By Celia Balf
Houston Dash forward Kimberly Keever didn’t have much time to adjust to life as a starting striker in her rookie NWSL season. The 12th overall pick at the 2018 NWSL College Draft joined the Dash just days before the start of the season — she was finishing up her studies at the University of Washington before reporting to Houston. However, no one would have guessed the California native was about as fresh as they come out there in the NWSL’s opening weekend. Earning the start in the Dash’s season opener against the Chicago Red Stars on March 25, Keever scored in just the 37th minute of play.
Keever has started the past two games for the Dash and has scored the only goal for the club so far this season. The Dash are 0-0-2 after two weeks of play and will face the Chicago Red Stars for a midweek matchup on Wednesday, April 18. NWSL Media caught up with the rookie during the league’s international break.
Question: How has it been adjusting to life as a professional soccer player?
Kimberly Keever: It has been pretty different honestly. The pace of the game is so much faster than college soccer so it was kind of hard to prepare for it. Also being out in Houston, [somewhere] I’ve never even been close to, that has been a lot harder too. But to be on a team where everyone is in the same situation as you has been really helpful.
Q: What has surprised you the most about the NWSL so far?
Keever: Just how good everyone is. It seems like there is no weak person anywhere on the field. Actually, what surprised me is that everyone is much faster and much stronger. The average here is just nothing that I have ever played [with or against] before.
Q: Do you feel like each day it is getting any easier to adjust to this pace?
Keever: Once I joined the team I’ve gotten better every day. I’ve gotten more comfortable on the ball and with the speed of play.
Q: You joined the team at the very end of preseason, how was that?
Keever: It was not that great. The team had been together and they knew how each other played already. I joined the team in Portland during the preseason tournament and I mean my second practice we played a game and that was kind of difficult I guess to understand how everyone played.
Q: I’m sure! Did you feel like just diving into it might of helped you in terms of not having much time to get the pre-pre-season jitters?
Keever: I think diving into it did actually helped me. Everyone knew I was new so they were all very helpful and understanding that I didn’t really know what was happening. They were nice, understanding, and very helpful.
Q: Well it seems like diving in absolutely helped you, scoring in your NWSL debut! Can you walk me through your first professional goal and the emotions that came from it?
Keever: I think it was pretty late in the half, so I was very tired and Savannah [Jordan] just did a great job making moves around her defender and getting the ball in behind the defense, which was the most dangerous ball she could have played. From there, I think I was just in the right place at the right time. But, I was super excited. I was really tired after it though. (Laughs.)
— NWSL (@NWSL) March 25, 2018
Q: Two games under your belt now, how would you evaluate the way things are going with your team headed into Week 3 play?
Keever: I think we’ve gotten better every day which is very nice. And since we’ve already played Chicago, I mean I’m sure they are getting better too, but I think we are getting to know each other better as a team — even better than we did yesterday. We know what each player wants to do and what they are best at, which I don’t think we knew two weeks ago. I think we have much better chemistry as a team.
Q: And what are you hoping to improve on individually in the next game?
Keever: [I would like to work on] being more comfortable on the ball and being able to go forward instead of playing the easy ball back.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Keever: I like to go forward, I don’t really like to defend or anything. I would say. I don’t really know…(Laughs.)
Q: How would you say your teammates might describe you then?
Keever: I think they would say I like the feisty side of the game! I like getting tackled and tackling other people, I just think that is what changes a game, it can spark an entire half, I guess.
Q: That feistiness and attacking mindset was your MO in college, not to mention your speed. Who would challenge you in a foot race in the league right now?
Keever: (Laughs.) I think even like all my teammates would! I was maybe considered fast in college, but now everybody has gotten so much faster. The attributes that I used to think I was good at are very average now. (Laughs.)
Q: Well you managed to score in your professional debut, pretty fast at that! What was it like making your NWSL debut along side three teammates also in the same boat as you (making their NWSL debut)?
Keever: I think that kind of helped us all, knowing we weren’t the only one in that position. Kind of comforted us, thinking like, “Hey, they are new too, it is OK if we mess up.” They calmed me down because it is never easy going into your first game, but I was happy to have a few of those players in the same position as me.
— Houston Dash (@HoustonDash) March 26, 2018
Q: What do you like to do when you aren’t playing soccer?
Keever: I like to play beach volleyball.
Q: Have you found any beach volleyball courts, or beaches in Houston yet?
Keever: (Laughs.) I haven’t found any yet, but I’ve been keeping my eye out.
Q: What is it about beach volleyball that you like?
Keever: I just think it is different than soccer! Like obviously very different, but training both at the same time has kept me in the best shape of my life. It is fun and different from soccer, but they really do complement each other. I played all throughout high school, tried to a little in college, but Washington doesn’t have any beaches either. (Laughs.)
Q: I’ll make sure to help you with researching good beach volleyball courts in Houston, seems like a must!
Keever: (Laughs.) Thanks!
Q: Have you always known you wanted to be a professional soccer player?
Keever: Yes. It has been a life-long dream of mine to play professional soccer.
Q: How did that dream come about, did anyone in particular inspire you?
Keever: My first club coach Mandy Clemens, she probably inspired me the most. She played professionally a little bit, she was a Hermann Trophy winner at Santa Clara and I mean you could tell just how much she loved the game and she passed that down to me I guess.