By Celia Balf
You can find Sky Blue FC defender Christina Gibbons in all of the above places: on defense, in the midfield, and cooking up some exquisite vegan dish. Gibbons is now gearing up for her second NWSL season after a standout rookie season at FC Kansas City where she started in 23 of 24 games, scoring a goal and adding a team second-best three assists.
While Gibbons played primarily in the back for the first half of the season for FC Kansas City, and earned All-America honors for her defensive ability while at Duke, Gibbons has also showcased her skill in the middle. On top of getting minutes in the midfield at FCKC, she also played there during the offseason for Melbourne Victory in Australia’s W-League.
With the afternoon off from training with Sky Blue, NWSL Media got the chance to catch-up with Gibbons and find out what fuels her and what she’s looking forward to this NWSL season.
Gibbons and Sky Blue FC will begin their 2018 NWSL campaign on the road against the North Carolina Courage on Saturday, March 31 at 3 p.m. ET (go90.)
Question: Welcome to New York! How are you enjoying a new city so far? Have you been able to explore at all?
Christina Gibbons: I have been to the city a few times before, but it is nice being so close. And I have a lot of friends in the city. Being from Duke and graduating from Duke, especially, a lot of people go on and move into the city, so I have a lot of good friends that live in the city. And my dad actually grew up in the city, so I have the family connections there as well. It has been really nice for me and a good transition back into the East Coast with all the people I know around here, so I am looking forward to any time we get some time off, a day here and there, and going into the city and exploring and meeting up with some friends.
Q: Do you have any particular spots you are eager to check out?
Gibbons: I’m vegan, so I have a really long list of all the vegan restaurants in New York. So I’ll have to try them all out and then I’ll have a favorite. But we’ll see, I don’t know yet because there are so many options, but we will see. It is like the best place to be a vegan because they have the best options, probably the best in the U.S.
Q: Let’s talk soccer now, even though we could talk NYC food all day. What are some areas of your game you have been working on during this offseason?
Gibbons: This offseason I played in Australia and I was playing in the midfield over there and obviously coming into Sky Blue I didn’t know what role I would necessarily be playing in, whether it would be in the back or in the midfield or where I would be used, so for me it was focusing more so on the general aspects of the game. [I focused on] speed of play and you know a lot of one-v-one defending whether it’s in the midfield or defensively, so I think those were two of the biggest points I tried to work on the most.
Q: Playing for Melbourne Victory must have been a really great experience, can you tell us more about that?
Gibbons: It was awesome. I really, really enjoyed it. I was in such a cool city! It was such a good atmosphere with so many little cafes, coffee shops, just great food. So for me, that was obviously a highlight, brings me back to food already (Laughs), obviously [food is] important to me (Laughs.) But also being so far away from home and being in a new experience — something that puts you of your comfort zone. That really made me grow as a person and as a player. It’s a new experience and it’s something that is a once in a lifetime experience, so for me it made me take a step back and enjoy things. So I think that as a player and a person it reminded me why I love soccer so much, and also the team aspect of things, like why you rely on our teammates, how they help you out [and] how they help you get around, stuff like that.
— Christina Gibbons (@cgibby_) February 3, 2018
Q: Now nearing the end of preseason with Sky Blue. How has preseason been so far?
Gibbons: It’s been really good. They have worked us hard, so it’s been tiring, which is a good thing! But I think for me the highlight is being around my other teammates. This team is really young which makes it a really fun environment. Vibes are really good and so far and I’ve gotten along really well with everyone, so I’m excited to see where this season goes.
Q: What has been the most tiring part of preseason and how do you and your teammates push through?
Gibbons: I think any time you’re doing double days on top of lifts, on top of just feeling like you’re at training all day, every day for weeks on ends without any games. Because games are really what you look forward to, and training is important and good, but everyone gets up for game day. So I think that it is a mental battle as well as a physical battle, but also just trying to stay plugged in. You know everyone is working so hard and everyone’s competing for a spot, so there is an element of competitiveness which makes it a really good environment, a really intense environment, but [that] also makes it hard too.
Q: A week away now from the 2018 season. Any games or venues you’re most excited for?
Gibbons: Well I think if Kansas City were still open it would be good to play back there. But a lot of my former teammates are at Utah, you know I think I’m really excited to play against them, but also to see the RioT [Rio Tinto Stadium.] There has been a lot hype around their stadium and the facilities, so I’m excited to play there and see some old friends, but also play against them too.
Q: Right now, how would you describe your game?
Gibbons: I would say consistently solid. I think I’m not necessarily the most flashy player or the one who is standing out in all the stats columns, but I think for me I try to be consistently solid all the time and bring my A-game all the time, so I hope that comes across.
Q: How do you make sure you stay “consistent” and “solid” in training and games?
Gibbons: I think the thing that motivates me the most is knowing the preparation I’ve put in beforehand. Just knowing I’ve already put the work in, so when it’s test day or game day, or whatever, it’s sort of [relying] on the instincts or habits you’ve already built from previous really hard trainings or hard workouts. So for me it’s knowing I’m prepared and just being confident in what I have done previously.
Q: And looking ahead to this season, where do you hope to see the Sky Blue team?
Gibbons: For walking into any NWSL season you hope to be one of the top four at the end and playing for the championship ultimately, but for us, I think for us it is going to be constantly building on performance. I think it’s probably going to be an adjustment period; there’s always ups and downs and it’s a long season, but for us constantly building our relationships with each other and constantly building on each performance and just improving from every game.
Q: You mentioned the vibe being really good, can you speak to how the team is gelling right now?
Gibbons: No one really walked in with a ton of experience with Denise [Reddy, Sky Blue FC head coach], so it’s a new experience for everyone. So everyone has had a bit of a learning curve which is good ‘cause it makes us uncomfortable and makes everyone do things. I think as a group we’ve bonded over the fact that everyone is learning and the fact that no one is really an expert in anything. [We are all just trying] to learn and everyone is being coachable and I think that is super important.
Q: When you have some downtime, how do you like to spend your time?
Gibbons: For me it’s probably taking a walk down by the beach because I’m really close to the shore, so that is really nice especially when the weather warms up. That will be something for me that is super relaxing being by the ocean, but also I like to cook! So you know I’ll cook something really good and vegan, and then I’ll clean up and then I’ll sit down and relax and eat it in front of the TV watching a movie or some type of sports probably.
Q: Now you have to tell us your go-to vegan dish, go!
Gibbons: I usually make like a quinoa or lentil bowl with some chickpeas or black beans and then throw some veggies red peppers, onions, beets, or butternut squash or whatever vegetables are in season like eggplants, and if I’m really feeling myself I’ll throw some pine nuts on top.