Reign FC midfielder Allie Long takes pride in doing the gritty work of keeping a clean sheet, even though she knows that players in her position rarely get the glory. Now, Long looks to play a similar role in her upcoming time with the U.S. Women’s National Team in hopes of earning a place on the 23-player roster heading to France for the Women’s World Cup in June.
Called in by U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis for a pair of April friendlies, Long hopes to prove that she can contribute to the national team’s search for a fourth World Cup title.
“I’m so grateful to Jill and U.S. Soccer for the opportunity,” Long said. “I was very emotional when I heard about it. The World Cup has been a dream of mine for my whole life. To be where I’m at right now, I feel that I’ve never been more ready.”
Forwards and wingers get the praise for goals, keepers and back lines earn ovations for clean sheets, but a defensive midfielder like Long—or the “six,” as the position is traditionally called—often have a thankless job. Whether for club or country, that suits Long just fine.
“Winning, getting a shutout, that’s all I care about at the end of the day,” Long said, smiling.
Long had a difficult end to 2018. A partial tear of her posterior cruciate ligament in August limited her effectiveness in the club’s final matches of the NWSL season and rehab kept her from being able to make the most of her offseason. After months of recovery, however, Long is now fully fit and ready to compete for a spot on the plane.
“I’ll do whatever it takes,” Long said. “I’m going to give every ounce of who I am as a player and I’m going to leave camp knowing I left it all out there. That’s my mentality. I’m going to do the best I possibly can and have no regrets.”
Among her teammates, Long is respected for her expertise of the game’s nuances and her on-field leadership.
“Last year I was so excited when I heard that she was coming to the Reign,” said defender Lauren Barnes. “She’s been such a great leader for us. With her experience and how she carries herself, she’s really grabbed us all and helped us get to where we are today.
“I think she’s the heartbeat of the Reign through the middle. She calms the game down, her passing percentage is always one of the highest in the team. She’s been so great for us. Her experience is huge. She’s able to direct us and keep up all on the same page. Whether we’re up or down in a game and the game is going our way or it’s not, we always look to Allie because she’s able to help us solve it on the field, which I think a lot of people on the outside might not see.”
Fellow national team player Megan Rapinoe thinks Long’s skill set will be a boon to the national team.
“She offers something different than any other midfielder we have,” Rapinoe said. “She’s a low-lying holding player. She’s very good on the ball, very good in tight spaces. Great vision on the field, she’s a great passer. Especially since more teams are going to sit back on us, I think she can be the key to unlocking those defenses.”
Long knows that her April call-up is an opportunity, not a guarantee. For a the two-time NWSL champion chasing her dreams of playing in a World Cup, however, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m so excited for the opportunity,” Long said. “I love being in a competitive environment. I love being in camp. I’m excited. I’m ready to compete. I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”