The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Soccer League

By Eric McHugh The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Despite the Coronavirus, the Mewis sisters say they are ready to get back on the field. Sam is a midfielder for the two-time defending league champion North Carolina Courage while Kristie is a midfielder for the Houston Dash.

Quincy

Sam Mewis has won a lot -- three National Women's Soccer League titles, plus that World Cup crown last summer in France with the U.S. National Team.

You might remember that last one.

It got a fair amount of attention.

It's also a year in the past. And since everything in the world pre-2020 seems like it happened a century ago on another planet, it's understandable that the World Cup buzz is starting to fade for the former Whitman-Hanson High standout.

"No, it never gets old," Mewis says of winning, "but there's a moment of relief and satisfaction right when you win and then so quickly it's gone and you have to start working toward the next thing. The World Cup was happening right around now a year ago, so I'm seeing a lot of pictures and stuff (on social media), and it's so fun to remember it, but it seems like it was a lifetime ago.

"I don't have that sense of relief anymore. I'm already like, I need to do this again. It's a fleeting satisfaction. I hope that maybe when I'm older and I'm done playing that I can really bask in it, but not right now."

Right now it's time -- finally -- for both Mewis sisters to get back to work.

Sam, 27, is a stalwart on the national team. Kristie, 29, is determined to get back into the U.S. mix after the setback of a 2018 ACL tear. Both will soon head off to a sports bubble in Utah, where the nine-team NWSL, in lieu of a regular season, will conduct a month-long, 25-game Challenge Cup tournament.

The NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer and WNBA all will launch similar, coronavirus-inspired efforts later this summer -- bringing their clubs to one or two locations to play in empty stadiums -- but the NWSL will go first, kicking off with a doubleheader on June 27. That makes the Mewis sisters -- Sam is a midfielder for the two-time defending league champion North Carolina Courage; Kristie is a midfielder for the Houston Dash -- trailblazers of sorts.

"Yeah, I definitely like that," Sam said. "I feel like this league is trailblazing in a lot of ways. I'm excited that we have this opportunity to be the first major (American) sports league back. To have that exposure and that opportunity to get a lot of eyes on the games before there are any other (live) sports to watch I hope is going to be good for the league."

"It's really great," Kristie agreed. "It's definitely a plus for us that we have fewer teams, so that's fewer people involved. I think everything's being handled professionally, and I do feel safe going there. We've had endless talks about how it's going to be organized, how safe it's going to be, what the testing situation is."

Speaking of those probe-up-the-nose COVID-19 tests, Kristie is not a fan.

"It is not fun," she said. "The first one I got was so shockingly painful for me that I was kicking and screaming. My second and third ones were more bearable."

Enduring multiple tests is the price all NWSL players will have to pay for resuming their careers. That and probably some boredom since the league will have strict social-distancing policies in place in Utah so as to not spread potential illnesses.

Sam noted that at the World Cup last summer she had a lot of freedom -- to wander off to get coffee or see her family. There will be none of that this time. No family members other than the small children of the league's few moms (and their caregivers) will accompany the players to Utah.

Sam's husband Pat will be back home in Boston, so she figures "bringing a lot of books" will be smart. "I'm going to have to come up with a little project if I'm going to by myself all day. We'll have to see."

As for Kristie, "Sam's the reader," she said with a laugh. "I'm probably going to bring my iPad and download every single show on Netflix, every single reality TV show."

Kristie long ago binged "Tiger King" -- she votes for casting Matthew McConaughey as Joe Exotic in the inevitable Hollywood version -- but if she has to rewatch Carole Baskin & Friends on an endless loop to pass the time in a Utah hotel room she's willing to pay that price.

"It's going to be exciting just to be there, just getting out of Houston and being in a competitive environment," she said. "It's not even going to matter how much downtime we have. We're just excited to have these games."

Sibling rivalry Each NWSL team will play four games in the round-robin portion of the Challenge Cup. A quick check of the schedule shows that the Dash's first game will be July 1 against ... the Courage.

So, sister vs. sister.

A scouting report on Sam Mewis, provided by Kristie Mewis: "She is probably the player you don't want to have the ball. We're going to try to keep her away from the ball as much as possible. She's obviously a huge physical presence (at 5-10), so she's going to win a lot of the first balls. I think it's important for us to win the second balls. She's got a hell of a shot. She can shoot from anywhere outside of the 18, so we need to be aware of that."

A scouting report on Kristie Mewis, provided by Sam Mewis: "She's always been so versatile, but her big skill, the thing that everybody talks about, is her left foot. She's always had such great vision to find the right space and then either set herself up for a shot or play a final pass. Her awareness of the field (is special). She's really smart at solving problems and finding the right spaces."

Although fraternizing between teams might be frowned upon in Utah, the sisters are looking forward to checking in with each other in person, at least on the field.

"When I saw the schedule, I was like, 'Oh, thank God, at least I'll get to see her during the games,' " Sam said. "I don't know if we'll be able to hang out outside of that. I haven't seen Kristie in months, so I'm definitely excited that we're playing them. I know my parents will be really bummed that they'll have to miss it. I don't know if they've ever missed us playing against each other."

Said Kristie: "I just figured we were going to play them at some point. It's going to be fun. I haven't seen her in a while (although) we FaceTime all the time."

The Mewis sisters have a strong bond these days. Kristie said she called Sam every night, in tears, during the low points of her ACL rehab. But, like all siblings, they've had their moments.

Most of them came early, back in their Whitman-Hanson days.

Sam vividly recalls their first big adventure together -- they teamed up to lead the U.S. to a runner-up finish at the Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand in 2008.

"To be honest, at that time we weren't best friends," Sam said, chuckling at the memory. "I was two years younger than her and the annoying little sister, always nipping at her heels to hang out with me and invite me (places) and be nice to me."

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