INDIANAPOLIS – Although the National Women's Soccer League's college draft was conducted without much fanfare, there were a few U.S. national team players on hand to lend a little bit of buzz to the occasion.
One of them was midfielder Lauren Cheney, who as many of you has deep ties to Philadelphia. She and 76ers guard Jrue Holiday have been in a relationship since their days at UCLA, and last summer they got engaged.
I spent a few minutes talking with Cheney about what she has been up to since last summer's Olympics, both on and off the field.
What have you made of the NWSL so far?
Right now, I think things are looking up. Obviously, a successful draft is promising for us, and we're excited to get it started.
What does it mean to you to have a professional women's league in this country again? When everyone came together for the WPS draft last year, things looked good, but everything just collapsed all of a sudden. So what does it mean to have a league again, and to have it structured in a way that includes direct financial support from the national federations in the U.S., Canad and Mexico?
I think that's going to be the difference, [that] the other federations and U.S. Soccer - obviously, U.S. Soccer being the biggest - are supporting it. I think that's going to be the glue we need to keep this league sticking together.
Having a league in the United States, and growing the sport - a women's sport - in the United States is huge for me, and I'm excited about it.
How much does it mean to you that financially, U.S. Soccer has you taken care of? You must feel a lot more secure not having to rely on club teams to stay in business.
I think that the Federation being willing to support us and put that money behind us has been the difference.
You are going to be playing for FC Kansas City. Talk about what it means to be heading there, especially since that part of the midwest has become a real soccer hotbed in recent years.
Kansas City is a real sports town. Sporting KC has been awesome. The fan support is one of the best in MLS and we're excited to have it grow with the NWSL. Hopefully they support us in the same way.
Have you talked to new U.S. women's national team coach Tom Sermanni yet? What do you think of him?
Tom has been awesome to talk to. We haven't heard his coaching or seen his style yet, but from having conversations with him, I think he's going to fit in with our team really well.
You've played against his Australia teams a few times. What have you seen from those games that you think he might bring to the U.S.?
He has transformed Australia's program and made them competitive in the world. So we're excited. I think I even asked him, "Did you hate playing against us?" I'm excited to see what changes he brings to the U.S.
The last time we talked was at the pre-Olympic training camp last year at Princeton. You didn't have that engagement ring on your finger yet. I know it happened later that summer. Talk about what life has been like for you and Jrue since then.
Being engaged has been awesome. Obviously, planning a wedding is not quite my thing, but knowing that I'm going to be with him for the rest of my life has been quite a cool feeling.
I suppose there's not really an easy way to ask this question, but Kansas City doesn't have a NBA team. And there isn't much overlap between the NBA and NWSL seasons. Still, how much do you think you'll see Jrue once the NWSL season starts?
Oh, I think he'll come out there during his offseason. Jrue can train anywhere, he can find a place or his people can come with him to train. So he'll definitely be in Kansas City. He's actually pretty excited about it, which I was a little nervous about.
This next question is one that I've asked you before, but it's a subject that continues to interest me, so I'd like to talk about it some more. You've told me in the past that the way you see soccer as a playmaking midfielder and the way Jrue sees basketball as a point guard have some philosophical similarities.
Would you mind talking some more about why you think that? People who follow both sports can probably see what you're talking about, but those who follow one and perhaps just casually follow the other might not.
I think [the biggest] similarity is that our job is to make people around us look good. Jrue does a great job of finding his teammates and putting them in the best positions to score, and I like to believe that's my best strength too. I'm able to playmake, that I'm able to start things from the midfield or find Alex Morgan with the ball and combine to make things happen.
I think that's where things are similar between a midfielder and a point guard. You're running the offense. You're able to make plays happen.
You've played a lot of positions for club and country, but is the No. 10 role the one you really want?
Yeah. I do like the No. 10 position. I think that fit me well and I would be excited to play consistently there.
What's it like playing with Carli Lloyd. You two have some similar abilities and are both at your best when you're in attacking roles. But it works very well when you are together on the field at the same time. What's the key to that?
Carli is such a phenomenal player. We're both offensive-minded, so I think sometimes people think that gets in the way, but I don't think you can underestimate her defensive presence anymore either. She has done a great job of figuring that out.
It's fun to play with Carli. I know she's looking to combine and I know what she's looking for, and I know that every single time, she's looking to attack. That gives you confidence playing next to her.