Editor’s Note: The FA Women’s Super League returns on Wednesday with a likely title showdown between Manchester City and Chelsea (NBCSN 1pm ET). With three games to go, the two sides are currently separated by two points (Chelsea is in the lead).
Ahead of the potential title decider, NBC Sports’ Joe Price-Wright (Pro Soccer Talk) and Alex Azzi (On Her Turf) caught up with Manchester City defender Abby Dahlkemper. In January, Dahlkemper became the third member of the U.S. women’s national team to sign with City, joining Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis.
This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Joe Prince-Wright: Since you arrived in January, Man City has been on a pretty amazing run. What has the transition been like for you?
Abby Dahlkemper: It’s been great. My teammates, coaches and everyone at City has been so helpful and so welcoming. Luckily, I’ve been able to participate on the field and help the team get results.
We’re really looking forward to this game against Chelsea. I think the team really put themselves in a good spot and now it comes down to this.
Alex Azzi: Moving to a new city, a new country, in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t sound like the easiest transition. What has life looked like for you off the pitch?
Dahlkemper: I think this past year, year-and-a-half, everyone has been trying to do their best given the circumstances. Health and safety [come] first and foremost. When I came over, it was during a national lockdown, but Manchester has been great given the circumstances. I am living downtown and the weather has not been as bad as people were warning me so hopefully that will continue.
Azzi: In terms of day-to-day training, have you noticed any differences or similarities between the U.S. and England in terms of how practices are structured or the knowledge that your teammates bring to the field?
Dahlkemper: I think everyone here is just very technical and tactical, which is amazing. There aren’t a lot of unforced turnovers. I think that players [are taught to] really appreciate the ball. Defensively, it’s really hard to get the ball back.
Azzi: You also played abroad in Australia a few years ago, right? How would you say going abroad can influence a player’s career and development?
Dahlkemper: It’s always great to add layers to your game. Just being able to have experiences – both on and off the field in different environments…
I’m lucky that Rose and Sam are here; they made the transition a little less dramatic. But I think going overseas – or just generally stepping out of your comfort zone – is a really good thing for people to learn in order to ultimately get better.
Prince-Wright: I spoke to Sam at the start of the season about some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and England. The two countries are similar in a lot of ways, but there are quite a few differences. I think she mentioned something about washers and dryers not being very good over here in England. Are there any little things like that that have made you laugh?
Dahlkemper: Yeah, I mean the washer and dryers are like a two-in-one so that’s a little bit new to me. [Another] example is that there’s not a lot of iced coffee, it’s all warm. Going into coffee shops, I’m like, ‘Do you have ice?’ [That] doesn’t happen in America; I feel like there are huge ice machines everywhere.
Prince-Wright: Heading into Wednesday’s game against Chelsea, it could be the title decider. Is it a boost that you, Sam, and Rose have big game experience and know how to win titles both domestically and at events like the World Cup? What would your message be to teammates who haven’t been in those situations before?
Dahlkemper: First and foremost, everyone’s really excited. When you look at your career, these are the games that you want to be a part of.
If we’re able to stick to the process and what has gotten us in this position in the first place, I think that’s going to important. In big games and in big moments, [what makes the difference] is the little things.
I know this team is going to be up for a fight and up for a battle. Like I said, it’s these games that you want to be a part of.
Azzi: Since August, Man City and Chelsea have met three times, and Chelsea has won all three. But you also weren’t a member of City for those games. What is the team’s mentality heading into Wednesday given the recent history?
Dahlkemper: I think the girls obviously weren’t happy with the result the past few times we’ve played Chelsea. So we’re really looking forward to this time. I think [our] team is in a different place and Chelsea is in a different place.
Obviously [Chelsea] has a lot of dangerous threats, they’re a great team. But we’re a great team as well. I think it’s just going to be a really good game of football and hopefully exciting for soccer fans to watch a game that means a lot for the League Cup.
Prince-Wright: There are new TV deals and a lot more sponsorship coming into the WSL, which is great to see. What do you think of the direction the league is heading in? Can we expect to see other U.S. women’s national team stars heading to the WSL next season – and beyond?
Dahlkemper: I think it’s an exciting time to for women’s soccer. Obviously there are huge TV deals coming in and [with the] exposure, more people paying attention to women’s soccer. And the talent is just growing and getting better.
I hope national team players are able to and want to make the move to Europe to experience this part of soccer. But it’s also very personal and depends on what you want individually. Obviously I’d be happy to see other national team players, but the NWSL is a great league as well and getting exposure and TV deals [too]. I think women’s soccer – across the whole world – is expanding, and that’s just positive.
Azzi: With the Olympics now under 100 days away, what has it been like balancing your goal of making the U.S. Olympic roster for Tokyo with what you’re trying to accomplish with Man City?
Dahlkemper: Yeah, it’s a hard balance. Given the schedule and the pandemic, any time that we get together with the national team, it’s really valuable. Obviously I really hope that I can make the Olympic roster and help the team win gold [in Tokyo] but I’m trying to be very present-based and take it day-to-day. So when I’m at camp, I’m at camp. And when I’m at City, I’m with City. Not taking anything for granted, just continuing to improve and learn in any area I can.Follow @AlexAzziNBC
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