EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Christen Press had gotten used to life in Sweden.
She had found peace on and off the field in Scandinavia, and it showed in her play as she ran off 23 goals en route to winning the Damallsvenskan golden boot last year. She also had a breakout year for the U.S. in 2013, scoring eight goals in her first 12 caps.
But even before her most recent club, Tyresö, closed up shop due to financial issues, Press was headed back stateside to play for the Chicago Red Stars as U.S. Soccer looks to prepare for next year’s World Cup with its women’s national team players on home soil.
With the move home comes new pressure for Press, who is one of a handful of world-class forwards U.S. coach Jill Ellis has to choose from on a regular basis.
“I think that playing in the U.S., there is a pressure to it that I sort of emotionally escaped when I was in Sweden,” Press said on Wednesday. “In some ways it felt like no one was watching and I was just in my own little bubble and just playing for the love of the game.
“But that changed as we got deeper into the Champions League, and now, coming back to the U.S., it feels like kind of how it felt before I left. There’s a pressure to it, it’s so competitive here. And now there is seeing your national team teammates on the pitch, on the other pitches, so there is less of that escape. But I think that the goals are not changed. The World Cup is our biggest one, but also just getting better every day is the goal in the end.”
Press welcomes those high expectations, and realizes that adaptation is part of the job. Tyresö played a slower, more technical brand of soccer, while her new team in Chicago is more physical and direct. And when she’s in camp with the U.S., the speed of play is much faster.
Joining Press from Tyresö is the club’s now ex-coach Tony Gustavsson, who begins his second stint as a U.S. assistant. Press is excited to have Gustavsson’s “energy and positive attitude” around the U.S. team, and sees it as a positive for both her and the team.
The pressure Press speaks of is one that she knows will only grow more intense as the 2015 World Cup approaches, so she is ready for the new challenges that lay in front of her.
“It’s going to be good for me,” she said. “I have to learn how to deal with that now, and I think I’ve been learning as this year has come through so that I will be more prepared when Canada comes around.”
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