Being the first to do something is important in sports. We remember a lot of those firsts long after the second has come, or the record that was first created is broken.
The first four minute mile.
The first Super Bowl championship.
The first player with over 300 caps for their national team.
Maybe even the first captain to lead their national team to a World Cup.
A lot of casual soccer fans know who Alex Morgan is, less than who should but still a sizeable percentage. They have heard of Christen Press or Kelley O’Hara or Becky Sauerbrunn. They know the US women’s national team has a history of being very good. That recognition is built on the backs of the teams and the players who make up those teams going back to before the first time women could fight for a world title.
In other countries, the history may be lacking or might just not be as well known. As the game grows around the world, new chapters are being written. This is the start of the next chapter for Scotland. A change from fighting to get to the next level and make a major event to being among the nations who have the right to play for a World Cup title.
It is my hope in 20 years that the players from the Scottish women’s national team are going to look at 2019 the way that many of the current USWNT players look back at the time between 1991 and 1999. There are Scottish players that have come before the likes of Rachel Corsie and Kim Little and Jane Ross, but these are the names that will most often live on in memory because they are the first to get to this new level that is uncharted for Scotland. They are the ones who finally punched the ticket that Scotland’s faithful fans have been holding since Scotland’s women’s team had their first match in 1972.
And leading them out as their captain is, Utah Royals own, Rachel Corsie.
The grand thing about having a league made up of a bulk of Americans and a healthy dose of international players is fans are exposed to the idea that other places have players that are good, maybe even better than some Americans. And while in a vacuum, if you asked Joe or Jane Q fan, if Scotland had a women’s national team and they might say yes, without Kim Little or Corsie having played in the US, the chances they could name a player on the team are next to zero.
Having Rachel Corsie not only be in the NWSL but be a force in the NWSL matters. It matters that she and Becky Sauerbrunn, a fan favorite and a former USWNT captain, are a dynamic duo when they are holding down the Utah backline. It matters that American fans who support Utah or just the NWSL in general are going to look at the Scottish team as a little bit theirs because of the captain.
And it matters most of all for the kids in Scotland. For the little girls who dream of playing the sport they love on that stage one day. A stage that is like no other. It matters that Corsie has given them an image of someone who sounds like them, even if she admits a bit of American has slipped in over the years, and who is known as a professional footballer. Not an someone who plays on the weekends or when the national team is in camp. A professional footballer with all that means.
Carla Overbeck is one of the great American centerbacks. She wore the armband between 1993 and 2000 during some of the highest highs the U.S. team has seen. She was a towering figure in the center of the defense for over a decade. In twenty years, I hope Rachel Corsie is spoken of with the respect that Overbeck still is. I hope she is spoken of as someone who ran head first into uncharted territory while leading her team to heights they hadn’t seen before.
Rachel Corsie matters like Carla Overbeck matters. And Sun Wen of China matters. And Birgit Prinz of Germany matters. And Marta of Brazil matters.
Rachel Corsie matters to the Scottish children and adults who never thought they would see one of their teams in the World Cup. She matters to the Scottish children and adults who knew they would see their national team in the World Cup one day because they believed. And she matters to Utah fans, to Reign fans, to NWSL fans.
Good luck, Corsie. May we hear “Flower of Scotland” be sung all around the world this summer and for years to come.