Time with the U.S. U-23s has Thorns FC's Meleana Shim ready to roll in 2014

Shim: “I have so much to learn and I want to improve my game so much more”

Mana Shim has had a busy, but successful year of soccer. Seven months removed from helping Thorns FC to the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League championship, the midfielder has accrued two call-ups to the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team, most recently participating in the 2014 Six Nations Tournament in La Manga, Spain, in early March.

A veteran of the U.S. U-23 program, Shim knew she had to enter national team camp in good form.

“There’s obviously a little more responsibility on and off the field because players are looking to you, especially the college players,” Shim noted. “Anytime you get called into anything with U.S. Soccer, it’s a big deal. It’s what we’re all working towards, to play for our country.”

Shim contributed greatly to the U-23s winning the Six Nations Tournament, scoring her first goal for the U-23s in the final, a 2-1 win over Norway.

“It was very exciting,” Shim said. “The two goals we scored…were our two best team goals. Eight or nine passes we strung together and I just kind of got the glory of getting that finishing touch.”

Shim also registered an assist at the tournament and the United States won all three games, scoring five goals in the process and conceding just two. The United States defeated Japan 1-0 in the opening match, and then defeated Sweden 2-1 before facing Norway.

Now Shim is in the midst of preseason, prepping for a new year as a defending NWSL champion.

“Coming off of [national team] camp is good because you’re riding on a high,” said Shim, adding that coming back into Thorns training after playing for the U-23s has been beneficial. “It’s an easier transition than going from not playing a game in months and then stepping on the field and having to train for four hours a day.”

When asked about the possibility of a call-up to the senior national side, Shim isn’t letting success go to her head.

“I have so much to learn and I want to improve my game so much more,” she said. “Of course that’s in the back of my head. That’s ultimately where I want to go.”

Early in her professional career, Shim has a wealth of experienced coaches and teammates around her to aid in her development, including several standout international players such as Christine Sinclair, Alex Morgan or Rachel Van Hollebeke. And in training each day, Shim will be tested by one of the top goalkeepers in the world and reigning FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in Nadine Angerer. Shim is undoubtedly in good company with veterans to learn from and push her each day.

“I’m definitely thankful I’m playing a team sport,” Shim noted. “If you’re having a hard day, someone else is going to pick you up.”

After returning from national team duty and two full weeks of Thorns preseason, Shim is also mentally primed for a new season.

“You really are pushing your body and mind to the limit, so when game time rolls around and we have two or three games in a week, we’re prepared for that,” Shim said. “The easy part is when the game starts. That’s the fun stuff.”