Jess Fishlock column: On the road and out of my comfort zone

 

In her second column for BBC Sport Wales, Wales Women's captain Jess Fishlock reflects on a "tough" start as a professional footballer in the US.

For the first 20 minutes I wasn't sure what had hit me.

My debut for Seattle Reign in the new National Women's Soccer League was away to Chicago in April and I spent most of the first half trying to figure out what was going on.

Fast and furious - it was certainly a baptism of fire. I knew the pace would be faster than what I was used to but the difference certainly took me by surprise.

Considering it was the team's first competitive game, we were pleased to come away with a point.

It's very difficult to throw a squad together and expect everyone to click immediately when you've got some many different personalities from all over the world. We need time to gel together.

Scoring in my second game was definitely a huge confidence boost, especially as it came against Portland. There's already a massively rivalry between us and them.

Seattle's shaky start

  • Chicago Red Stars 1-1 Seattle Reign
  • Portland Thorns 2-1 Seattle Reign
  • FC Kansas City 2-0 Seattle Reign
  • Seattle Reign 0-1 FC Kansas City
  • Sky Blues FC 2-0 Seattle Reign

The game was played in front of a packed out stadium of 17,000 fans. It had that Superbowl feel where the fans are breathing down on you. There was lot of noise and interaction with the crowd.

It was one of the best experiences I've ever had, and it was topped off by being named the league's player of the week by the media.

We certainly didn't deserve to lose that game, and it's been a bit of struggle since then.

We started the season with three consecutive away games and spent a lot of time on the road. I say the road, but obviously we fly everywhere because of the vast distances we have to travel. Our third game at Kansas City was almost a 4,000-mile round trip.

The travelling has certainly been mentally and physically draining. It's not the best preparation but it will all even itself out by the end of the season.

It was great to finally play at home for the first time, even though a 1-0 defeat to Kansas was not the result we were looking for. But the fans - almost 3,000 of them - created a great atmosphere.

National Women's Soccer League

Pld Won Pts

* Correct at 16 May 2013

Portland

5

4

13

Sky Blues

5

3

10

Boston

4

2

8

WNY Flash

5

2

7

Kansas City

4

2

7

Washington

5

0

3

Chicago

5

0

2

Seattle

5

0

1

People love the game over here and I'm sure it won't be long before establish a strong fanbase. The product is good enough and I'm confident the fans will keep on coming and bring some new fans with them.

Picking up one point from the first five games means it's been a rough start for us. But we will click and I wouldn't be surprised if we go on a 10-game winning streak and shoot up the league. We're at home for the next five games now so it's certainly possible.

There's no denying it's been tougher than I expected. If you take more than two touches in this league, you'll probably lose the ball.

But this is the perfect environment to improve as a player and that's why I moved here. I'm out of my comfort zone and I'll be tested. I'm definitely up for that challenge.

I'm living with two Canadian players on our team and two Olympians - Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer - which is a joyous experience. They are definitely two of a kind and have made my life a lot easier since moving here.

Seattle is just a fantastic city, certainly one of the nicest cities I've ever been to. It's just a shame I haven't been able to see much of it. A rest day is exactly that - you're so exhausted after playing, training and travelling that all you want to do is rest.

But with these home games coming up, I'll hopefully have more time to explore the city.

It was a great honour to be nominated for the first Professional Footballers' Association Women's Player of the Year award but I'd like to congratulate Kim Little on winning. She is a fantastic player and a totally deserving winner.

I'll be back in Wales in June for our two friendlies in Slovakia to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers, which start in September.

We've been drawn in the same group as England so I'm really looking forward to meet up with squad to start preparing for that. Hopefully I'll have a few wins under my belt with Seattle by then.

Jess Fishlock was speaking to BBC Wales Sport's Dewi Hughes