When Portland Thorns FC midfielder Allie Long was young, she dreamed of growing up to be just like her idol, U.S. Women's National Team star Mia Hamm.
“I think I looked at her career and I saw her doing it in stadiums and on a huge stage,” said Long. “And everyone cheering for her in the '99 World Cup was insane to watch. And I think seeing that, that's what I envisioned for myself.”
Since then, Long has checked off much of her soccer bucket list. One of only four players who have been with the Thorns since their inaugural 2013 season, Long has been a constant on and off the field for the Thorns, as her career in Portland has been nothing short of prolific. She leads the team as the all-time leader in games played (81), games started (79), minutes played (7088), goals scored (28), points (69), and game-winning assists (5). She's also appeared for the U.S. Women's National Team and played in the Olympics. But that's still not enough for the ambitious Long, one of the hardest workers in women's soccer.
But according to Long, the team's success since 2013 has little to do with her own individual accomplishments. Instead, she and her fellow Thorns originals – Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair, and Mana Shim – have helped create a culture at the club that demands excellence from everyone, player or coach.
“You'll never see any of us take a day off of practice or even a repetition off of practice,” she said. “Everything is at the best of our ability. And I think that is contagious.”
And Long has certainly seen her share of success with the Thorns. The team won the NWSL Championship in 2013 and last year won the NWSL Shield for the best regular-season record. Yet the moments that stick with her are the little ones that built up to those bigger accomplishments.
During the semifinals of the 2013 NWSL Playoffs, the Thorns battled back from a 2-0 road deficit against FC Kansas City to win in extra time. It was Long, of course, who scored the 103rd minute goal that sealed their trip to that year's championship game.
“It was hot, it was early in the morning, everyone's feet were burning from the turf and it was just like a grueling match,” she remembered. “And I just feel like scoring that goal to get us the final was one of my favorite memories. Not necessarily because it was me, but [because of] the goals that led up to even get me to be able to score. That goal was huge.”
Long, though, is such a fan of her own team that she also cites a match from last season in which she didn't even play.
“I was in Brazil [at the Olympics] watching the team when we were away and they played Seattle at home [on July 30] and they won,” she said. “And I remember I couldn't fall asleep [after] watching them and I was so happy. And I saw that it was a sellout, the fans were there. It was just so cool to see that.
“It's so typical to think, 'Oh, the U.S. women's national team are the reason people come,' but not here. So to see the team do that when none of the national team players were there and to see the fans be behind them was the coolest thing. And I think that's when I really realized that our team's special and that we can do anything.”