When Brandi Chastain watches the College Cup final, figuring out which players are capable of playing at the next level will be less about what they do and more about how they do it.
“Sometimes they’re not things that you actually see, they’re the intangibles, the mentality,” Chastain, who has been representing the Capital One Cup in Cary, N.C., over the weekend, said. “What I would recommend is watching the intensity of the player, watching the composure of the player. When there’s a lot of pressure most players will become frantic and when it’s a big game they will lose their composure. When you’re watching the game today, it’s not so much the technical way they touch the ball but how are they in these big moments and how they handle when a trophy is on the line.”
Several players from this weekend’s College Cup—where Florida State will meet UCLA Sunday for the national championship—figure to move on and play in NWSL, if not next season then down the road. Chastain, who played three seasons in WUSA and another in WPS, does not believe the presence of a pro league changes the atmosphere at a College Cup.
“I think in all fairness that a majority of players won’t go on to play professionally and that’s not why they started playing college soccer,” she said. “So I think it’s not quite the same as if maybe you asked that as a men’s basketball or football player. But I think for some of these players it’s realistic.”
Chastain went on to caution that while the draft is a partial indicator of a player’s ability, it is far from the final answer on success at the professional level.
“What I want players to remember is that though the draft is so exciting, and it does predict where some of the players will go, there are a lot of quality players out there that don’t get drafted. I’ll give you an example of one who ended of being up on the winning team, Meleana Shim. She was an undrafted player from Santa Clara (where Chastain works with her husband and head coach Jerry Smith). She kind of asked for a tryout. She went up (to Portland) and made the team. She wound up starting (19) games and became an important cog in the league.”
Chastain should know about composure. Through her career which covered a large portion of the U.S. national team’s formative years, Chastain was considered a soccer nerd with uncommon calmness in important moment. Never was that calmness on more public display than July 10, 1999, when she hit the World Cup winning penalty against China.
As for Sunday’s College Cup final which is guaranteed to crown a first-time women’s soccer champion, Chastain had this to say about the squads.
“Florida State has an international flare. They have a lot of traditional experience on their side.” Chastain cited the multitude of internationals on the Florida State roster plus coach Mark Krikorian who has experience both at the professional and international level.
“UCLA, what they have is a new coach (Amanda Cromwell.) They have a coach that has done with North Carolina in her old position at (Central Florida) and I think she is hungry to win a championship. I think UCLA having been there a couple of times but never won, I think really they think this is their year. They have probably the deepest roster and most athletic.
“I think this is a quality championship weekend.”
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