Chicago native Megan Oyster, now in her third professional season in the NWSL, has become a solid defensive force to be reckoned with. The central defender has started and played in 13 games for the Breakers so far this season who currently sit in 8th place with a 3-6-5 record. A string of travel and tough opponents put a dent in the team’s stellar start to the season, but nonetheless Oyster and her Boston side are excited to continue on and keep getting better. The 24-year old talked with me this week about her transition from DC to Boston, the challenges of being a professional soccer player, her time with the USWNT and more!
Hannah Kronick: To kick it off, can you talk about how the season is going so far for you guys at a high level?
Megan Oyster: I think the season has been great so far. There’s been a learning curve and it’s definitely been up and down throughout the season to this point. We started off the season really strong which was exciting for the club because of how the previous season had gone. So, we came out strong, we were winning games and it was exciting. But, then we had a hard stretch where we were traveling a lot and playing a lot of tough teams. We overcame that though and it made us a lot better. Where we’re at now is that we’re only getting stronger, faster, and better. I think we are in a really good place and I am really excited to see what our team is going to do to finish off the season.
HK: How are you preparing to travel to and take on the Houston Dash this weekend?
MO: We’ve had a lot of tough games to help prepare for games against teams like them. We played them recently so we know their strengths and weaknesses and we’ve looked at their most recent games and studied that. We’ve been working really hard at training. Luckily it’s 90 degrees here this week so we’ve gotten used to the heat. I think we are ready. We are ready to take them on again.
HK: What have been the major changes for you between your two seasons in DC with the Spirit and your time thus far with Boston?
MO: I loved playing for the Spirit and really loved that group of girls. There was nothing that I didn’t like at the Spirit! The Boston Breakers really feels like a family with the staff and the coaches and just the environment is very professional. They really take care of their players very well and always have their best interests at heart. It’s really comforting. I came in to open arms. Matt’s [Beard] goal was to create a team environment where the girls got along and had great personalities and I think he did a really great job with that because our team is unbelievably close. We get to do fun things on the weekends together, we live together, it’s really fun. It’s a great team and like I said it’s a really professional environment. On top of that, another main difference is just the city. Boston is really cool as it’s surrounded by a ton of different places to go check out and explore. I’ve had a lot of fun going on different day trips here and there.
HK: What was the hardest thing to adjust to as far as the transition from the Spirit to the Breakers?
MO: I think just playing with different people. After two years with the Spirit, I became pretty comfortable with the girls I was playing with. Matt definitely has a different style and I had to adjust to that. But, like I said, our team has become really close. We understand each other and what we need. So, that was a big adjustment, just getting used to the girls and a whole new team. I wanted to stay as professional as I could as far as using my experience, but I also wanted to learn as much as I could.
HK: Stepping back a bit from professional soccer, how did you first get into the game?
MO: I have an older sister, so when we were really young, she was four and I was three, I wanted to be just like her. She signed up for soccer, so I did too. We were on the same team for a while and I just fell in love with it. I loved competing, I loved scoring goals. I was a forward for a long time. I just loved being on a team. I had a great group of friends on a good club team growing up. I loved traveling for tournaments. Soccer was endless and I played all the time. I got started at a young age and never looked back.
HK: Knowing you spent your college career at UCLA, when did you decide that soccer was going to be more than just a college sport? When did you decide or realize that you wanted to make this a career and pursue professional soccer?
MO: I think probably around my junior year. And I don’t think it’s just because that’s when I earned my starting position at UCLA, I think at that moment, we did win a National Championship that year and I knew there were a lot of scouts out at our games so I wanted to perform well and I got just really good feedback. Amanda Cromwell came in and she’s got a huge network of people who support her. I was able to talk to her a lot and she was always pushing me, telling me I could do this if I wanted it. Of course I wanted this my whole life- it’s been my dream and goal since I was a young kid to play professionally. Gaining that confidence was not always easy, especially when I wasn’t starting at UCLA. By my junior year, I fell into the role of a starting position and then was surrounded by Sam Mewis, Abby Dahlkemper, Caprice Dydasco, Ally Courtnall, Rosie White, Sarah Killion- a whole team of girls who wanted to play professionally. I knew that if I could keep up with them at practice, then I definitely had a chance. Working with those girls and with the coaching staff at UCLA really pushed me into wanting it even more.
