Three-time NWSL Shield winner. Two-time NWSL champion. 2018 NWSL Championship MVP. 2019 World Cup winner. There is little Jessica McDonald hasn’t accomplished in women’s soccer. And now this highly decorated veteran has officially signed with Racing Louisville for a two-year deal.
When her trade from the North Carolina Courage was announced in early December, there was little doubt McDonald would join the team. In an earlier interview with the Beautiful Game Network, she explained what drew her to Louisville and stated it was one of only two clubs in the entire league she’d consider joining. She reiterated that sentiment today in a press event covering the official signing.
“This is something I had asked for,” McDonald told reporters. “To get a fresh start elsewhere and I love that Louisville brings such an amazing family environment.”
A family environment is important to the star forward, who brings her son nine-year-old son Jeremiah with her to this new city. The experience of traveling to a new club as a family will be an adjustment, but it’s one she and Jeremiah relish.
“At this point in my life and being able to share it with my son, it’s just cherry on top. Just showing him a different environment, a different vibe, a different culture. I think that is just such an incredible way to educate children, as well, and so just giving him something new in his life, something fresh, I think it’s going to be great.”
McDonald said the club has been especially helpful in getting her and Jeremiah settled into their new home.
“We were welcomed right off the bat, and it’s been amazing to see a club who has truly helped us in every way, shape, or form, in any kind of way that we needed before we even got here. And so, simple things like that to make my life easier outside of soccer makes things on the field a lot easier for me.”
"I'm super stoked for this upcoming season."
Us too, Jess. 👊 pic.twitter.com/32w3PtVBsS
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) January 28, 2022
Nothing But Positivity
McDonald is in the novel position of being able to play for Racing after playing against them during their inaugural season. No other player on Racing’s roster has ever played against the team prior to joining the club. After watching them play from an opponent’s standpoint, she believes that her additional veteran presence might be what this young team needs to get to the next level.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun being able to help show them the ropes a little bit, especially in this league. I know it’s not easy being at the pro level in general. No matter what sport you’re playing as a pro, it’s hard as a young player. So hopefully I can bring my leadership presence and, you know, bring a little bit of a winning mentality. Bring a little bit of spark. Bring a little bit of whatever I can give to in order to help this team succeed in every way, shape, or form.”
When the new season starts, McDonald will most likely be the most accomplished and most recognizable player on the team. Is she ready to take on that mantle for Racing and all the attention that comes with it?
“Any role that I played in my life, whether in soccer or outside of it, I love embracing it all,” said McDonald. “I love that chip on my shoulder no matter what kind of pressure I have.”
Growing up as a kid playing against her brother and boy cousins made her into an extremely competitive person, said McDonald. She thrives on being challenged as the underdog. Moving to a young team that will have its share of struggles in the new year is the kind of pressure she thrives on and something she’s excited to embrace. Additionally, the outpouring of excitement and support she’s received from Racing’s legion of fans right of the bat has also been something that’s fired her up as well.
“Being able to dabble in a new environment and being shown a lot of love here, you know, that’s what I love embracing as well. It’s the love that’s been shown to be already and the season hasn’t even started yet.
“Overall, I bring nothing but positivity. And it’s definitely a joy that I have always loved bringing into my life, just embracing any type of opportunity that comes my way.”
A Different Feeling
The love McDonald said she’s already felt from Louisville should come as no surprise. The team ranked second in overall attendance in the league last season and has a passionate, supportive fanbase that numerous players have said is unlike anything they’ve previously experienced or anticipated. The gameday experience at Lynn Family Stadium was one that stood out to McDonald when attending the 2021 NWSL Championship match as a visitor and even playing as an opponent.
“Oh, I felt like it was just a different feeling throughout the season when I was playing here before my decision of even coming here to play,” she said. “I’d seen the championship, seen the environment, seen the support that we had here at the stadium for the championship that was absolutely amazing.
“At one point my heart was racing, you know, it really was at one point. I was like, wow, I get to play in front of this! This is absolutely amazing! And just seeing the support and love from everybody here at this stadium made my move here so much more comfortable, to be honest. It was amazing, but also very exciting. I would love to see the stadium packed like this every game. That would be absolutely amazing, especially for women in soccer.”
Attacker and Titan
McDonald has yet to meet most of her teammates but says she’s looking forward to getting started once preseason begins. That may happen as early as Monday, barring a potential player strike over the unfinished collective bargaining agreement the league has been negotiating with the player’s association. She did have the chance to meet new head coach Kim Björkegren, however, and while very friendly, the encounter was a memorable one.
“I met him two days ago, you guys, and I did not expect that man to be as tall as he is,” she exclaimed. “My heart probably stopped a little bit when I met him.”
She said they shared a joke, had a nice conversation, and that she looks forward to getting to know him and his coaching style more in the coming season. McDonald says it was “a pleasure” to meet him ahead of the first practice and get a better sense of who he was. However, upon returning home she may have slightly embellished the story when talking with Jeremiah.
“I was telling my son, I was like, buddy, I met my coach today and he’s a titan. He’s really a titan! And [Jeremiah] was like ‘Really?!’ and I’m like ‘yes!’ And he’s like ‘No!’ and I’m like ‘Yes!'”
She laughed and then said, “Not to be dramatic, but it really was amazing to meet him.”