There have been a lot of homecomings for Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper Michelle Betos this year.
This past January, the Reign announced the re-signing of Betos, she had played with the team in 2013, the start of her NWSL career. After spending 2017 in Norway playing for Vålerenga in the Toppserien, Betos made her 2018 return to the NWSL and has started in every match for the Reign so far this season.
The goalkeeper has come up big for the Reign this year, earning 17 saves for a league-second best and has one shutout. On Saturday, the Queens, N.Y.-native will return to another familiar turf, making her second big NWSL homecoming of the year.
The Reign will meet Portland Thorns FC for the big Cascadia Rivalry clash for Week 6 action on Saturday, May 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET (Lifetime). Betos spent 2014-2016 with the Thorns earning 2015 Goalkeeper of the Year honors and leading the team to the 2016 NWSL Shield. After winning the Shield with Portland, Betos’ contract expired and she decided to travel overseas to play in Norway.
As it all comes full circle for Betos this weekend, NWSL Media got the chance to catch up her ahead of Saturday’s game.
Question: Big day for you on Saturday returning to Portland, how are you feeling?
Michelle Betos: You know I’ve thought about this a lot definitely since signing for Seattle, but going into it I feel like I’m a couple different people. You know from the personal side, I’m going to see my friends! I’m going to see Nadine [Angerer], who I’ve played with and she coached me, so it means a lot. You know I think the most emotional part, honestly, is seeing the fans that were so good to me. So there is definitely that side that I’ve thought about. But what has really taken over especially since being with my team in Seattle and buying into what were doing here is that this is just another game and I really want to win. It means a lot to the fans and every single game in this league is a battle and tough. In a lot of ways it is just another game and it is something we are going to give everything to win, not just because it is Portland, but because every point counts in this league.
Q: What are some things you have been focusing on this week ahead of Saturday?
Betos: [Vlatko Andonovski] is very defensive minded, I think he has a great defensive mind, which I really appreciate as a goalkeeper. From coach we have talked a lot about how they have threats, we have to think about that they have [Christine] Sinclair, Andressinha, Tobin [Heath], and you know I’ve been fortunate enough to play with them, and now being on the other side against them I’m very aware of their strengths and what they bring and what we need to worry about. But, then if you look at our roster we have been talking about offensively how can we exploit the spaces they have given in the past games because we also have great players who can create individually and I think play really well together.
Q: Is this Cascadia Rivalry something you as a player look forward to?
Betos: Absolutely, just because the fans are such a big part of what we do. The support from our community is everything in terms of just growing this game, especially out here. A rivalry like this is incredible, you know I wish there were more in women’s soccer, but for us, like I said, I think it is just [that] we want to win so bad every day, we’re all so competitive; even 5-v-5 games at practice can feel like the World Cup sometimes, so it is hard to say any one big game is bigger than another, but we do realize how much this means to our fans and our support system, so of course we want to win. But I think that is the case every game.
— NWSL (@NWSL) May 2, 2018
Q: Spending the past year in Norway must of been an experience, how does it feel to be back?
Betos: Being back is great! It is funny because I did spend so much time in the NWSL that I almost can’t understand that last year happened without me here. Sometimes I feel like I have such a great handle on things because I’ve been a part of this league for so long, and then all of a sudden I’m like “Look who is that, when did she come?” So I have had to do a little re-learning I guess or learning of the new players and the trades that happened because I was removed last year. But I think I just came in and there are definitely different challenges in Norway, but I think I grew a lot there and coming back I feel very much at home and I’ve grown up a lot and hopefully elevated my game to better play.
Q: When you make back-to-back saves like you did last weekend, what kind of rush is it like as a keeper making those blocks for your team?
Betos: I talk with Jasmyne Spencer about this a lot because she’s my roommate and she’s a forward and we look at the game so differently and she always talks about celebrating a goal and things like that, but for me, and I would have to assume the same for most goalkeepers there isn’t much time to celebrate — whether you have made a great play or a routine save, the game just goes on. There is no stop. The ball is either in your hands and you have to find the next point for the attack or you have given up a corner or something and you are setting up for that, so as a goalkeeper short term memory for the good or the bad is prominent in what we do and honestly most days no matter what I have done back there I feel like I am just doing my job.
— NWSL (@NWSL) April 28, 2018
Q: Against a team like Portland you are sure to have your hands full, who is a player or players that you know you need to have you defense lock in on?
Betos: I have been fortunate enough to play with some of those girls, there are a lot of special players there in a lot of different ways. I think the obvious answers are Tobin and Sinc, they have just proven themselves time and time again, and even Tobin coming off an injury is already looking like Tobin again with her finish the other day. At the end of the day, the league we are only at nine teams with so much talent and I think that there are players on every roster from 1-20 that you really need to respect and understand and that bring different things, and that has been exciting coming back to. You know that is something that I really missed, the true competitiveness and the high level of all the players in this league. Of course, even Lindsey Horan is an incredible player and I have been lucky to play with those girls, but you cant just pick one, I don’t think you can do that with any team in this league right now.
Q: What about on your team? Who is a player that challenges you the most in net?
Betos: Thats a funny question, because you know Naho [Kawasumi] really loves to mess with goalkeepers whether she is megging you or chipping you she just makes it looks so effortless and so easy and you just want to tackle her, but she’s just this cute little thing that I couldn’t even catch if I tried. So she is always a challenge because she is so hard to read and is so capable of so many things. I think Jodie Taylor is one of the best and most well-rounded finishers in the game, so she is someone that is just so fun to train against because you never know what she is going to do and keeps you honest. And then there is [Megan Rapinoe] Pinoe and the way the ball moves off her foot is just insane, but we have so much talent on our team and it really is diversified. I think that every single day I am challenged at practice at such a high level, so it inevitably makes me better and the players around us all better.
Q: I am sure there are several so far, but what is a moment from this season that has been particularly special?
Betos: Getting the win at home, starting that off right in Seattle was a big moment for us. Washington is a good team and I think the offseason is so long and you hear about player signings and who is going to be on your team and then the preseason people coming in and out, [so just] to have us all there and pull it together and pull out the win, yeah I think that was really special to do that at home and some of the fans get to know the new players and the new names.
Q: As we all know, Portland is a hub for great food. Are there are any places you’re excited to go back to this weekend?
Betos: There are so many places I loved in Portland. Right across the street there is a Mexican place that actually has all of our posters up and they were always so good to me and my family, so you know I definitely need to stop in there because they were just so supportive and they have a cultured Caveman restaurant there that is paleo that I frequented and I always dragged my teammates in all the time. There are definitely places like that and coffee shops, but also just the people, some of those girls were my best friends, so I am excited to see them, but that all stays off the field, so I am excited to be in Providence playing again.
Q: And finally, because we are all thinking it, do you ever still think about that header-goal?
Betos: The only time I ever really think about it is when other people bring it up. It is usually the first thing a fan will say or they will ask, “When will you score again?” and I feel bad letting them down that that may or may not happen again, but yeah I don’t think about it too much. It was such a cool experience when I was there with my teammates and with the fans there, because I think it meant a lot to them, but at the end of the day, I’m a goalkeeper and to be honest I hate goals so it was a cool moment and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but my focus is way more on saving the ball than scoring them every day.
“Plus, as I witnessed first-hand, @MichelleBetos may even be good for a goal or two this season.” – Vlatko Andonovski
Yeah, there's no forgetting this one. pic.twitter.com/a3pzkGDgUV
— NWSL (@NWSL) January 30, 2018