Christine Nairn, an Annapolis, Maryland, native, is no stranger to the Maryland SoccerPlex – the place she calls home on Saturday evenings. She not only grew up watching her brothers play there, but she herself played there as a youth player before going to Penn State and then being drafted by the Seattle Reign. She made her way back home two years ago, and I was lucky enough to catch up with her after training this week.
Backline Soccer (BS): With the sell out this Saturday, as one of three “hometown girls” on the team and having watched your brothers play here, how does it make you feel to see the growth and support for this team?
Christine Nairn (CN): It’s awesome for the growth of the game, like you said I’ve grown up playing here since I was like nine or ten or even younger going to watch my brothers play. For it to come full circle and to play in front of family and friends and former coaches, it’s a testament to this organization, to women’s soccer in general, to invest in the young players, the homegrown players as they call it around the US. We’re excited for the sell out and hopefully it’s the first of many for this year.
BS: With bringing in more help for Crystal Dunn up front, how does that help your play in the midfield, knowing you have a little bit more than last year where it was pretty much just Dunn over the top, knowing you have a little more space to work with?
CN: Crystal will always be one of the main targets for our team, I think she’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s shown why she was the MVP of the league last year and she carried us on her back the whole season. Crystal’s in a little different of a role this year, she’s getting in a little different spots on the field, different positions, so she’s still getting used to that. We’re still learning each other’s tendencies, the good thing about this team is that I don’t think we’ve reached our potential yet, each game we just focus on getting a little bit better than last game. I think, as we get better as a team, it won’t be the Crystal Dunn Show anymore, as much as it was fun to watch that show – if she wants to score 17 goals this year, by all means she can do it again, we wouldn’t hate that – but the more people zero in on Crystal, the more people are open, whether that’s on the outside, me in the midfield, or anywhere. Like Krieger said before, the depth of this team is so special, I think that even when the National Team girls are gone we have young players who have gotten minutes early on in the season and can step up and perform.
BS: Playing in the W-League the last two offseasons, what are some differences you’ve seen between the two leagues?
CN: Australia is so fun and every time someone asks about the Australian league, all the players have a smile on their face, it’s just an awesome time to go to Australia and play. To keep fresh and clean on the ball and continue to stay fight is a positive of that and it works well with our season. It’s still growing as a league and Australian soccer is getting bigger and bigger each year, I think that’s because the Matildas are getting better and better each year. I think they’re another force to be reckoned with this Olympic year, they’re going to be a dark horse team many teams might count them out. If you’ve seen the way they’ve been playing…
BS: They blew through qualifying.
CN: Yeah, they blew through qualifying and really gave the US a test in the World Cup last year and I think they’re going to surprise a lot of teams in the Olympics. If they can continue to produce and put on a game and attract more people, I think the W-League will continue to improve each and every year and I think that’s super important for their country as a sport and for their National Team for years to come.
BS: Going into week nine, how do you feel the tone within the team has changed or grown since week one and the outlook going forward?
CN: It’s probably gotten a little bit better with each and every day, like I said getting more comfortable with our starters and our players coming off the bench, getting into our roles and really embracing them. Never being satisfied. If I’m not starting, I’m going to accept my role, but I’m not going to be happy about it. I’m going to continue to push my teammates because I want what’s best for them and what’s best for this team is what’s best for me. If we can continue to push each other and get better each and every day, the sky’s the limit. One thing that I think that has stayed the same is our standard, we hold ourselves to such a high standard here, whether that’s Krieger getting on us or Crystal or D or Shelina or any of the Canadians. They keep the standard so high and say “it’s not good enough” and when those players leave, our main National Team players leave, there are other players stepping up and going into those roles. If we can keep that standard throughout the year I think we’ll be fine for the year and continue to get three points on the road and at home.
BS: Okay, hardest question I’m going to ask you, I’m a Penn State fan, what is your favorite creamery flavor?
CN: Peachy Paterno, with blue and white sprinkles. On my visit there, I ordered rainbow sprinkles and they corrected me like, “we only have blue and white sprinkles” and I was like, “Okay, sorry.” From that moment on I was like “Peachy Paterno – blue and white sprinkles.”
BS: You can actually order it online, they have coolers that you can put five half gallons in and a larger cooler.
CN: I didn’t know you could order it online, that’s determination. If there is one school that would ship their ice cream, it would be Penn State.