Yesterday, the North Carolina Courage announced the re-signing of multiple of the team’s players including veteran forward, Jess McDonald through 2020. Coincidentally, Courage Country sat down virtually last week with McDonald to answer our 2020 Starting XI Questions.
2020 Starting XI Questions: Jessica McDonald
If you weren’t playing in the NWSL, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I think I would be — there’s like a long list of things I could think of, but I’ll try and get creative here with my answer because this one, it might sound a little goofy, but I’ve had this sort of random dream of wanting to be the female version of the Rock. Like the Rock, he just kicks butt in all of his movies. He’s just like this muscular, just totally hardcore person, you know? But he is just so successful in all of his films and I love him for that. He’s just this fit guy and he just kicks butt and all of his movies, and it’s just incredible to see. I’m like, “where is the female version of the Rock?” I wouldn’t mind being the female version of the Rock. So maybe a movie star. I don’t know. I know nothing about acting, but it’s just a random dream that will probably keep people interested in what I’m saying right now just because it’s very random.
Have you ever been approached about doing a cameo — being in TV, movies anything yet?
I’ve done commercials, but that’s as far as it’s gone. So I haven’t been approached about filming in anything, but I can’t wait for the opportunity, just so I could see how I do. If it doesn’t go well, then I’m like, “okay, maybe this isn’t cut out for me.”
If you didn’t need sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Help change lives. I’ve got my foundation that’s helping inner-city kids. I would try and figure out a way to expand that beyond just soccer. I want to be able to help feed people, house people, things like that — so very Mother Teresa. I do worry a lot about other people all the time — all the time, 24-7. I have friends and family who reach out to me all the way back from Arizona to help in any kind of way possible. I’m happy to be able to do that, but I want to do more. How can I do this outside of my family, outside of you know, just being able to sponsor one kid in Africa? How can I sponsor a whole village, you know? So I’m always trying to think of just sort of the bigger picture. I truly believe that. I would think about help changing people’s lives within that regard.
If a fan recognizes you away from the field, what should they do?
You know I do like when people approach me at more of an appropriate time because there have been times where people have approached me while I’m at dinner, and I’m eating, I’m like, “I’m in the middle of my meal. I don’t want to look rude or seem rude to you but I need to finish my meal. You know, I want to enjoy dinner.”
But whereas if I’m like in the mall., you know, come up to me, “Hey, are you Jess McDonald?” “Yes, I am.” “Can I get a photo?” “Yeah, of course.” What’s your name?”
I want them to be social because there are some people or kids — it’s mostly kids who kind of like freeze and kind of shy away, even though they’re like, “Are you Jess McDonald?” Then it’s silence. So it’s like, can you speak? Say something, you know? You approached me here. So just work on your social skills a little bit. I’m a social person. So I want the other person who’s approaching me to obviously be social as well. Don’t be scared you know?
I just want to be an approachable human being, which I think I am at the end of the day but like there have been times where people got nervous and like, “Say something, you know? Do you need anything? Do you want a photo? I do like it when people are social and they talk in the appropriate times.
What’s the skill you want to improve the most this season?
So I sort of dip my shoulder and take a touch with my right foot. So I dip my left shoulder and touch with my right foot. I struggle dipping my right shoulder and touching with my left foot. So that’s something I’ve been itching to work on so that that’s probably going to be my thing. It’s so simple, but I’m not left-footed, which makes it a little more frustrating, a little more challenging for me but just a simple dip. a little step, and then take a touch the other direction. So that’s one piece that I definitely would work on as a striker, you know, being able to set myself up for success to get a decent shot on goal and that move will help me get there.
What do players talk about in the tunnel before matches?
[laughs] Oh dear. I mean, a number of things, you know, but it’s, to be honest, it’s always nice to see our friends in a tunnel. So normally, we’re always lined up with the other team and you know you look over like, “Hey Linds” — Lindsay Horan and you know and we give each other a hug. Like, “oh my gosh, how are you?” A lot of times, it’s actually just a normal conversation.
Or if you know I don’t know the person who is next to me on the opposing team, normally I’m talking to a little kid who’s, who’s walking out with me. I’m asking their name. How old are they? Have they ever been to a game, you know with the Courage or the national team. I usually ask the same questions. I’m a mom, so it’s so easy for me to hold a conversation with a kid, so if I’m not speaking to someone on the other team. Jaelene Daniels is normally standing next to me, — her and Crystal Dunn, I’m normally in between them. So sometimes we’re chatting, but mostly I’m talking to the kids or a friend on the other team.
Which player are you most glad is a teammate instead of an opponent?
I would have to probably go with defenders, so probably our whole backline — anyone on the defense on our team. I used to hate playing against Abby Erceg. I’ve played against her many years when she was playing with Chicago, and I’m like, I absolutely hate playing against he and that’s a compliment to her. She’s such an incredible defender. She’s probably number one in my book, to be honest, Abby Erceg, because she’s probably one of the most intelligent defenders that’s alive right now that’s playing professionally. So yeah, that’s my respect to her. I’m just very happy that she’s obviously my teammate.
