend and the know-how she provides is undeniably beneficial to those around her. The Indianapolis native has 31 caps and one goal for her country and appeared at the 2011 World Cup in Germany in which the US were runners-up. She has also figured prominently in each of the professional leagues back home: the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
Her big-game experience includes leading Philadelphia Independence to the WPS Championship game as captain in 2010, a year in which she led her club and country for assists. Lori was also named as captain for Washington Spirit for this year’s inaugural NWSL season and ahead of any game the playlist on offer takes on sizeable significance.
One of her USWNT colleagues, midfielder Heather O’Reilly, shared her liking for one of Eminem’s signature tracks on here in August and the performance of this she gave for her teammates sticks in Lori’s mind.
“Music is a huge part of my preparation and motivation leading up to my games. One of my favourite quotes is in the Cat Stevens song ‘The Wind’: ‘I let my music take me where my heart wants to go’.
“We (the USWNT) listen to music before every game. It varies quite often depending on the particular DJ and what’s popular at the time but one memory that always stands out is Heather O’Reilly’s rendition of Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’.”
Anyone who is aware of Lori is likely to know that she is one of the most vibrant and intriguing women’s players around. The US team has a number of unique personalities that fans from all over the world enjoy getting to know and although markedly different in their own ways, Lori and midfield counterpart Megan Rapinoe are something of a dynamic duo.
‘Pinoe’ did an interview on this site in February and she revealed how performing the Missy Higgins song ‘Don’t Ever’ in front of her teammates left her more than a bit flustered! Music is extremely important to the US team in so many different ways. During the highly successful reign of former head coach Pia Sundhage, now in charge of her home nation Sweden, she would often serenade the squad. Lori recalls the fondest of these moments and also how the less vocally-gifted players on the team had a go!
“Besides Heather O’Reilly’s Eminem performance the most memorable would have to be with Pinoe and our former coach Pia Sundhage. It was after the World Cup and we were in Portland for a celebration game.
“Our team was out to eat at a great little Italian restaurant. They had a microphone and an area for singers so Pia got up and sang for us, as per usual, followed by Pinoe.
“Both were very good and were then followed by karaoke performances from other teammates. Needless to say those weren’t great performances!”
Lori was 19 when US women’s soccer changed forever as Brandi Chastain sunk the winning spot kick for the US against China in the 1999 World Cup final. As 90,185 gathered at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena it signalled the dawning of a new era and Lori was one of those inspired. In addition to former Manchester United maestro Paul Scholes, she names the likes of Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly as her idols in the game growing up.
Of course soccer was ultimately proven to be her calling in life and the gateway to all she dreamed but that was not always clear. At one point she was taken in by skateboarding and then it was acting as she envisaged future fame! As well as a skateboard ramp, her father built her and older brother Chris a soccer goal in the back yard and she would revisit the hours she spent practicing as a kid in her early teens.
Whether accompanied by a half-pipe, a stage, or goalposts, Lori has always pursued the ways to express herself. When Megan Rapinoe sang Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ into the touchline microphone after scoring against Colombia in the 2011 World Cup it was essentially Lori’s idea. She took on the role of E Street Band member and played air guitar at this moment but can she add singing to her list of talents?
“Luckily I have never had to sing in front of teammates, which is a good thing since I’m extremely tone deaf!”
A former Indiana Blaze, San Diego Spirit and Washington Freedom player, Lori worked with some distinguished talents while with Philadelphia Independence in the WPS. US forward Amy Rodriguez and Spanish attacking stars Verónica Boquete and Laura del Río all played alongside her at the club and each have been interviewed on here.
A person’s music taste can tell you a lot about the kind of individual they are and as Lori indicated with her mention of the Cat Stevens lyric earlier, there is a deeper meaning than just the beat or melody. When discussing her favourite artists there was a mention for a short-lived supergroup containing legends Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne.
“I really listen to a wide range of music. I’m sure everyone says that but for me it’s true.
“It really depends on what my mood is, the weather, etc. but my favourites range from Kenny Loggins to the Traveling Wilburys, so it’s quite a wide range.”
Usually in these interviews I ask the player to give me an insight into the genres they enjoy the most but Lori has already made it known previously that she has a love for country. As I write this from England I have to admit that although it is not hugely popular here and my main love is hip-hop I have been taken in by the stories in country songs! Therefore, I wanted Lori to share some of her best-loved artists and songs from this selection.
