Current member of the U.S. Women’s National Team Becky Sauerbrunn has signed with D.C. United Women for the 2012 season, as the club adds star power and a world-class defender to its roster.
“Becky is a gifted player; tenacious, hard-working, and a great personality. All things any team could want on the field, as well as representing their organization,” said team owner Bill Lynch. “We’ll cheer harder than anyone for her at the Olympics this summer, but are thrilled to have her here with us when we can.”
Sauerbrunn, 26, is the fifth announced player to sign on with the Black-and-Red for 2012, and will be eligible as soon as final contracts are approved by the U.S. Soccer Federation. She joins Marisa Abegg and Jerica DeWolfe as the third member of the back four. She is best known for cracking the U.S. starting lineup in last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final win over France, where she helped anchor a defense that held the world’s sixth-ranked team to one goal on seven on-target shots.
“I initially didn’t think I would be a part of it,” said Sauerbrunn on her World Cup experience. “I was a last second add-on and went in not really expecting anything. But then, to make the roster and be a part of a team that did something so special, it was a great summer.”
Sauerbrunn has been anchoring dominant defenses her entire career, dating back to her days at the University of Virginia where she played from 2003-2007. While at Virginia, she was named 2007 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a three-time NSCAA All-American. In her senior season, she was the catalyst for a back four that set a school record with 15 shutouts and held its opponents to a minuscule .4 goals per game.
Virginia head coach Steve Swanson has followed Sauerbrunn’s career since she graduated in ’07, and said she is one of the toughest players he has ever been around.
“She had a real competitive spirit, a real desire to excel, and a work ethic like no other,” said Swanson on his one-time recruit. “She deserves all the credit for everything she’s accomplished and she works harder than almost any other player I’ve ever coached.”
Sauerbrunn is not only a hard worker, but an extremely durable athlete. While at UVA, she never missed a match due to injury and was on the pitch for all but ten minutes of her collegiate career. She was drafted by the Washington Freedom with the third overall pick of the 2008 WPS General Draft, and over the next two seasons played every minute of all 44 of the club’s matches both in Washington and when the team was purchased, re-named, and relocated to Boca Raton, Fla. prior to the 2011 season.
“There are things that are out of your control, so I think part of it’s luck,” said Sauerbrunn on her durability. “But the other part is that I prepare. I train hard, I take care of my body and I try to make the right choices. Staying healthy has been a combination of luck and preparation.”
Her time with the U.S. national team began in 2008 when she made the senior team for the first time and started in a match against Canada. Her stint as a starter was cut short, however, because she suffered a broken nose in her first game. She made the U.S. roster again in 2010, and played in five games, including three starts during the qualifying round of the Women’s World Cup.
In addition to high praises for her work ethic and toughness, Swanson said that Sauerbrunn is also one of the most technically sound defenders in the country.
“She’s got a sixth sense for where to be defensively,” continued Swanson. “She’s exceptional at positioning herself and she knows where the ball’s going to be even before the attackers do. She also has great ball skills, great vision and an exceptional touch. She can handle the ball extremely well too, and I think a lot of youth players need to watch her to emulate the skills that she has.”
Sauerbrunn, originally from St. Louis, comes to United Women from her last club team, Sky Blue FC, with whom she never played a match for due to the league suspending operations. She said she is happy to be back in D.C. with women she has been playing with or against since her college days, and hopes to help United Women however she can on the pitch regardless of what position she’s playing.
“I think I can bring what I brought to the national team, which is sort of a calming influence,” said Sauerbrunn. “I’m not the strongest or the fastest but I feel like I can read the team well and I can help control the tempo.”
Sauerbrunn will be in and out of National Team camps during the run-up to the London Olympics, but will train and play with United when she’s available. Several of her teammates on the US team have signed in a similar fashion for Seattle Sounders Women – also of the W-League. The likes of Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leroux have already packed Seattle’s stadium with over 4,000 fans in pre-season exhibition games, and D.C. United Women hope for a similar response from fans this season at their Maryland SoccerPlex home stadium.
Fans’ first chance to see United Women this season comes this Saturday, April 21, when they take on Maryland in the Headers For Hope charity exhibition at the SoccerPlex, kickoff at 6:30 p.m. United will include a free Headers For Hope day pass for anyone purchasing a VIP season ticket plan prior to Saturday’s game. Fans can purchase separately through www.headerforhope.org, or at the stadium on game day. A $10 day pass covers the United versus Maryland marquee match, as well as six other games earlier in the day between top college teams, a local Maryland amateur team, and two-time WPS Coach of the Year Paul Riley’s “Women’s Professional SUPERGROUP”
D.C. United Women open their season May 12th at the SoccerPlex with an exhibition against former WPS side Boston Breakers, kickoff at 6:00 p.m. Their official W-League season opener comes just a week later against Virginia Beach Piranhas on Saturday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m.
Fans can order tickets at dcunitedwomen.com/tickets or visit D.C. United Women’s website at dcunitedwomen.com for more information.