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- Sam Mewis was recently named the United States Female Player of the Year
- The midfielder also plays the lead role for the English giants Manchester City
- Mewis chatted with FIFA.com about thinking, family and future ambitions
If, in addition to expertise, there is one trait that has set the American country of women apart, it is self-insurance. They are the best in the world, and as individuals and collectively, USWNT basks unabashedly in the hard-earned status.
Sam Mewis has more reason than most to go with that swagger in his step. After all, in this incomparable team, she stands as the prominent artist who has recently been voted – by a nice margin – US Soccer’s Female Player of the Year.
Mewis has also excelled at club level, and on the long, star-studded list of overseas imports to England’s WSL, few, if any, have matched the impact of Manchester City’s ‘Tower of Power’.
But when coach Vlatko Andonovski describes this excellent midfielder as “a true example of what USWNT stands for”, it is not because she bears that hallmark of unwavering confidence. Far from.
When Mewis just talks about “hoping to be called to the next camp” and fearing in front of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 om final about “not being the reason we did not win”, there is no hint of false modesty. Instead, it reflects the quiet, genuine humility that has shaped her career.
The 28-year-old, as Andonovski acknowledges, stands for another defining quality of the USWNT: its determination to never stand still, never to rest on its many accomplishments. It’s the same dedication to continuous self-improvement that transformed Mewis from a bit-split player who did not join the Canada 2015 team, to a first choice in 2019 and now, in the words of Megan Rapinoe, “the best player on our team ”.
An ankle injury sustained while scoring a hat-trick against Colombia in January will prevent Mewis from living up to the high billing at the upcoming SheBelieves Cup. But she cheers for her teammates and especially Sister Kristie and hopes that both halves of this Mewis midfield alliance can strike gold at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament later this year.
FIFA.com: Sam, you and Kristie was part of the U.S. lineup from a very young age and competed in your teens at tournaments in different corners of the globe. How do you reflect on these experiences now?
Everything to do with it – living away from home, playing football at a really high level against players from different cultures – was a fantastic preparation for what I experienced in 2019 at the senior world championships. The structure of the tournaments is so similar, and once you’ve had that experience at a young age – and know what the challenges are – it certainly prepares you to experience it all on a larger scale. Traveling around the world, especially at such a young age, is such a privilege anyway, and doing so with my sister made it extra special – even though there were times when we did not get along well at the time! (laughs) Even in those days, football was one of the things we got about each other. It was something that people on the outside often had a hard time dealing with, and it always kept us close.
Is it fair to say that the conflicts from these teenage years are far away now? It looks like you and Kristie are closer than ever.
Definitely. My mom always says, ‘Thank God they’re friends now!’ (laughs) At these youth tournaments in our high school, there was one lot of quarrels. I think it was just hard for us to be so similar, do the same thing, go the same way and find out that we as sisters were constantly compared to each other by people from outside. I think now we can see much better what an amazing thing it is that we both play professional football and try to get on the national team. We really enjoy how cool and unique it is. I also believe that as we have matured, we understand each other much better and are much more patient with each other. I definitely feel like Kristie is my best friend and understands me better than anyone else.
It can not be compared to the World Cup final, but that game against Colombia in January – when you got a hat trick and Kristie also got to score – must be up there with the most special experiences you have had.
It was surreal. I had sat down when Kristie came on, and when she scored, I remember wondering, ‘What are our parents thinking right now?’ I asked them later and my mom said she was crying because she was just so proud and happy. But I also know that I can speak for both Kristie and myself when I say we want more. We remember that night so fondly, but we both want to create the Olympic team and win a gold medal, and I would love it if we could do it together.
How big a goal is the Olympics for you personally, especially when you just missed the last time?
It’s been one of the chips on my shoulder, so it’s a big one. I was very close to fielding the team for Rio, completely understood why I did not, but it has certainly given me an extra motivation to play my role in Tokyo. The Olympics are something I have dreamed about all my life.
