By Théoden Janes The Charlotte Observer
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Alyssa Naeher's twin has cheered her sister on from the stands at all seven of the United States' wins, including Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Netherlands that gave the Americans their fourth Women's World Cup title.
The Charlotte Observer
About a year-and-a-half ago, when Alyssa Naeher began consistently landing on the roster for the U.S. women's national soccer team as its goalkeeper, her NC-based twin sister began consistently padding her bank account.
"I was like, 'You know what? I'm just gonna start putting stuff aside, because if she makes this (2019 World Cup) roster, I'm going,' " said Amanda Naeher, 31, of Charlotte.
Her "France Fund" grew. The worst-case scenario, Amanda Naeher thought, would be a vacation. Best-case, of course, would be watching her sister play in the biggest soccer stage in the world, in person.
"It worked out great," Amanda Naeher said.
Probably even better than she expected.
The former Charlotte Eagles star has spent the past month in Europe while on her summer break from Charlotte Christian, where she has taught physical education to grades K-5 and coached the varsity girls' soccer team since 2011.
She has cheered her twin from the stands at all seven of the United States' wins, including Sunday's 2-0 victory over the Netherlands that gave the Americans their fourth Women's World Cup title.
Alyssa Naeher started all seven games and kept clean sheets in four of them.
As confetti covered the field Sunday, and teammates reveled inside Stade de Lyon in Decines-Charpieu, France, Alyssa Naeher jogged to where her sister and their parents were sitting (fourth row, right next to the bench).
Amanda Naeher tossed her the American flag she had brought to every game, gave her a hug, and said, "Hey, congrats, I love you, go enjoy it." Then Alyssa Naeher rejoined the on-field celebration draped in the flag her sister gave her.
And yet as special as that was, there were moments that were just as emotional, if not more so, for Amanda Naeher over the course of the Cup run. She spoke to the Charlotte Observer during a Facetime call, the day before she returned to the United States for the first time since June 9.
Q. Congratulations! I guess? I know you didn't actually play, but
A: I appreciate that. (Laughs.) I'm, we're super-stoked, yeah.
Q. So how did everyone celebrate?
A: U.S. Soccer hosted a big party last night at a venue where they had all the family and friends of all the players, and the players got to join us. It was just a big dance party. It was a huge celebration. The players have been cooped up inside for a long time, living the hotel life for the last month, so it was fun to see them get out and enjoy the moment.
Q. Well, before we get more into your experience over there, can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with Alyssa, but also with your younger sister Abigail, who I understand lives in Charlotte, too? (Abigail Korman and her husband, Matt Korman, moved to Charlotte in 2017, when Matt was hired as Charlotte Christian's head strength and conditioning coach.)
A: She does, yeah, and it's been fun over the last couple years specifically to grow in friendships with each other, and not just kind of feeling like we're stuck together because of being sisters. Growing up, Abigail was four years younger, and Alyssa and I being twins, Abigail would say she felt excluded a lot from the playing and all of that. So I think her moving to Charlotte has been, at least on my side, phenomenal for building a friendship as adults. We see each other three days a week, and go to church together, and spend dinner together, and she's got my little niece (Annette, age 16 months) and nephew (Judah, who recently turned 4).
And then with Alyssa, her and I, growing up, we were super-competitive with each other, and we were always doing sports, and we were always playing, and it kind of went from little kids playing all the time to college, where we were competing, but we were competing and were in different places. (Alyssa played at Penn State, Amanda at Division III powerhouse Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa.)
So as adults now, it's been fun to reconnect. She's got a room at my house whenever she needs it, and she loves our niece and nephew, and she loves coming back and just sitting and spoiling them and spending time with them. It's been really special to have kind of the three of us in the same city in the last two years. (Note: Amanda says Alyssa has come to stay in Charlotte for extended periods of time over the last two years, using the city as a home base when on breaks from the national team and from guarding the goal for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League.)
Q. Did Abigail play soccer, too?
A: She did not. She ran cross-country and played tennis, but she never did soccer. She did basketball for a little bit, too.
Q. Is Abigail over there in France with you?
A: She was here for about eight days, and then she had to go back. So they were here for the first-round knockout game (against Spain, on June 24), and then the quarterfinal against France (on June 28).
Q. So who have you been hanging with?
A: It's been a bit of a mix. My parents and I both flew out of New York together, and they have been here the whole time, too. And my dad was leading a trip from school, so the first 10 days I was floating in with that group. (Note: John Naeher is director of student life and operations at Christian Heritage, the Trumbull, Conn. school the three sisters attended growing up.) We just explored different parts of France. We were all the way up in Normandy, and then we were over by Paris for a couple days, and then I actually snuck over to Rome in the middle of that whole thing for two days.
The week that Abigail was here, we stayed at a country farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. ... I've actually spent more time here with the husbands and the siblings of the players. We've been here together at this point for two or three weeks all traveling together, so there's a fun little contingency of supporters for all of the girls.
Q. Tell me about the highlights of your trip as they pertain to soccer.
A: The first thing that comes to my mind is, I get chills even just thinking about it, the French game, the quarterfinal game. It was one of the coolest soccer environments I have ever experienced in my life. I don't know what it was like to watch on television, but in the stadium with 45,000 people, and the way that they cheer and support and yell the whole time ... the energy of that game was just unreal. Our girls played so hard, they played so hard. Our fans were excited, their fans were excited. I mean, it was just loud. Loud.
And the semifinal game (the 2-1 win over England) was equally incredible. In the first half of that game, Alyssa made an unbelievable save. She dove out and stretched out to her left, and it's the one that no one's really talking about because of the PK (penalty kick save) that happened later. But in my opinion, that one in the first half was even bigger. ...
I jumped up and punched, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, that was incredible!" But I almost sat down because no one else was really cheering, I was like, maybe it wasn't that big of a deal.