Open and insightful, the Thorns midfielder spoke to the press ahead of Saturday's US-Nigeria game
With no league games on the schedule until September 9, Thorns midfielder Sam Coffey is in training with the US Women's National Team. This is only Coffey's second international call-up—her first came earlier this summer, allowing her to train with the team but offering her no playing time.
The group will play pair of games against Nigeria—the first this Saturday, September 3 in Kansas City, KS (10am PT, FOX). The weekend match is friendly, yes, but it's also a proving ground on the road to the 2023 World Cup. And it could mark Coffey's first minutes as a national team player.
Coffey spoke to the press on Thursday from camp about her mindset while surrounded by her childhood idols, the USWNT coach, the challenges she's faced and overcome while in camp with her national team, and more. We've excerpted Coffey's thoughts below, and you can watch the full 30-minute interview here.
On what it’s like to think about her first international minutes tomorrow…
Obviously, nothing is guaranteed. I think it's just been so amazing to be with this group. And obviously joining the team in Mexico is a surreal experience. Of course, it's my dream to wear the crest on the field.
But day in day out, I'm just focused on how I can help the team be the best that they can be and ultimately help prepare the team for a World Cup. And so that's my focus every day. Of course, it's easy to get distracted by that want and desire of that first cap. I'll be ready when it comes. But right now, my focus is just being the best that I can be for this team in helping them in whatever way possible.
On adapting to the US national team’s system versus Portland’s style of play…
I think that every time I come into this environment, I really reflect on a lot because it is so challenging. And even learning the Portland system—there are still so many days where I'm like, woof. New role, new system, new team. It can feel really overwhelming. … Just this whole year with whatever challenge has come about… And obviously, most recently, being here and learning this system. It is really different than anything I've ever encountered. But I am learning so much.
I'm really just trying to both be patient with myself, and that it will take time to learn, to grow into, but to also just be a sponge. My mentality is just taking it like a day at a time, inch at a time. There is so much information, there is so much to the system that the US Women's National Team plays in. You don't just waltz in and get it right away. Maybe some players do, but I don't.
Obviously, the six is a really complex and integral role. So I just try and take it one thing at a time and really be patient with myself and learning and understanding it. And hopefully not make the same mistake twice.
On what she’s learned from USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski so far...
I've learned so much from him even in just the month that I've been around him. I'm so grateful for that I am learning that he has really sarcastic tendencies and a dry humor about him, which I deeply appreciate as someone who shares a similar type of humor.
But in the moment, obviously being a newbie, it can be petrifying, a little bit scary to... like he says, put your ego on the side and take whatever sarcastic comment he'll make at you. But he's a funny guy, and also very honest and open. That's something that not a lot of coaches are: funny as it can be. It’s something that we as players all do really appreciate because we want open and honest feedback.
On what her sister, journalist Alex Coffey, would write about her…
[Yes,] my sister is a sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She covers the Phillies beat, for anybody who doesn't know that. I'm sure most probably, I don't know. But if she were to do a story on me, what the headline would be “The girl that stole my clothes” or “The thorn in my side.” I was a nuisance to her growing up. But I think that that is something that most sisters struggle with is, the clothes stealing. I definitely took many things without her permission and I might still have a few items with me in Portland that she may not know about. So hopefully she doesn't listen to this interview. But it's a good headline: “Thorn in my side.” I think that's wordplay. Yeah, that's good.
But I am super proud of her. She's doing amazing work and broke a really important Pete Rose story recently. We’re all really proud of her.
On how she flips the mental switch from being with the USWNT to coming back to the Thorns next week…
I've never experienced anything like this. Obviously, being a rookie, there is no 101 course on the mental toll that a lot of this can take. I really am just like, taking it in stride and learning as I go.
