Sandy, Utah — Merritt Mathias and Megan Rapinoe hadn’t seen each other all season. After spending the last three years together on Seattle Reign FC, the two friends were split up this season when Mathias was traded to the North Carolina Courage on January 31.
They thought they would see each other again soon, when North Carolina hosted Seattle on April 18, at least. But, Rapinoe got hurt on April 15 and did not travel to North Carolina.
Last week in Utah, the pair were finally reunited at U.S. women’s national team training camp.
“Pines is like my best friend. I certainly have missed her in my life moving to North Carolina. She’s one of my best friends and I haven’t been able to see her in a long time,” Mathias said last week in Utah. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to connect. I frickin’ love her. It’s been great to have her back by my side. If you ever get to meet her, she will just bring so much joy to your life. She’s so funny. She just has such a good head on her shoulders.”
It’s Mathias’ second career call up, after first being called in in October of 2016, and she is still waiting for her first cap. She was available on Thursday night for the USWNT’s 1-0 win over China PR, but did not play. Rapinoe did, making her 136th appearance and earning an assist in the win.
“We had a good relationship in Seattle and always have so much fun,” Rapinoe said after Thursday’s game. “We love to shoot the s— together and have good banter going on. I haven’t see her in a long time. Obviously, it was kind of a surprise close to the start of the season that she got traded. And I missed the trip to North Carolina, so it’s been awhile since I’ve seen her. It’s nice to be able to get back with her.”
— Seattle Reign FC (@ReignFC) June 29, 2017
Mathias said it’s been good to have her former teammate alongside her while training for the United States.
“It’s nice to have someone here and to be back in this environment again … and be kind of a rock and be like, ‘I have your back.’ It’s really nice to be around her again,” Mathias said.
For Mathias, the call in to training camp comes after telling NWSL Media last month that a goal for her this season is to be great at one position, instead of really good at multiple positions. Last year with Seattle, Mathias bounced between offense and defense, but this year it’s been all right back. Before missing North Carolina’s last game due to the call up, she had played all but 19 minutes this season, all at right back.
“I think I have been staying pretty consistent and I think my understanding for this position is only improving,” Mathias said. “An overall assessment, I would say that I’m getting there. I’m not there yet, which is great, but I’m getting there and getting to the point that I feel great and comfortable in this position. There’s always room to get better, no matter if you ever reach that or not. There’s always room for growth.”
Mathias said she’s been training at the same right back position with the U.S. in this camp, but that it’s a whole new experience.
“You’re asked to do the same thing but it’s a different viewpoint than what I’m used to with the Courage. It’s a completely different system. Just getting used to what options you have, going out of back. Jill wants me to do what I do well and to show that, but also I have to be able to read the game and see my options and play out from there. Just getting comfortable with that and getting comfortable with the players that are around me. That’s a huge thing,” Mathias said.