Thorns Interviews

Meghan Klingenberg on the title match and why she plays

The Thorns defender opened up on the Talk Timbers podcast ahead of the NWSL 2022 Championship final on Saturday, October 29.

Talk Timbers was all about Thorns FC this week, and hosts Judah Newby and Jake Zivin invited Meghan Klingenberg on the show. Reflective, insightful, and joyful, Klingenberg discusses the golazos, what the semifinal home win meant to the team and to the city, and how they are preparing for the NWSL Championship title match on Saturday.

We've transcribed her segment below and you can listen to the full Talk Timbers episode here.

Judah Newby: What kind of emotions did you feel in that moment when when Crystal \[Dunn\] shot at the back of the net?

Meghan Klingenberg: Well, actually [I felt] a bit of surprise, not because Crystal shot the ball and it went in—I have full faith in Crystal that she can hit that shot every time. It's just more that like, "Holy s**t.' We'd been pushing—I knew we were gonna get one. But then when it happened, I was like, 'Oh, I didn't expect it to be in this moment. So it was kind of like discovering the joy of arriving. And I don't know if you've ever felt that before. But it's like this enduring joy. It's surprising joy. It's this feeling where it's totally unexpected. And you're like, 'Wow, that that just feels so cool.' That's kind of what it felt like.

... What was it like in that environment and to win in the way you did?

Well, I have to say that our Portland community really brought it for us. They showed up and they were loud. They were so proud of the team. And they really had our backs that day. I'm really grateful that they were able to show up and give themselves in that way... Because we did the same thing—we showed up and gave every single bit of ourselves. I could tell that our fans did that as well.

It was honestly the most special environment that I've ever played in front of in in Portland. And I mean, I've played a final here. I've played seven years here, I can't even believe I played seven years here. But I've played seven years here, fantastic years. And that was by far the best Portland Thorns environment that I've ever been a part of. And it was rocking, and you could feel the energy was electric. And you could actually almost like, see the energy it was it was so intense.

The Thorns defender opened up on the Talk Timbers podcast ahead of the NWSL 2022 Championship final on Saturday, October 29.

What does it say about your team that you guys were able to bounce back and eventually, especially in the second half, really take control of the game? And ultimately, come back and win?

This group is really special. And the reason I say that is because there's not many types of teams that are able to control the pace of the match... and the momentum in the match and I feel like this team is capable of that. Unfortunately, I think we were a bit nervous at the beginning. And those jitters played to that goal for San Diego. And so soon as we settled down and we started playing and started being us, and remembered who the f**k we were—Can I say that? I'm on radio. This isn't live, right?

Good... As soon as we remembered who the f**k we were, then we took over the match and whenever we [are] ourselves that's more than good enough. I think whenever we enjoy playing, we start to impose our style and our will on the match and you saw that in the second half. As long as we remember those things going into the Championship then it will be a really fun match for us.

... I don't want to go without mentioning Rocky [Rodriguez]'s goal, which was incredible. Can you put in perspective as a player? The difficulty of of what she did from it from a technical standpoint to be able to put that on frame at all in and give the goalkeeper absolutely zero chance?

Oh, totally. I mean, those goals—both of them in that match were world class. And especially, I mean, I think Rocky's probably was even more difficult than Crystal's. And it's because Rocky had a bit of a... [laughs] I would say... bad touch at the top of the box. And so it's bouncing up on her. But when the ball is bouncing up, you can't hit it... most likely it's going to go over. So you have to kind of wait for it to come back down and then strike through it and try and get it on frame.

You actually see Rocky doing—you see her watching and waiting for the ball to come back down so that she can hit it true. And I was at the corner and then I came in I was wide. I was like, 'Oh, this is great. Rocky can pass to me. I can't wait until she like, gives me a little flip pass. And I can get that cross in and we can try and get it.'

So I was like a little bit mad when she shot it. And then as soon as I saw it, I was like, 'I can't be mad anymore. That is a beautiful strike.' I don't think people understand how hard that kind of technique is. And Rocky made it look easy... I ran and I jumped straight in her arms. She was not ready to catch me but I made her.

You mentioned in your first answer with Crystal's winner—it's one of those things where you believe that it happened but it also takes a little bit to process because it was just such a magical moment...

Yeah, you know, unfortunately, this group has been through a lot this past year—not just this season, but last season as well. And I think when all of the allegations came out about the club in 2021, it took a huge toll on our group, in the locker room, emotionally. That emotional fatigue transferred into physical fatigue. And I don't think we had our best performance in the semifinals in 2021. And so our team, fortunately and unfortunately, learned from that this year and we took a different approach and a different tack going forward. What we tried to do is make sure that we put that put all of those emotions on the backburner—[those are things] that we can definitely talk about and take head on after the season.

So we have been fully focused on this game and on these matches and on having fun and and on doing our best and bringing our best selves. I don't know if it was as much of a cathartic moment for our group as it was the city. Because we have been so fully focused on this match that we had no expectations going into it. The only expectation we had was to be ourselves and have fun. And I think that when you have that type of mindset going into a match that there are no limits.

So the whole reason why it was surprising to us is because it was this overwhelming surprise of joy. 'Wow, this is so cool. This happened.' I couldn't have written this up any better. And I think sometimes when we write things in our mind, they don't go according to plan and that can be really disappointing. But when we don't write anything in our mind, then it can turn out so much more spectacular than we could have ever imagined in the first place. And I think that's exactly what happened on Sunday.

We had a coach Rhian Wilkinson on the show last week, and she barely had a voice. She was battling severe illness. How's coach's voice now? And how is she doing? What are the coaching points this week ahead of the title match?

You know, Rhian loses her voice almost every match. But this, especially this one, she was like whispering in the huddle after the game. And it was pretty funny. But she's recovering. She's them, you know, dressing up getting that treatment and making sure she's putting herself on the list to get to get the treatment with the players. But well, she'll be good. It's all about recovery—making sure we're getting our minds and our bodies back into a good place to go again.

You go again, as you said, on Saturday in the NWSL Championship. You've played in several finals in your career: NWSL finals, World Cup finals... What do you take from your previous experiences in championship games to help you prepare for this one?

I'm actually really glad that you asked that question. Because I think when I was younger, I had a very different perspective than I do now. It [used to be] about winning at all costs, because [title matches] are very few and far between. But now, I kind of think that that perspective is a little bit sad... If I'm only having this career to play for finals, then that means that my career only matters like once or twice or three times or four times. Five times if we're lucky.

I think what I've done is really refocused and dug down and figured out what was important to me. [Finding out] what was my 'Why do I play?' I play because I love it and the pursuit of mastery and the connection with teammates. So to me, it's all about showing up and being there in that moment, and enjoying every single minute that I'm there and being fully present. And so all I'm doing this week is just soaking it all in, enjoying every moment, and reminding our teammates that all this is about is having fun.

KC Current is the opponent Saturday. You played them twice this year—a decisive victory here in Portland and a draw in Kansas City. So now you get a neutral site in in DC. What do you know about KC and what's preparation like for the opponent on Saturday?

I actually think they're a truly interesting opponent. I'm sure a lot of people were rooting for a Seattle-Thorns final. But I think that KC is going to surprise everyone because they're building something really special in Kansas City. You can see it with the way that their owners are building world-class facilities and they're putting together a really good group. They've been putting in really good performances and it seems like they have a good team culture.

So I'm pretty excited about matching up with them because I think they're gonna bring it. And I hope they bring their very, very best against us because that would be maximum fun. And that's what this is about for us.