I try and give myself as much of a break from soccer as I possibly can, which is tough, because I'm a fan, too. I love watching Premier League. I've got a fantasy team right now that's consuming way too much of my time. I really just try and value the moments where I can just shut off social media, shut off the TV or soccer, whatever it is, and just be. I'm big on stillness, meditation, play time, really just checking in with myself and how I'm doing.
A lot of the time, the transition from club to camp is not very long, the timing isn't very long. Like, we played Saturday night at 730. We were on a plane at 11am. I really just try and find little pockets here and there where I can reset or talk to loved ones or just really turn my mind off. And I'm still really learning how to do that. It's a skill that many of the women who have been around here for so many years are experts at, at this point. Their advice is valuable. But any little pockets of time where I can just you know shut off and and just be I really, really value and has been has been super helpful. Thank you.
On what she thinks is the strength of the current USWNT?
I I feel like we all really bring something different. But I really feel like this younger group is one that is eager to learn is super confident and has like a certain swagger about them. Kind of just like how I was alluding to I think something that's been huge for me is just like not backing down at the sight of any challenge or game or task. And I think that's something that so many of the young players here do well. I mean, we have like someone like Sophie who's 22 and it's just fearless and just goes for it. And I think that that is something that I think we as a younger group can do. We don't have the experience. We don't really, I don't have the caps maybe. But we are going to bring what we do well every day and bring the energy and work hard and I think be authentic to who we are. And I think that's special. And that's a, that's a testament to the kind of environment that this is, is in that we can do that we're encouraged to do that and bring who we all are as individuals and our strengths and our weaknesses. And the veterans and the staff really make it a healthy environment where we can do that. And we were invited to do that. And it's it's not one where we have to be someone else or we have to play like someone else. We can each bring our our unique individual abilities and, and shine with them.
On what she felt when she got the call-up…
Getting the initial call up, the first emotion was shock. I had heard rumblings about the possibility of it happening, but I didn't think it'd be that soon or that quick. And so it was all just this blur. Obviously, a very exciting blur, but it was definitely shock.
On how her she’s worked for this moment…
This position [of defensive midfielder] is still one that I'm learning and I'm growing in. And so I think it's really normal for doubt to creep in and for questions of, “Am I ready?” Like many girls here, this has been my dream. For as long as I can remember, I have had a little basement setup at home with US Women's National Team written on the walls and all these players. And I have a photo still of Alex Morgan on my wall in my bedroom in New York. I'm like, I think it's time to take us down. Like I'm trying to defend her now and struggling. It might be time to remove that.
It was so full circle—this dream I'd worked for. And I heard Alex talking about [how] there is no path to to the top. And I think that, in my case, is so true. I hadn't been to a Youth World Cup. I had some caps at the youth level with U20s here and there, but never like a ton of success with the youth national teams and was never really the one, like the golden child of the youth national team system.
Just reflecting on my journey getting here… it hasn't been route one. And I hope that that's something that can inspire like other players who maybe feel like they've been overlooked through the youth level, or maybe didn't play for the biggest teams or whatever it might be like. Like Alex talked about, there isn't just one way to get here. And it but it ultimately, of course does take like everything that you have inside you and all the focus and hard work and determination. And yeah, I think it definitely can be intimidating when you look around you and you're like, Whoa. Becky [Sauerbrunn] is to my left and Alex to my right. And Crystal [Dunn] is in front of me. I mean, I can obviously go on and on of players that I watched growing up —US Soccer royalty of just like incredible young players. This is such an unbelievably talented group.
I really felt the weight of that in first coming in. But my goal as I've alluded to earlier in this interview is just now not shrinking back from the challenge and being confident in what I bring to the team to because I'm here for a reason. I believe that I belong here, and it's my duty to the players around me and to the staff to bring the best of who I am.
Ultimately, none of us can do what anyone else does. We can only authentically be ourselves. I can't be Becky—I can't do what self does. I can only be Sam but I'm gonna be really confident in that: what I am, what I can bring, and what I do offer to this group. That goes for both on and off the field.