HK: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced so far in your professional career? Soccer challenges? Life challenges?
MO: I think there’s a couple different challenges. First off, I think I’ve adjusted well to the style of soccer. That was initially extremely hard as it relates to speed of play and the expectations of the players. There’s older and more experienced players who just want the ball a certain way or want things done to their standard. That was hard to match as a rookie but I think I’ve since adjusted well to that. On a day to day basis, we go through film and tactical work and someone’s always pushing you to be just a little bit better and that’s kind of draining every day to have a bunch of really smart, really talented girls always on your back about the littlest things. It’s definitely really fun, but also can be challenging at times. Off the field, I think for professional soccer, we are trying to get more support and that’s always a challenge- just to get people on board and to understand how exciting our game can be. We all want to push those limits and continue to every single day. We had setbacks sometimes but all of us are here for a reason and want this league to succeed. We are constantly putting ourselves out there for no money sometimes or just using our time to promote ourselves and the league can be hard, but it’s definitely starting to pay off and it’s always worth it.
HK: Piggybacking off of your last point as it relates to the league, what would you say is the most important thing that you think needs to be invested in within women’s soccer to see more league growth?
MO: That’s a tough question because I think there are a lot of things that need to happen. One thing that’s already worked pretty well for us and for the young girls that I’ve talked with is promoting the game, the media. Getting our name out there and showing all of these people who we are, putting a face to the name, getting our league out there is really important. From my first year in the league compared to now, I already see a huge difference in the amount of people who understand what the league is about, which is awesome. The deal with Lifetime was huge. That’s one way for us to get out there. The commercials and different things like that to help promote it is really important. The media is huge because it’s the number one thing driving our youth right now.
HK: How was your time with the USWNT? What was that like for you? What did you take away from that experience?
MO: I mean that was a dream come true. I didn’t know I was going to be called in but I’ve always obviously had that goal on my mind. You wouldn’t play in this league if that wasn’t your goal. So, when I first got the call, I was so shocked and excited. I’ve been waiting for that opportunity and I think anyone in this league could say they’ve been waiting for an opportunity like that for a really long time. It was really exciting and I am lucky I knew some of the girls who are on the team which made the transition a little more easy. The whole experience was really good, it was fun. It’s a tough environment, but I learned a lot. I think Matt has been great through that process as well. He knows what I need to work on and has been pushing me to make me better so that I can be prepared and ready for another opportunity if I get one. I just learned a lot, I mean playing next to Becky Sauerbrunn was amazing. She’s so experienced and talented. Taking little bits from her and all the other girls to really see how they train, how they work, and their day to day lives was great. We get that through our clubs, but to be surrounded by the best of the best was an awesome experience and something I will never forget.
HK: If you weren’t playing soccer, if you weren’t a professional soccer player, what would your career path be? What would your dream job be?
MO: I’ve been trying to explore that a little even right now with something that I’ve been looking into doing which is working for a nonprofit called Athletes for Charity organization. What I’m hoping to do is be either an athlete coordinator or something along those lines. I’ve worked in a lot of events where we get the opportunity to go to the children’s hospital or work an event for a charity and I’ve always felt so much passion in that field. It’s something I’m looking to do and to help other athletes find that too where they can use their abilities to make other people’s lives a little bit better.
HK: That’s awesome! And not that there’s that much time left in the day, but outside of soccer and outside of nonprofit work, what are some other things that you like to do?
MO: It definitely changes all the time, I have a bunch of little hobbies, but recently I’ve been playing tennis a lot which I find really fun! We play doubles tennis. And I’m super active. I like to swim and hike. I’ve gone on a lot of really cool hikes around the area because of where we’re at- Boston is surrounded by places like Portland, Maine and going to these little beach towns is so fun. I really do like to hike and play tennis and hang out with my friends, just the simple stuff!