The Early Years
Photo Cred: USSoccer YouTube Channel
Being an avid follower of the women’s game a decade previously, it was excitement when I found a link to watch the USWNT play in the Algarve Cup against Sweden, 3rd March 2014. In the last game, they managed to draw with Japan, the World Cup winners at the time.
However, in the Sweden game the team did not perform at that same level and conceded in the first half. In the 68th minute USWNT made a substitution that added to the history books.
Both Sam (earning her first cap) and her older sister Kristie, who was already a household name, entered the field with Kristie telling her little sister, ‘Just listen to Carli’. The Mewis sisters becoming only the third set of sisters to play together in the field for the USWNT. The last time this occurred was in 1997 with Lorrie and Ronnie Fair.
This was the start of great things to come for Sam as she has gone on to gain 67 caps for the talent dense USWNT, scoring 18 goals, 6 assists and one coveted World Cup. But how did she get to that level?
Sam, and Kristie both played in the U17s and U20s national team; but it was when Sam went to college at UCLA that she launched herself in the limelight. In 2013, in only her junior year, Sam captained the team to win the championship, scoring 6 goals, four of which were game-winners and named the Top Drawer Soccer’s Team of the Week, 3 times. Following it up to culminate her college career ranked in the Top 10 all-time UCLA in goals, with 31, and assists with 32. Sam was in familiar company in that Top 10 which featured Lauren (Cheney) Holliday and Sydney Leroux.
Photo Credit: Pinterest
This exceptional standard earned her place in the draft where she was picked up by a struggling Western New York Flash, with UCLA team-mate Abby Dahlkemper. Sam and Abby started all 20 games, with Sam tying the lead for goals scored and assists with another now USWNT team-mate, Lynn Williams. This earning her a NWSL Rookie of the year nomination. However, this was not enough to put them in the play offs, and The Flash brought in a new manager, Liverpool born, Paul Riley.
Paul can be credited with a lot of Sam’s success. Sam scored in the 2016 Championship Semi-final to upset the Shield winning Portland Thorns. She followed up her performance by scoring again, re-enforcing her ability to show up in the big games, in the Championship final. However, Sam missed her penalty in the shootout but WNY still got the victory.
Photo Credit: Soccertoday.com
Time to Shine
Instead of dwelling in the negatives, Sam brushed herself off, knowing she was a champion and vowed to improve herself even further. She scored the game winner for the USWNT against Germany in the 2016 ‘She Believes Cup’, which meant that the USWNT were to be crowned winners of the inaugural tournament.
Then came 2017, no longer a rookie, it was an opportunity to prove her worth in not only the league but in the USWNT and put herself in contention for the 2019 World Cup roster. She scored the equaliser against Brazil, in the ‘Tournament of Nations’, which saw the USWNT see out the game in a 4-3 win. She also scored the first two goals in a friendly game against South Korea, which saw the dominant USWNT win 6-0. She was making her presence seen on the field.
Western New York Flash became North Carolina Courage when the club was sold and in the 2017 season and Sam was named captain. In that season, domestically, she appeared in every game for the Courage, scoring 6 goals and 3 assists. She also captained the team to win the league shield. She was also named in the NWSL Best XI and was a finalist for the NWSL MVP.
But Sam was not only thriving domestically, she played in every game for the USWNT also being nominated for USWNT MVP.
Photo Credit: NCCourage.com
For Sam, 2018 was going to be her most challenging yet rewarding year to date.
After missing the start of the season with a knee injury, she showed her class by captaining the team to their second league Shield. The Courage yet again breaking records doing the double with the Shield and Championship with the most wins, most points and most goals in a single season and only losing 1 game.
The tide was turning for who the ‘big teams’ were in the NWSL. No longer were teams like Portland, Seattle and Chicago guaranteed to take points from the Courage, and that was from Sam’s leadership. She won’t always be in limelight, doesn’t want to be but she will be each player’s cheerleader in that team and will try to contribute her best every game.
Also in 2018, North Carolina took part the inaugural ‘International Champions Cup’, with some of the best teams in Europe, namely Lyon, arguably the ‘Galacticos’ of the women’s game. The other two teams were PSG and Manchester City. The Courage again captained by Sam won the tournament by beating Lyon in the final by a Heather O’Reilly goal.
On a personal level, Sam capped off a great 2018 by marrying her long-term boyfriend, Pat, back home in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit: @lenamirisolaphoto
Here comes 2019
Defending champions, not just in league but also on the world’s stage.
Sam had established herself as a winner, and a vital part to any team but was one of those players on the peripheral. Would she succumb to the same fate as Crystal Dunn for 2015 World Cup?
A run of friendlies up to the World Cup, Sam’s performances as a defensive midfielder were impressive, scoring 4 goals in 3 games, with the team keeping clean sheets in every game.
Photo Credit: @USWNT
This stability was rewarded as she was awarded an alternate spot on the 2019 World Cup roster not just because of her on field performances but her off the field also. It is well documented that her team-mate Emily Sonnett would stay behind with strikers, who wanted extra shooting practice, just recycling balls to them.
Of course, we all know that USWNT won a successive World Cup title, Sam playing 6 out of 7 games, including the final, contributing two goals during the tournament.
In the league, Sam only played 12 games for The Courage, with being away with the national team. However, they managed to retain the League Shield, and there she was again, scoring and helping to keep a clean sheet in Championship final against a Chicago team which contained the prolific striker Sam Kerr.
Photo Credit: NWSLSoccer.com
When COVID changed everything
Well, we all know 2020 is a little different. FAWSL fans were intrigued at the rumblings that players from arguably the best league in the world were looking to come and play in England and follow players that had made the move previously such as Carli Lloyd to Manchester City and Crystal Dunn to Chelsea, respectively.
Photo Credit: Skysports.com
Fast forward to August and it is announced that Sam has signed for Manchester City on a 1-year deal with an option to extend a further year. So maybe she did listen to Carli in the end, who herself played for Manchester City on loan in 2017.
Photo Credit: Mancity.com
Personally, as a Manchester United fan, this hurts my soul. However, it is very smart business for City as veteran Jill Scott announced she will take on a player/coach role this season as she reaches the twilight stages of her career. Sam is arguably even better than the England legend, given that Jill has scored one less international goal in her career that started 8 years before Sam’s.
The World Cup winning, 3-time shield winning, 3-time Championship winning midfielder should slot in nicely (unfortunately) into the team, providing the solidity City have been lacking in midfield over the last season or so when relying on Keira Walsh. I think the physicality of the WSL is something Sam will be able to cope with, flashing back to an old game vs Australia where she got kicked in the face.
*The following video has a lot of blood*
Video Credit: @keeleymenz on Youtube
On the pitch, Sam can often be seen hanging outside the area, in Kevin De Bruyne-esque fashion, ready to thread a lethal pass or smash the ball into the back of the net. You can also bet she will be using her 6ft stature to get an edge on opponents on set pieces.
Video Credit: NWSL on Youtube (skip to 4m18sec)
Video Credit: NWSL on Youtube
Video Credit: USSoccer on Youtube
Overall, despite starting her football career in the shadow of her older sister, Sam has become a successful player in her own right. Apart from the team she is representing, I am excited to see what she does in this league and prove herself as one the central midfielders in the world.