“I really enjoy Alan Jackson, Dixie Chicks, Brooks & Dunn, George Strait, Lady Antebellum, Sugarland. Some of my favourite songs are: Dixie Chicks ‘Wide Open Spaces’, ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ and ‘Cowboy Take Me Away’, Sugarland ‘Want To’ and ‘Stay’, and all songs by Alan Jackson and George Strait.”
The country vibe may account for a decent proportion of her favourites but if Lori wants to mix it up with some 80s r&b or even some infamous lip-syncing then there are two in her collection she can go back to!
“My first record was either Milli Vanilli or a single cassette of the song ‘I Wanna Be Rich’ by Calloway. I can’t exactly remember but I’m quite positive it was one of the two.”
Lori’s solitary international goal to date was in the 6-0 victory against Guatemala in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifier in January 2012. She was an alternate for the London Olympics but still got to enjoy the experience with the rest of the squad and last played against Scotland in Nashville in February this year.
With national team coach Tom Sermanni giving opportunities to the younger players coming through, Lori has acknowledged that her chances may now be limited. At 33, she has said that her career is approaching the final stages but I think there is still much for her to give.
She talks of how important it is to live a ‘full’ life and in her own way she is also helping the women’s game to do that. Lori came out at around 20 years old but her sexuality was not widely known until last year. The ex-Western New York Flash player is one of those pushing the sport forward towards a better time – one in which gay sportsmen and women don’t have to hide away any longer.
As touched upon, she and Megan Rapinoe, who also came out in 2012, have decidedly individual qualities and traits but plenty of shared ones too. Their humour and overall outlook is very similar and it is easy to see why they have been such close friends in recent years.
Lori and Pinoe (and indeed Megan’s girlfriend and Australian national team great Sarah Walsh) have a way of making followers of the game feel good. While Lori would never claim to be able to match Pinoe’s soothing vocals there was still only one candidate for her when asked which career teammate she would choose to record a cover version of a song with.
“No question I would choose Pinoe and I’m going to go with something ridiculous like Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night’.”
Lori majored in Sociology at the University of Virginia and also has a big interest in the strength and conditioning aspect of the game. However, as the 21 games for Washington Spirit in the NWSL and the start she has made for Canberra show, Lori is far from done out on the field. We are in a real positive phase for the sport and the players out there now are undoubtedly shaping its future.
This is not the first season it has been the case but the W-League is currently blessed with some extremely talented and dedicated players. To have people like Lori and one of the three finalists for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Nadine Angerer is something to enthuse about. There are also those like Canberra midfielder Sally Shipard who may not be out there in the midst of the action at the moment but her contribution to the game is not going unnoticed.
The interest from far and wide in the league cannot fail to warm the hearts of fans, officials, organisers and players alike and building the competition and brand can surely only benefit an already impressive pool of young Australians.
Canberra are currently 2nd in the table behind Melbourne Victory, who are a point ahead but have also played a game more. Ex-Netherlands international defender Liesbeth Migchelsen is Canberra’s head coach and the 2011/12 champions have two more Americans to go with Lori – defender/midfielder Kendall Fletcher and forward Stephanie Ochs.
Lori describes how she ended up making the move for the season and also the input of a certain Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder she knows well.
“Pinoe had played in some games in the past and really enjoyed the games. Plus I had a teammate, Tori Huster, who played with me on the Washington Spirit.
“She played in the W-League last year and loved it. She knew I would love the experience and since I was looking for a place to play in the off-season I thought I should look into it.
“I’ve been fortunate to play at a high level in the States so I think I’ll bring a level of professionalism but also gain insight on how women’s soccer is run here in Australia.”
While Canberra gets to enjoy Lori’s passion and ability it is time to find out which players she rates most highly. It is always the case of saving the trickiest but most intriguing question for last on here and no player finds it easy to leave certain people out of their response for this one. Here is Lori’s selection of the four of her career teammates she would choose to play alongside her in a 5-a-side line-up. It looks like she may have squeezed a sixth in there though!
“Great question but also difficult. Goalkeeper: Jill Loyden – she’s great with her feet and a great communicator off the ball, exactly what you need with a 5-a-side team.
“Defender: Becky Sauerbrunn – a smooth technical player with great vision and positioning. Very good going forward out of the back as well.
“Midfielder: A toss-up between Megan Rapinoe and Yael Averbuch. Very different players but both are extremely skilled especially in tight areas, plus they would both keep me laughing!
“Striker: Alex Morgan – she has a knack for the goal and a ‘never say die’ attitude, and since I like to win that would come in handy.”