What is the best part about competing?
The best part about competing, I believe, is just simply being in a team environment like when you compete with some of your best friends and you accomplish that competition. It’s like one of the most incredible feelings — just one simple game that’s won. I love that feeling. And it’s not even just winning. It’s just playing with people that you love playing with as well, and you guys are on the same page — when there’s this flow throughout the game where you take control.
It’s one of the most incredible feelings like, “Oh my gosh, we’re making this team look like mannequins” or “Oh my gosh, what’s happening? It’s already 3-0 before half, you know, little things like that makes competing that much more fun or even say we’re down a goal at half and we end up winning the game. We get two or three goals in the second half, a comeback. I can name a long list of things like why I love competition and you know those are just some of the things just being able to come back from a loss or, just simply combining with your teammates. When you’re putting together 30 plus passes together before going to goal. Little things like that make competing just like that much more fun.
Who do you wish was watching you at every game you play?
At every game? My grandmother — she’s like my number one support, and always has been since I was a little girl. I know she would be every game physically if she was physically capable of doing so, but she’s paralyzed on the left side of her body due to a stroke that she had about 10or so years ago. But yeah, I would love my grandmother be at every game because she would be the loudest one in the crowd. That’s for sure.
What do you do to calm your nerves leading up to, during, and after a match?
So I have this routine where I am nervous before every game, whether it be a scrimmage, It could be an intramural game. You name it. I’m nervous before every game, it can be 7 v 7 competition. I have the same nervous feeling, but once I get my first touch and first completed pass out of the way that calms me down like “okay, I’m good. Now, got my first touch out of the way. Got my first pass out of the way and completed. I’m good.” I’m at the office. This is just another day at the office, you know, so it’s, it’s when I get that first touch and I complete my first pass in a game where you know my nerves are really calm, because it’s like, OK I touched the ball, pass completed. Let’s go.”
I don’t know how or why, but that’s how it’s been for me for like 19 years and it’s worked for me so far.
Then coming down after a match, you’ve got the adrenaline pumping and all that. How do you come down?
Oh, you don’t. You don’t. I don’t know a single person that can calm down after games. It’s very hard for me to actually sleep after games. It takes me a very long time to fall asleep after games because adrenaline’s just still going. Even though I’m just laying there twiddling my thumbs tired as ever. I mean, I’m still kind of wide awake. So that’s a very hard thing to accomplish is like really trying to calm down after a game. That’s a hard one. I can’t come down after games it’s really tough.
Where do you see the sport in 10-15 years?
I feel like we’re following in the footsteps of the MLS. I see after 25 years, being a league, I see 30 plus teams here in the United States because I feel like women’s soccer at this point is going to continue to grow at a professional level. Just seeing the NWSL succeed, the way that it has historically in comparison to all of the other professional leagues that we’ve had before us, we’re definitely heading in the right direction. I definitely see us following the same footsteps as MLS.
I truly believe that we will bring in some of the best in the world to come here because I believe that being with the USA Women’s National Team, how successful we’ve been, over the years, it’s going to draw people’s attention to want to come here and play. Who doesn’t want to come and play for [OL] Reign with Megan Rapinoe? Take that opportunity. She’s a FIFA Player of the Year. Players like that — it’s going to help draw so much more attention into this league and that’s where some of the best players in the world elsewhere outside the United States are going to want to come in. I truly believe that’s what’s going to help the league grow — it’s bringing in other people from other places to add a little bit of flair to soccer here in the United States so I definitely see us following in the same footsteps as the MLS just slowly but surely getting to that very successful point in time. It’s definitely going to be a good decade or so until we get there but you know things are definitely looking up because we’re gonna have 11 teams pretty soon here. So I’m very excited.
Question from Lindsay Agnew: What was your high and low of being in the NWSL bubble for the challenge cup?
My high would probably be the availability of coffee every day. There was always coffee available wherever we were. That was really nice. The NWSL ended up getting us like a coffee truck. So that was really cool. That was a game-changer.
The low would probably be, you know, just getting knocked out as early as we did because it was very unexpected. So that was a huge bummer.
I shouldn’t even say that was the high coffee. I mean, just being able to compete was probably the high of entirely, but thinking outside the box a coffee was definitely a game-changer. But yeah, I think the loss to Portland was definitely a bummer for us. I probably vouch for all of my teammates that that loss was probably the low for everybody.
2020 Starting XI Questions
Check out our first five 2020 Starting XI Questions:
All of our Starting XI Questions can be read here.
Look for more articles on Jess McDonald and the entire North Carolina Courage squad throughout the 2020 season here on Courage Country.