As she rode along the Canyon of Heroes in New York City following the United States women’s soccer national team’s World Cup victory in 2019, Alyssa Naeher looked at the hundreds of thousands of faces along the route, cheering her and her teammates.
“I’d say the parade in NYC after winning the World Cup showed me how many people really love the USWNT and the effect we can have on the next generation of female athletes,” Naeher said in an interview.
Naeher and Emily Sonnett, her teammate in Tokyo, have found that impact on and off the field. The pair recently signed a deal to use and promote J.R. Watkins OTC recovery lines in their post-workout routine, which will likely come in handy especially following the U.S.’s 3-0 loss to Sweden.
It is merely the latest sign that the corporate world understands the power of spokespeople from the world of women’s sports speaking to potential customers. But specifically, recovery is central to the career arcs of both Sonnett and Naeher, neither of whom has enjoyed a glide path to this seminal moment of their careers.
Sonnett was the top overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Portland Thorns, but struggled at times to hold onto a regular spot in the lineup, before getting traded to Orlando for the 2020 season. The Pride, of course, had a truncated 2020 campaign due to COVID-19, then dealt Sonnett to the Washington Spirit.
Despite the bumps in her club career, her quality is obvious, the proof coming in Sonnett earning the selection from Vlatko Andonovski for the extremely competitive Olympic squad. It certainly helped her progress that she played every position on the pitch growing up, she said, giving her a comfort level wherever she is needed.
“I’d say I’m more mature on and off the field,” Sonnett said. “Contending for a spot on the USWNT is always a tough challenge, but the past experiences I’ve been through with this group has enabled me to deal with the physical and mental demands that come with being a part of this elite team.”
As for Naeher, she’s navigated both the collapse of a domestic professional league here, the WPS, followed by the folding of her club in NWSL, the Boston Breakers, to become the standard bearer in goal for the United States.
Now with Chicago, Naeher still hopes the NWSL will return to her old stomping grounds.
“Boston is an amazing city and has a super passionate soccer fan base, so I think it would be great if they got another NWSL team,” Naeher said.
Ultimately, Naeher is able to combine the short view with the long-term. So even as she’s visualizing taking home gold from Tokyo, she said she is laser-focused on each match. Even so, the ultimate goal is frequently on her mind.
“Oh man, it’d be unbelievable!”, she said. “Growing up watching my idols and players I’ve looked up to my whole life compete in, and win gold in the Olympics and finding myself constantly dreaming of what that must feel like – to be able to live out and play, let alone get Gold, is something I can’t even put into words!”
The next step in pursuing that goal comes on July 24 against New Zealand, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 AM ET.