By Benjamin Hochman St. Louis Post-Dispatch
What’s cool about this story is that so many women have the same story. It was a shared experience that links strangers, even 17 years later.
There was 14-year-old Becky Sauerbrunn, in her living room with her dad, while mom “was not in the room … she was probably walking around nervously. To this day, she gets really nervous about penalty kicks.”
July 10, 1999. You know the story. Brandi Chastain nets the World Cup-winning penalty kick. America exalts. And thousands of young girls, watching the game on national television, see sports as inspiring and empowering.
The minor difference between the thousands of young girls and Sauerbrunn was, well, most girls wanted to be like players on the national team — while Sauerbrunn wanted to be on the national team.
“That was the moment for me that I was all-in,” said Sauerbrunn, the St. Louisan who was on the next U.S. Team to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a summer ago. “I was going to do anything and dedicate and sacrifice whatever I needed to do, in order to be on that team — to make the World Cup and win a World Cup. I almost got that in 2011, but we lost in the final, so to do that in 2015, it’s hard to explain – it’s been a while since we won and I still can’t really put my arms around it. But it’s amazing to carry that journey.”
Her next conquest is Rio. The Ladue High School grad is an expected member of the U.S. Olympic team in Brazil. And she’s been tapped as a member of “Team Budweiser.” Sauerbrunn is one of six Olympians and Paralympians who will be heavily featured and promoted by the beer company.
“Two things that got their start in St. Louis,” Sauerbrunn said. “At the Olympics, I’m representing the United States, as well as the town and people who helped shape me. … St. Louis has a super-rich history of soccer, so I was very fortunate growing up to have coaches that played.”
The 30-year-old defender won gold in the 2012 Olympics and plays professionally for Kansas City in the NWSL. Though the U.S. Team hasn’t been named yet, the co-captain with a bunch of caps will probably make the cut. And her soccer upbringing is not unlike many reading this right now.
“Every weekend I’d go and watch the St. Louis Storm or Ambush professional indoor team play,” Sauerbrunn said. “I actually got my start playing indoor soccer with the boys, a bunch of boys I played with. We eventually became a club team and then essentially got to the point where I couldn’t be a girl on the boys team, so I switched over to J. B. Marine.”
She said she doesn’t make it back home as much as she’d like, but she forever looks forward to running the path around Forest Park. As for her collaboration with Budweiser, she will be part of a 225-foot mural in New York and featured in digital brand content, leading up to the Olympics, which begin August 5th.
As for the latest on the U.S. National team, Sauerbrunn explained: “Soccer is always changing and evolving, and I think our national team has had to change with the times. We had a bunch of players who retired who were core veterans. And we have players that are injured, or pregnant, so we kind of have a new identity with our team right now.
“We have core veterans, but we also have this injection of youth, that’s making for this amazing combination of play. I think with the results we’ve had this year alone, it’s working. It’s fun that we’re kind of changing up our style, because I don’t think teams really don’t know what to expect from us now, because we’ve added on to our game.”