I've never played forward at the end of a match like this. Wow. There was minimal pressure to score. Nevertheless I did manage a good shot that caught the top of the post and bounced back to a teammate who sent it wide. I ran a lot and worked hard, but I was a hundred times more relaxed than I am on the back line. No matter how far ahead we are, on the back line I never enjoy the lead. The lead is ours to blow. It is so stressful. I never knew how much I felt the full weight of that burden until it was lifted by the captain's request to put this left back forward.
The degree to which I feel that stress is the biggest obstacle to playing my best in league matches. Like many, my best game is reserved for those settings where there are no stakes - when we play for the love of it and for no other reason. For me, that's Wednesday nights in a rag-tag scrimmage that starts around 9:00pm. If I could play that game every night, I'd play until my legs fell off. (As it is, we play once a week until the lights go off.)
Ironically, the greatest professional players - the ones who play for the highest stakes - seem able to tap into the joy and a certain fearlessness whatever the setting.
And so defender Lilian Turham knocked in the only two goals of his storied career playing for France in a 1998 World Cup semifinal against Croatia, sending the first one in when France was down one-nil. This man must feel the adrenalin but not the nerves.