The stillness of the NWSL offseason is in effect for some. While for others, it can be just as busy and filled with opportunity as ever. For Danielle Colaprico, it has been filled with an array of emotions, thousands of miles traveled, and her first caps at the U.S. senior level.
In late October, the U.S. women’s national team announced the roster for the final pair of friendlies of 2018 in Europe versus Portugal and Scotland – and that roster included Colaprico.
The news came just as she had settled in Australia for the W-League season.
Colaprico got the confirmation that she had been invited into camps just 48 hours after landing in Australia, and thought maybe it was the jet lag kicking in when she learned the news. “I thought I was dreaming to be honest. I was like – ‘Is this actually happening?’” the Chicago Red Stars midfielder said.
The W-League in Australia has become a viable option for NWSL players looking for a professional game environment in their NWSL offseasons. Colaprico had played for Adelaide in previous years, but this season she wanted the chance to challenge herself in with another team in Sydney FC. Little did she know that an even bigger challenge would come knocking.
“Getting called [into camps] was a little bit of a shock, but obviously very exciting and I’m very grateful for that,” Colaprico said. This call-up meant Colaprico would have to tell her new club and new head coach that she would be leaving for two weeks.
“I had to ask [Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric] if I could get away for two weeks and with asking that I had to miss a game. Which I didn’t like because I had made a commitment to this team and I don’t like making commitments and then backing out. Our coach was super understanding of the situation and I’m very thankful for that because it was a huge opportunity to go into this camp and potentially get my first cap.”
With the pair of friendlies being in Europe, Colaprico would now have to travel even more miles during the offseason – but seeing the supportive reaction from back home to the roster announcement helped alleviate some of the travel burden.
“Honestly, just reading all the tweets and posts from all the fans, especially the ones in Chicago, just made me smile over here a whole bunch and made me really happy to know that they are so supportive of the whole team in Chicago and everyone on the Red Stars and that’s what makes [playing there] so special.”
☝️ New kid on the block ☝️ pic.twitter.com/Vxav36qgf1
— NWSL (@NWSL) November 8, 2018
While the recent call up wasn’t Colaprico’s first at the senior level, it was her first in two years. Colaprico was named NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and was first invited into camps that December through January 2016. She received her second call up in October of 2016.
She admits that she struggled with an injury through those camps initially, and when called into a second camp, she faced some mental hurdles. “I just had really bad patella tendonitis and it was an injury that you could play though or you can sit out. Obviously getting called into the national team, like every athlete would, they want to participate, they want to be part of it,” Colaprico said.
Now, two years later and a veteran player on the Red Stars, she said her approach to this camp was different and that she has grown as a player from years prior. “Going into these camps my focus was just to be the best player I could be.”
On the way to the game against Portugal on November 8, Colaprico knew that she would dress and be available for selection. After some first game nerves on the bus, she gave herself a small pep talk in the locker room, and once warm ups began, she felt immediately at ease.
“After warm ups, after touching the ball and realizing that it was just a soccer game … this is my job. I do this every day. That was kind of reassuring to myself. To know that this is what I train for every day. Just believing in yourself and knowing that you are a great player and the people that called you into this camp believe in you and that’s why you’re here.”
This makes us happy, hbu? pic.twitter.com/wlAFTxBEHJ
— Chicago Red Stars (@chiredstarsPR) November 3, 2018
Third camp was a charm. As the second half began vs. Portugal, Colaprico subbed on and earned her first cap with the U.S. women’s national team. With Portugal looking for an equalizer, the frantic second half was not unfamiliar for Colaprico, and in fact played into the type of athlete she is on the pitch.
Colaprico has typically played as a defensive midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars — a role that isn’t usually viewed as flashy, but is a crucial link between the defense and the offense. Her presence on the Red Stars has brought a sense of stability though moments of chaos.
“We were in a game with Portugal where I thought the game was very hectic. So for me I thought, ‘As long as you can go in the game, get on the ball, calm the game down, it’ll be OK.’”
Colaprico then earned her second cap versus Scotland five days later, subbing on in the 76th minute. The two caps for Colaprico came after a strong season in the NWSL that saw her lead the league in chances created with 48. She also ranked among the league leaders in assists, duels won, tackles won and total touches as the Red Stars made the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
“Being on the Chicago Red Stars has helped me so much. I owe a lot of credit to Rory [Dames, Red Stars head coach] who believed in me in the first place in drafting me to the Red Stars,” she said. “Chicago is a second home for me now. It’s amazing going to work every day and you’re playing with a team that is so good and everyone wants to get better every day and you don’t have that in most environments.”
Team culture, team chemistry and team environment with the Red Stars is something Colaprico directly attributes to her growth as a player over the last few years. “That makes it a lot easier to develop as a player each year. I think that’s something important.”
“I owe a lot of credit to the Red Stars for helping me get to where I am as a player. I don’t think I would be the player I am today if I didn’t have those teammates and the coaching staff that I do at the Red Stars.”