Two weeks ago, we profiled legendary goalkeeper Briana Scurry and talked about her life and career. Today we’re sharing a Q&A from our interview with Scurry, which is all about her thoughts on the U.S. women’s national team, Black players on the USWNT, and what it takes to become a player who becomes a player who gets to consistent call ups.
Bria Felicien: What does it take to become someone consistent with the U.S. soccer national team? Is there something like mentally, physically? Is it just opportunity?
Scurry: A lot of players come in the national team camp, and they just cannot adjust to the speed, the pace, the skill-sets, the mentality, the rigor of it. I mean, you really have to be committed. And I think the mentality is the thing. I mean, you have to be able to push yourself and have a great camp, not just a great day, or a great session, or a great couple of days. I mean, you have to come in and be, like a little bit brighter of a light than all the lights that are so bright already. And it's hard.
And how do you do that? When you're on a 4v4 team, for example, and your team isn't the best team. Are you still the shining light on that team? Even if that team doesn't win? When you're on a 4v4 team for the next game, the next day, the next session? And different players? Are you still that shining bright player on that team? Or if you're on the best 4v4 team? Do you shrink down and let a senior player take the bigger role? Or do you grab it and you express yourself like that? It's like that intangible thing that you can see in a person. And if they don't do that, that's often the player that gets invited once or twice and they don't get invited back because it's a high bar.
BF: Who has the intangibles?
Scurry: Crystal Dunn is a great example. She not only, she got cut from the team right before 2015, and that team went on to win. But when she got cut she went on and had a phenomenal league season. She could have very easily just been like, withdrawn and upset and you know and angry and like just pouting. But no, what does she do? She ratcheted up the intensity and it was like, “I'm going to tear this up. What do I gotta do to get on that team? I’m gonna tear this up.” And so she does that. How does she do that? She does that with determination and her skillset, and literally probably took her anger and channeled it in the positive way that benefited her. But she did that in a position up front.
And then the national team says, “Hey, we like you! Come on, play back!” She was probably like, “What? Did you not just see what I did up front? That just tore this entire league up? And you want me to play back.” But guess what, a couple years later, she is the lockdown back in the world, like you cannot score on her. She is the best at that position on Earth, for women's soccer, right now. How did she do that? She basically said, “Okay, I'm going to take this inch, and I'm going to rip it open and turn it into six inches, turn it into a foot, turn it and I'm going to once I get through that door, I am going to bull-in-a-china shop this entire thing, and you are not going to be able to ignore me.
BF: I was looking at the Netherlands camp roster. Midge Purce switched for the national team going to the back. I know there’s Lynn (Williams), Christen (Press), there’s a lot of different people getting called up more and more. What are your thoughts on that, especially when you were a member of the team when the sport was not as diverse?
Scurry: That’s so interesting to hear you say that, because I’m thrilled that there’s more players of color but I did notice he’s got Midge in the back now. But there are also some other interesting choices on there that, you know, one unfortunate one is Mal Pugh. That situation is kind of the opposite of what we’re talking about right? Like for whatever reason. She was the heir apparent to Mia Hamm, like there were no if ands or buts about it, or the heir apparent to Alex Morgan or whomever you want to say, and she got the opportunity. And I’ve seen her because when I was coaching the Spirit here in 2018 she was on the team and it’s there. Like the skill set, the ability, the talent, all of that is right there in her but for whatever reason, you know, I mean, when the light shines on her you are just like “argggh.”
Like you see it sometimes and sometimes you don’t, and you’re like wondering what’s going on there. Is she in the wrong position? You know what I’m saying? And it’s hard to know what it is, is it mental? Is it physical? Because it’s not physical, it’s not her skill set. Her skill set is on point. It’s like, what is going on that she just can’t seem to string it together. You know, and Crystal was able to string it together, I was able to string it together, I think Lynn Williams is going to be able to string it together.
BF: What about the way she plays makes you say that?
