We often hear about players in the NWSL dropping out of the league before they’ve even reached their 30th birthday, whether that’s to pursue a career outside of soccer, or simply to explore opportunities in leagues abroad. For former Sky Blue FC forward Kim DeCesare, retirement was never an option. But with limited minutes on the field in New Jersey, something had to change.
“I decided it was time to move on, and the club and I came to a mutual agreement that would allow me to find a team elsewhere. I felt like I helped my teammates on the field, but I was ready for a new role, I enjoy being the supportive teammate, but you can only hang onto your career for so long.”
So with decision made to leave Sky Blue and explore opportunities abroad, the search for a club began for the 26-year-old, keen to reignite her love of the game and kick start her career after some time on the sidelines.
Easier said than done!
There was certainly interest in DeCesare, but for an American who is not an international or in possession of a dual passport, seeking opportunities, certainly in Europe, isn’t a simple process. A move to Scottish champions Glasgow City, a side who have hosted the likes of current Portland Thorn Savannah Jordan and former Boston Breaker Morgan Marlborough, was agreed, and DeCesare was ready to play four months in Scotland, as well as in the Champions League.
But much to the surprise and disappointment of the Duke University graduate, she was unable to obtain a visa to play in the UK, and despite the club exploring every option, they couldn’t get the move over the line. DeCesare was left once again without a club, and without a job.
Moves to Cyprus and the Czech Republic were on the table, but did not materialize. Despite having an agent, the determined forward was keen to be as proactive as possible. Still back in the U.S., she was up at 5 a.m. most mornings to make up for the time difference Europe has over America.
“I enjoyed my time in the NWSL and I would never rule out returning in the future, but I was set on doing something else. I was proactive, using my own contacts to phone around and send emails, which is when I received a call from PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.”
DeCesare was invited to the club for a two-week trial and impressed, scoring in one of her two exhibition matches ahead of the new season. The club were keen to sign her, but the arduous task of the paperwork would once again stall the opportunity to play in the new season.
“I packed as if I was going to stay. In my mind I wasn’t going to head back to the U.S. and it was after about six days that I found out PSV wanted to keep me. There was a delay in the paperwork. Not just my visa, but also my International Transfer Certificate (ITC), a form I had known about from my time playing in Sweden.
“I was the first American to sign with the PSV women’s team, so all the paperwork for the oversees transfer was a new process to experience.”
The form in question should have been with US Soccer, being that Sky Blue was DeCesare’s last club, but when the New York born forward contacted the federation, they informed her they had sent the forms to Scotland.
“I spoke to US Soccer and they said they had sent my forms to Glasgow City because that’s where I was originally heading. So I had to speak to their head coach Scott Booth and ask him to sort everything out the following morning as I wanted to play in two days. He and the club were super helpful.
“The move was complete and all of a sudden I went from thinking I’d be away for 4 months in Scotland, to what will actually be nine and a half in the Netherlands.”
The American forward made her debut at the end of September on the same day the move was made public, starting in the Dutch Women’s Eredivisie in a match against VV Alkmaar.
The obvious question that many will ask is what the major differences are between the league in the Netherlands and the NWSL. But rather than making comparisons, The Equalizer was keen to know how DeCesare saw her qualities impacting her side.
“I noticed that my strengths are not found often here. And if I play so my strengths come out, I can impact every single game. I have decent feet and am decent technically, but what stands out is my ability in the air and my strength and size – and I’ll outwork anybody.”
DeCesare made her mark early on in her second match, scoring after just 41 seconds against Achilles in a 1-1 draw. That was her first competitive goal since playing for Swedish club Eskilstuna in 2014. But while the feeling was good, it was the goal during her trial in the summer that was most satisfying.
“That was a good feeling, but I scored in one of the friendlies and that was more of a relief, because I was like ‘okay I’m supposed to be here.'”
PSV currently lie just above mid-table and have already obtained a win this season over FC Twente, a club vastly experienced in the Champions League. With things going well on the field, including use of the same facilities as the men and a “respect’ from their male counterparts, DeCesare admits that it’s sometimes off the field that she starts to compare her life to some of her friends back home.
“There’s no pressure on me, no pressure at all. That’s because of where I am in my career – I am enjoying it. But it can get to you of course. I’m a Duke graduate and I feel like we’re not completely rewarded for the amount of work and effort we put in, but that’s women’s soccer and It’s not a criticism of my club.
“My friends at home all have great jobs and I’m bouncing around from host family, to team housing, to B&Bs. I feel like if players were paid better, you wouldn’t have so many of them dropping out so young. Why else would you drop out of the game you’ve worked so hard to be a part of when you’re still in your 20s?”
Despite that occasional reflection, DeCesare is enjoying her time in the Netherlands, and is developing the technical side to her game. Her side has a huge game coming up this weekend against champions Ajax, which will be a test of where her side currently sits.
On a lighter note, she recalls a chance encounter with a Dutch legend now working with the men’s club, which not only reinforced the size of the organization that she’s currently playing at, but also left her quite embarrassed.
“There is very much that feeling of you respect the men’s team – they do their thing and we do ours. But I’m that American who will speak to anyone, and I got chatting to the one of their staff but had no idea who he was. We chatted for like 20 minutes and he said he was the assistant coach of PSV 1, so I was like ‘oh, did you play?’ He was like ‘yeah I played for PSV, Manchester United and Real Madrid.’ I was like ‘oh my god.’
“It turns out I was speaking to Ruud van Nistelrooy, I was so embarrassed. But you know what, I chewed that poor guy’s ear off for 15 minutes about women’s soccer, and he stood there and listened.
“We had a tour of the men’s stadium a few days later and I saw van Nistelrooy’s name everywhere. He has a bar and suite named after him and pictures on the wall – my teammates thought it was hilarious, as has everyone else I have told since.”