While her return to Texas for preseason was not as long as originally planned, Groom moved clubs for the third consecutive offseason this winter – returning to the area that launched her towards a career in professional soccer.
“I spent my first three years in Kansas City, which was home for me – that was really special. I’ve kind of bounced around since, but when I got traded to the Dash it felt like I was coming home in a sense,” Groom said. “I have a lot of connections in the Houston and Texas area, and obviously being an hour or so from Texas A&M is pretty special. It was fun to come home again. I’ve enjoyed my time with Houston so far – it’s been very condensed, obviously. It’s been a fun two games and I’m excited to see where this goes.”
The former A&M soccer standout has taken quite the journey since that stint in her native Missouri, with stops at Sky Blue FC and Reign FC coming before her trade to Houston this offseason. Groom also suffered a broken rib last August – which kept her out for the remainder of the 2019 season, save a 30 minute appearance in Reign’s semifinal loss to the North Carolina Courage..
For Groom, 2020 is a new start.
“I’m a player that’s prone to injury because I’m always going into big tackles,” Groom said, adding a laugh. “It was unfortunate timing last year and coming back at the tail end was a little difficult. I think for me, the past couple years have been hard on and off the field. Coming to Houston was a good, fresh start. I felt James [Clarkson] had a vision for me even before he brought me to Houston, so it’s been good to come here and see the story knit together.”
In talks with Clarkson before her trade, Groom says the Dash manager envisioned a role that is quite different for her than that of a winger she featured in last season. Groom has been playing the number ten position for the Dash, and she credits Clarkson for giving her trust and belief to run at defenses and dictate the tempo of matches.
“That’s something I hadn’t experienced since college, someone having that vision for me and seeing me as that kind of player,” Groom said. “I was sold from day one after speaking with him. Ever since I got here, he’s done an incredible job of someone putting me in a mindset to play free. That’s been hard – I’m an overthinker, I overanalyze all the time. They’ve left me alone in a big way and trusted me, which has allowed me to be confident and go with my instincts.”
.@sheabayy2 hits this shot like she's angry. Sheesh 😤
3-1 | #HOUvUTA
— NWSL (@NWSL) June 30, 2020
The mindset Clarkson has instilled in Groom is already paying off as Groom put in two dazzling performances to start the Challenge Cup. When asked what makes the difference for her in this tournament, Groom mentions the coaching staff and a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, one she says the team has been built on.
“It’s been such a journey, a journey of patience – allowing myself to get back to what I know, what makes me special,” she said.” I feel that I’ve been able to do that here. Not having a lot of pressure, and they’ve given me so much freedom to be myself. I said yesterday to one of our coaches that I’ve had this chip on my shoulder, and it’s been growing since 2018. It doesn’t go away with two goals and two games. I’m excited to keep it going and put together a really good tournament.”
It’s not only Groom that has excelled this summer, but Houston as well. Clarkson’s side has come out firing on all cylinders this summer, leading the Challenge Cup in goals and adding an impressive 2-0 victory against OL Reign. For a team that revamped their roster on both sides of the ball, Groom is impressed with the group’s rapid cohesion and the club’s hunger to grow it further.
“I think it’s very unique and rare,” Groom said. “Sometimes building partnerships like these can take years. It’s rare to come in and have it click in the way that it has here. We’ve talked in the past couple days about not being satisfied with it. We’re happy with the connections that we’ve made, but we have so much more opportunity to elevate it even more. It’s been fun. We’re excited how it came so naturally and organically, but I feel it can only go up from here.
“We’re just trying to build and build, then when we get to that quarterfinal game we want to hit our peak, hit our stride, and take the Challenge Cup home.”