Scurry: I mean, Lynn Williams, when you see her and the way she goes about things and the ease, I mean, she’s like Whitney Houston on the soccer field. Singing those high notes with barely any effort, it just comes out of her. She is an absolutely unstoppable force if she can just stay that way, because she’s so fast, she’s so skilled, she’s good in the air, she’s got a great hit. She’s super intelligent on how to run, when to run, when not to run, the angles of running like she intellectually, physically, mentally has it all there for herself.
And I hope Vlatko gives her a chance because she could be, you put her and Alex Morgan on the pitch at the same time, forget it. There’s not gonna be a defense that can hold that, and then you put Crystal in there too. I mean, the three of them up front, that’s what I would do if I were him. The three of them up front and then let us outscore the heck out of everybody. I’d really like to see Lynn Williams do some stuff because I tell you what, what a talent.
BF:Do you feel, at least in American soccer, do you think the road is more difficult for girls of color? Or do you think it's just the opportunity that's missing?
Scurry: I think it's both the road is more difficult and opportunity's missing. So soccer in America is predicated on two things: geography and economy. So if you have the money, like soccer in America playing on the bigger clubs to even be seen, to get the proper skills and coaching, you have to come out of pocket in a way that is absurd, to be honest. The African American players of color, who have made the national team or club teams are most likely either one of two things: their families either had money, or they were in the suburbs. If they didn't have a lot of money or were in the urban areas, their child probably, you may have been a great soccer player potentially but you’d never know. Because you have to be in the area where, and so I think that's a barrier because that's not the case in other countries.
My daughter, 17, she plays volleyball. Not right now because of Covid, but before this? $4,000 to play a season of volleyball club, that is absolutely ridiculous. That's volleyball, soccer is similar. All these sports are paid to play now. And if you don't have the money, you don't have the access. It's really that simple.
BF: What Black players from the history of the national team or that kind of came and maybe didn't have like the long standing position do you wish more people talked about?
Scurry: Well, Jess McDonald is a great example. I think I fear that her window might be closing. I'm not sure how Vlatko feels about her. She's not on that (Netherlands) roster. Can you imagine Lynn Williams, Jess McDonald, Alex Morgan? Come on. I don't know. Maybe I should coach. I don't know, because I see it.
BF: You should, there aren’t a lot of Black coaches!
Scurry: She’s one player I would say. I was worried a little bit about Christen Press. But I think she's able to get a hold of it now. Um, let's see. Who else. I think that's it recently. Is there anyone you can think of?
BF - Well, I'm obviously a big Casey Short fan, but I have total bias there. Because her and Lynn Williams were like, when I told you I really liked soccer, but I didn't love soccer until 2017. Like trying to go to games and stuff. And they were the first two players that I started following. I kid you not, I was like, “oh, there's Black girls.”
Scurry: See? That’s what I mean!
BF: Because even the 2015 roster was like, I hadn't seen a darker brown girl.
Scurry: The diversity on the 2015 team was sexual orientation. Like there were more gay girls on that team than ever before. But there wasn't more Black girls on that team. When I say that, I mean a Black player that has a core position on the team. Like there's been Black players on rosters along you know, Thori Staples is a great example. Staci Wilson. But with longevity and consistent play, it was me and now it's Crystal and Press in there. Not a lot and you know, Shannon Boxx in there for a while too. But in terms of players who played and you know, in major tournaments had starting positions for more than a minute, you know what I mean? Didn't come off the bench and play 10 minutes and then not play again or, you know, the players that had solid positions and were foundational on the team. It's very few and far between. It's literally a handful.
BF: Did Sydney Leroux play, like was she a starter?
Scurry: Oh, that’s another one, that’s a great example. She’s a great example of someone – I don’t know what happened there. I mean, she made that transition from, I feel like there was a thing where she could have gone through the Canada team or playing on the USA team, something like that I forget when that was. And I feel like she had amazing talent too, but once again just didn’t get the opportunity, or didn’t feel like she really maybe fit in. That’s another great interview, she’d be a fantastic interview for you too if you can get her because she’s done incredibly well for herself. Talk about someone who knows how to work social media, my goodness. She is on point with her social. She had a decent run on the team, should’ve been able to do more. She got pregnant, she had a child, came back and she’s making her way on her club team now, and I still think she’s got amazing talent that she should be given another chance.