After her club completed their training session on Monday in preparation for a showdown with OL Reign on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena, Gotham FC forward and New Jersey native Paige Monaghan spoke with us on a variety of topics, including game preparation, communication with teammates, keys to the Reign game, and the people who inspire her.
During a media call last week, you told reporters that despite the team’s recent struggles, there’s no group of players and no club you’d rather be with. Coming off another training session today when you were with your team, could you illustrate for us a few of the reasons why you said that?
First of all, I’m from New Jersey. I played college soccer at Butler University and had the chance to explore many places around this country, but there really is no place like home. There is also nothing quite like Jersey soccer. So to be drafted here and see the evolution of Gotham FC, as much as the results currently are definitely not what we want, when I look around this club, I am surrounded by so much. We have great players from varied backgrounds, with so many different experiences behind them, along with stories and life lessons on and off the field. My teammates have so much to offer. When I’m at training, all I see is players working hard, trying to perfect their craft, and pushing each other to be their best. Even during a challenging season like this, there are challenges to face and overcome. Honestly, that's a part of life.
At this point in the season, do the coaches show a lot of tape of an opponent like OL Reign, who you face Wednesday, or is the focus completely on Gotham FC and what you need to do to get three points?
Usually we prepare a lot with game film and looking at formations and everything about our opponent, but being where we are at with our recent results, we are really forced to look at ourselves and what we can do and what we can control. Right now, the focus is on Gotham. The emphasis is on us to work through this as a team and not as individuals. If we do that, as a team, we have a chance to be successful. Our approach continues to be where it should be. We’ll be ready for Wednesday.
You could see on Saturday in DC how much offensive potential there is with your forward group. You and Ifeoma Onumonu, for example, created a lot of scoring chances. We could also see you talking with each other at the end of the first half. When things aren’t clicking and leading to goals, how do you try to solve problems? Is it all about communication?
Personally, I find communication is huge. I’m fortunate because Ify is my roommate, so we’re able to have a lot of conversations about life and the game and how we can be better together. Ify made some amazing runs against the Spirit. We were so close to getting the important goal, but we just couldn’t get there on Saturday. Among all of us, we’re asking each other things like “What did you see in this instance?” and “How can we connect better to make this play work”? In the end, we have to get shots in the back of the net. I think it's important to have relationships with my teammates so we can have conversations that are open and honest, getting us closer to where we want to be. I take pride in my teammates knowing they can talk to me at any time and have a real conversation, because our top priority always concerns getting positive results.
Are there any particular aspects of your game that you’re extra focused on lately?
I watch film right after every game. I love learning more and more about the game, no matter whether it’s been a good match or a tough one. I’ve been building pieces of my game every single week. Lately, my focus has been on the final piece (scoring). I’m getting into good areas and making good runs, but the final piece has not been there. I’m doing what I can – watching film, taking extra reps. I have faith it will work out, even during times when it’s tough to believe. I’m trusting in my approach and process and in the idea that if I keep working on these building blocks, I’ll get to where I want to be.
What are your thoughts on facing OL Reign on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena?
They’re a great team – well-coached, outstanding players, good results. We have to roll up our sleeves and be at our best to compete against them. For us, possession will be key, as will staying sharp for all 90 minutes.
We know you want to win everywhere, but is the determination even greater to get a win for the Gotham FC fans at home?
Definitely. When your team is winning, it’s easy to support them. But when you’re struggling and your fans are still showing up to support you, you feel seen and heard and it means the world. I believe our fans see how hard our team works, how badly we want this, and how tough this stretch of adversity has been. For our supporters and all of our fans across this area, we want to make you proud and I thank you!
As a New Jersey native, what’s your message to young players growing up in the metropolitan area who aspire to be a pro like you?
I was a Jersey kid, too, and still am! I would want young players to know that I didn’t make a lot of teams growing up in club soccer, but I enjoyed the game, enjoyed learning, enjoyed being on a team. My advice is to work hard, believe in yourself, and surround yourself with good groups of people.
Just looking at last Saturday, the atmosphere at Audi Field for your match was electric, and San Diego set a league record with more than 32,000 fans at their stadium. Now that you’ve been with this club and in the NWSL a while, where do your expectations stand for Gotham FC and the league?
This is my fourth year. From my experience, I would say our time is now. The fans are coming. The crowds are there. The interest from businesses in partnering with us is strong. It’s no longer about potential. The opportunity is here. For Gotham FC and every club across the NWSL. Right now.
Supporting women's sports isn't just a thing to do. It’s a profession. It’s a business. People see that now and are joining us in taking the next steps. I’m excited for all of the investors who are investing in the league and our club now because they see the business opportunity.
What’s a matchday like for you? For example, before you play OL Reign on Wednesday, how do you get yourself ready?
Wake up and have my morning coffee. Go for a walk. Have a late breakfast – more like a brunch. After that, I like to make sure everything at home and for the game is tidy and in its place. Years before, it used to be that I was confident on practice days. I felt like one of the best players out there. Then matchday would come and I would feel nervous. And I’d wonder why. Over time, what I found was that meditation on matchday was important. My approach is that everything I’ve done in training is what has prepared me for the game. So I’ve learned to enjoy getting to the stadium, being around my teammates, and warming up. I’ve found that when I’m calm, I’m more confident. And when I’m confident, I play better.
Away from soccer, what brings you enjoyment?
Any chance I have to be with my family so we can catch up, it makes me very happy. I really love spending time with my family, friends, and teammates. I’m a big social coffee drinker. It’s important to me to have a pulse on the people in my life. Seems to be pretty busy nowadays but I live by making the most of every day.
Who are the people who most inspire you?
My family, because of all the sacrifices they made. My college coaches at Butler – Rob Alman, Tari St. John, and Rob Klatte – also played a big part in my development as a player. But youth soccer costs money, and then there’s the traveling. My sister, two brothers and parents put my dreams first. They were incredibly selfless. There were times when I didn’t always believe in myself, when I didn’t make teams, but my family always had faith in me. As a kid, I would go to U.S. National Team games at Met Life Stadium and those events made me want to be a soccer player. To be living that dream today, and to be able to show others that they can do it too, is really incredible. I feel fortunate to have the support of so many people along the way.