Chicago Red Stars have welcomed back their World Cup champions in Julie Ertz, Tierna Davidson, Morgan Brian, and Alyssa Naeher.
Ahead of this Sunday’s match against North Carolina Courage, the club hosted a press conference and portions of the conference were full of praise for starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
Prior to the World Cup and at moments during it, Naeher was headline fodder from various articles still questioning her abilities and leadership within the U.S. Women’s National Team on the biggest stage in soccer. Back home in Chicago and among her Red Stars teammates, there was little doubt of Naeher’s skill.
Owner Arnim Whisler introduced the four champions and said of Naeher, “My favorite stoic, strong, silent champion. She apparently was a secret to all [. . . ] but she wasn’t to us. We got tired of trying to score on her in Boston, when we decided to trade for her because we couldn’t stand playing [against her]. She’s been an incredible goalkeeper at the highest level [over] four years. Again, just a wonderful human, and I think her quiet time is over. She’s blown up in a lot of ways.”
During the tournament’s seven games, Naeher was responsible for four shutouts, coming up with significant saves down the stretch during the teams’ knockout round matches. Her biggest moment came during the semifinal against England, where her crucial save on a penalty kick preserved the 2-1 lead -and win- for the United States.
“I remember sitting at Lincoln Park in the watch party with 9,000 people when she save that PK,” said Whisler. “And honestly it was one of those moments where we knew it was Alyssa’s turn in the limelight. Well deserved.”
That’s our goalkeeper. pic.twitter.com/1YiA5aQpQv— Chicago Red Stars (@chiredstarsPR) July 9, 2019
The rest of Naeher’s Red Stars and World Cup teammates agree that it was a historical moment, as were the celebrations – or lack thereof – surrounding her big save. It was a moment that stood out the most during a tournament of iconic goal celebrations.
“When she saved the [penalty] we all went to hug her and she told us all to ‘GET OFF – I have to punt the ball!’ So, she didn’t really wanna celebrate yet,” said Red Stars teammate Julie Ertz, who was on the pitch when the save occurred.
“Goals are amazing. All the celebrations were really great but I think especially for us [who know] Alyssa, that was a really cool moment. And I think it was a monumental shift [. . .] that was a really cool moment for all of us.”
Red Stars midfielder and World Cup teammate Morgan Brian agreed with the sentiment saying, “that was actually my biggest celebration, was when she saved the PK.”
Brian had a sideline view of the game saving moment and concluded by saying, “I don’t know, I think I might have had an out-of-body experience.”
The city of Chicago still has the chance to root for the world champion goalkeeper as the club announced a sell out for the lower bowl of the stadium. With the Red Stars’ number one keeper back, they feel confident ahead of the match this Sunday as they face league leaders and reigning NWSL champions North Carolina Courage.