Most people schedule flights that go through San Francisco or Denver to end up in Portland. They drive I-5 or take I-84 to get to the land of gourmet donuts and craft beer. Amber Brooks took an entirely different route. To get to Portland, she first went through Germany.
After finishing her senior season at the University of North Carolina, Brooks was drafted by Portland Thorns FC in the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League College Draft. However, prior to the draft, Brooks had already signed with German side FC Bayern Munich but by drafting her, the Thorns retained the first rights to negotiate a contract with Brooks should she ever decide to come back to play stateside.
Playing overseas was a cultural challenge after growing up on the East Coast, but she felt the move was a positive experience for her in the long run. A naturally outgoing personality, Brooks said the language barrier was one of the more difficult aspects of living in Germany.
“It’s a hard language, but all my teammates spoke English and they were willing to work with me,” she said. “It’s like any foreign language, as long as you’re willing to try and make yourself look silly, then they don’t mind helping you out.”
She appeared in 22 games across all competitions for FC Bayern Munich, scoring a total of 10 goals. With the Thorns taking hold of the first NSWL Championship in 2013, Brooks felt the urge to return home and lend her talents to the side in Portland.
“I’m still very far away from my family and friends out here in Oregon, but after being so far away in Munich it all seems a lot easier,” said Brooks.
A box-to-box midfielder, Brooks feels she has gained valuable experience overseas that will help her in coach Paul Riley’s attacking style of play.
“My technical game got better in Germany, so I think I’m coming back to the U.S. league a better person and player,” she said.
That should bode well for the U.S. Women’s National Team, who recently gave Brooks her first cap at the senior level in a friendly against Brazil in November. If her play continues to impress as a member of the Thorns in 2014, she may well gather more caps.
“My ultimate goal is to make a push to make the U.S. full team for the upcoming qualifying, and then hopefully the World Cup and Olympics,” said Brooks.
The talented 23-year-old will be looking to try and help push the Thorns back into the playoffs after a wildly successful first year in the Rose City. Brooks will be a new face for fans at Providence Park, and they will likely get to see much of her. She started in both of the Thorns’ preseason games in Arizona in March, logging a total of 136 minutes of play and played 90 minutes in the team’s season-opening win at Houston on April 12.
Brooks will need to be up to the challenge, not only with the new style for the Thorns in 2014, but with the tough competition in the NWSL. Several stars have started to make their way back home to the United States, and Brooks knows it will test the limit of her training. Ever the competitor, the former UNC captain said she’s ready to play against the best.
“You’ve got several well-known names on each team going against each other week in and week out, and I know that it’s a league I want to play in,” said Brooks.
Portland takes to the road for its second straight away match to start the season, squaring off against Sky Blue FC on Saturday at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (Pacific) and fans can watch along via a live webstream at www.portlandthorns.com.