Normally at this time of year, Alyssa Naeher is busy ramping-up for the upcoming Chicago Red Stars season. But this year, with the goalie's soccer career on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, things are vastly different.
"It’s a very different type of feeling at the moment," Naeher said via Skype. "This is usually the time of year that we’re in preseason getting ready for the league to start up and kind of getting into fitness and everything like that, and now everything is kind of put on hold."
The Connecticut native has been a member of the Red Stars since 2016 and was looking forward to the start of the National Women's Soccer League season, which was scheduled to kick off on April 18. Now the season has been delayed, which means the Red Stars' attempt to avenge their loss in last season's championship match is delayed too.
"That disappointment is real and that sits with you throughout a whole off-season," said Naeher. "So to have this off-season extended a little bit more, it’s just kind of fueling that fire a little bit to get back on the field with my teammates, put hopefully a good run together, and end up back in that championship game this year," she added.
Naeher was also slated to be the starting goalie for the U.S. Women's National Team at this summer's Olympics in Tokyo. She was looking forward to getting her shot to win gold after helping Team USA capture the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup. Late last month, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) announced the 2020 Olympics would be pushed back to the summer of 2021.
"It was just disappointing," Naeher admitted. "We had our World Cup run last summer, which was incredible. We wanted to build off that, we wanted to feed off that ... we were getting ready to make this run through Tokyo."
Despite the disappointment she'll have to wait another year to compete in Tokyo, Naeher fully supports the IOC's decision to delay the Games.
"I absolutely think it was the right decision to postpone it," said Naeher. "There’s obviously bigger things going on in the world, and the health and safety of not only the athletes, but all the fans that would have wanted to be there and experience an Olympic Games as well -- [it] just didn’t make sense," she added.
Naeher's Olympic dream will have to wait, but once the time comes, she hopes to play a small role in uniting the world after an unsettling time in its history.
"Fortunately we still have next summer to look forward to, and hopefully Tokyo in 2021 can be a good way to bring the world back together in the celebration and competition," she said.