Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer
Rampone and Williams- NWSL and U.S. WNT Stars Talk to GotSoccer avatar

Cupcakes and champagne were the order of the day at A+E’s midtown Manhattan offices this past Thursday morning when the National Women’s Soccer League announced a partnership that included the network taking an equity stake in the league while also agreeing to broadcast the NWSL Game of the Week every Saturday during the season.

A handful of the league’s brightest stars turned up at A+E’s funky office space and were happy to talk to reporters about the new partnership, the state of the league, or just about anything.

Christie Rampone (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

Christie Rampone was happy to get back on the field. (ISI Photos/Brad Smith)

GotSoccer spoke to two players at opposite ends of their career arc with both club and country, Sky Blue FC veteran Christie Rampone and 23-year-old North Carolina Courage striker Lynn Williams and both sounded excited to get back on the field.

Not surprisingly long time U.S captain Rampone, a two-time World Cup winner, and three-time Olympic Gold Medalist was at ease with all the fuss while Williams was bubbling with excitement.

And why not? The rising star has been on quite a run since winning the NWSL Championship with the Western New York Flash in October. Since then Williams, winner of the NWSL Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer, has been crowned league MVP, made her full U.S. WNT debut, and scored her first international goal.

Oh, and her team, the Flash pulled up stakes in Western New York and moved to North Carolina and are now known as the North Carolina Courage.

So, if Rampone, a mother of two has seen it all, for Williams this is all new. Williams laughed when asked if all her recent success gets her recognized, before telling GotSoccer about her first celebrity moment.

“My boyfriend plays basketball in Nebraska and I went to one of his games and a little girl came up to me and I was like, what?” Williams relayed, her surprise still audible. “And I think that’s the first time time somebody’s ever recognized me; when I was just in a little town in Nebraska.”

While Rampone may have never had the high wattage fame of some of her better-known teammates from Mia Hamm to Abby Wambach to Alex Morgan the 41-year-old U.S. WNT legend remains one of the U.S. WNT’s most accomplished players with 311 national team caps.

Rampone stepped away from international play last season and on Thursday revealed that the national team will honor her brilliant career in March in her home state of New Jersey.

In a news making mood last Thursday at the A+E headquarters, Rampone revealed that “I think this will be the last summer” for her playing career. Rampone then let slip to a trio of reporters that the national team will be “celebrating it (her career) next month at Red Bull (Arena) at the SheBelieves game.”

Rampone seems happy to take the match in from the stands. “I don’t need to play,” the longtime U.S. WNT captain said, “I just want to go out and just celebrate the team in a great game against France.” (The U.S opponent at Red Bull Arena is England).

“I kind of went in quiet and I want to leave quiet. That’s just my personality and who I am,” Rapinoe said. One of the players Rapinoe will be likely be watching from the comfort of the stands is Williams, a player who did not begin her national team career quietly.

Lynn Williams (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Lynn Williams  in action against Romania in November, 2017. (ISI Photos/Bob Drebin)

Although Williams was not a regular in the national team youth ranks her breakout season in NWSL was rewarded with a call-up by U.S. WNT coach Jill Ellis and if Williams ever felt overlooked, she quickly put an end to that.

How quickly? Williams needed just 49 seconds to score her first U.S. goal after coming into a friendly at halftime versus Switzerland last October. Not that she is taking anything for granted.

“It’s different,” Williams told GotSoccer when asked about her rapid rise. “I think my life has gotten a little more hectic than I’ve ever had before but the national team is awesome.”

“I love playing there (with the national team) I’m just hoping to keep growing as a player, and hopefully solidify a spot on that team but,” Williams said, “we’ll see.”

So, while Williams strives to prove herself Rampone heads into her final season prepared to do whatever coach Christy Holly needs her to do. “I’m very open minded to the fact that I don’t have to play every minute of every game,” Rampone said.

“It’s the coach’s choice how many minutes I will play if I play at all,” the veteran conceded. “For me,” Rampone said, “it’s being able to help the youth, help the girls continue to grow and have this league grow because we want to stay on top of the world. We want to be the best team in the world and I think this is a great platform for all these players to come in and experience it and if I can help in any aspect I’m going to try and do that.”

Of course, Williams is one of those young players and perhaps as good an example as any of what NWSL can do for a player. The notion of being a “poster child” for the league brought a laugh from the player although Williams recovered to say, “I think it’s awesome.”

“I think the national team players bring so much to the league,” but Williams said echoing a theme on the day, “I also think there are so many great players in the league that just aren’t on the national team.”

“This league,” the Golden Boot winner stated, “has amazing players.” “I think in the past without this league if you weren’t through the national team pool you just kind of fell through the cracks.”

With NWSL entering it’s fifth year – unprecedented for a professional women’s soccer league in the U.S. – perhaps some of those cracks are being filled.

SheBelieves Cup

March 1, 2017
16:00
England v France
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 1, 2017
19:00
United States v Germany
Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pennsylvania
March 4, 2017
14:15
France v Germany
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 4, 2017
17:00
United States v England
Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey
March 7, 2017
16:00
Germany v England
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.
March 7, 2017
19:00
United States v France
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.

About Peter Nolan

Peter Nolan is a staff writer for the GotSoccer Magazine, covering MLS and other US leagues, He's GotSoccer's chief National Team Correspondent.
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