You mention how close you were in 2016 after missing out on the 2015 World Cup as well. What changed in the years after Rio to make you from a fringe player to a first choice in France 2019?
First of all, I grew up a little bit. I had just gotten out of college around the time of the 2015 World Cup, and looking back I was not as good a professional as I could have been. I certainly did not do every single thing I could all the time to become the player I wanted to be. I learned that lesson. But I also have to say that I owe a lot to the coaches and coaches who have worked with me over the years. My time on [North Carolina] Courage with Paul Riley stands out because I learned so much. I also started training in the low season with a man named Walter Norton and he never gave me credit for having done ‘almost enough’. When I was a deputy at the Olympics, he just said, ‘This is not a cool story. Let’s give you a cool story. ‘The way we went about doing it worked really hard and I discovered that there was a whole new level I could reach by doing so.
Given that you are a humble person and may not have the unshakable confidence that comes naturally to some of your teammates, did you also have to take a mental step to become a little more ruthless if that is the right word?
There is definitely a transition in the national team where you have to go from just being happy to be called into the team to some kind of demanding space for yourself. It’s one of the hardest jumps for any player to take and I find that I still have the ‘I hope I’m called to the next camp’ mentality. People may laugh at it, but in the USWNT environment, it feels like a constant test, and there is always someone who does it better than you. But it’s certainly true that when you’re just part of the team, you have to take turns thinking, ‘I belong here, and I deserve to be here.’ And it’s a shift I’ve experienced in the last few years.
But even now, after being so important in France’s 2019 team and winning the Player of the Year award by such a large margin, are you still worried about being called to the next camp?
Yes. I mean, I definitely feel more confident saying ‘I belong here’ these days. But even that comes and goes to an extent. In this team, there is always the fire under me that tells me, ‘I do need to keep working and improving because the second I stop improving, someone will pass me. ‘
When you turn to Man City, you have clearly adapted very well on the pitch. But has the settlement been made more challenging by the COVID locking and the limitations of your movements and the ability to get along with your teammates?
I was lucky enough to have my husband and our dog this fall, and having that little piece home with me really helped me settle down well and feel happy and comfortable. To have Rose [Lavelle] here with me and now Abby [Dahlkemper] has also been a great help. It’s just that little bit of comfort around the team where you feel confident being yourself and know that at least someone is getting what you’re talking about! (laughs) As for the COVID limitations, if there has been a positive, it is that it has allowed us to be even more focused on football and everything that goes into it. There is no rush to leave the facility in Man City and there is nothing else to do so you can take your time and do everything that could possibly help in terms of training and recovery. That’s the big positive I’ve taken from it.
You mention Rose and Abby. They are not just teammates from the national team; they’re two of your closest friends, right?
Definitely. They are two of my best friends in the world and I am so excited that we are all here and going through the same experience at the same time. I mean, Rose and I got to win the FA Cup final together at Wembley – it’s something we will always remember. And hopefully there are more great experiences coming down the line for the three of us.
Do you think that the experiences you have in England improve you as a player?
I hope so. I thought coming here was a wonderful opportunity to grow and develop my game, and the whole experience – playing in English football and in the Champions League – has been so satisfying. One of the coolest parts is that there are so many competitions: you go from a league match to the FA Cup to the Champions League. It’s great to have such a variety and so many trophies to play for.
Finally, I have to ask you about your nickname ‘Tower of Power’. Are you a fan and is it true that Abby Dahlkemper is responsible for giving it to you?
Abby was there when it happened, but the name actually came from an advertiser in a Courage game. Unless Abby gave him the idea! (laughs) We got rings presented to win the championship, and when he announced me, he just pulled the name out of nowhere: “The Power of Power … Sam Mewis!” We just looked at each other and laughed. It was such a fun and so good nickname that it stuck. And I like it. I have definitely adopted it now!