This is the final piece of a multi-part series of features on Racing Louisville’s rookie class of 2022 released here and via the Butchertown Rundown podcast (@ButchertownR) on the Beautiful Game Network. Check out the first part here with an article on Kirsten Davis and the second part with a podcast interview with Savannah DeMelo. The third part features an article on Hilllary Beall. And the podcasts end with an interview with Jaelin Howell in the fourth part.
A Little Backstory
Building soccer programs from the ground up is nothing new for Jordyn Bloomer. While some may find the prospect of joining a young team like Racing Louisville daunting, the rookie goalkeeper finds it exciting.
“I think it definitely doesn’t come without its challenges,” says Bloomer, “but I feel like building a program is something that I’ve actually been doing for a while now.”
She pauses a moment before declaring, “Here’s a little backstory.”
First, she explains, she was on the very first Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) teams in her home state of Wisconsin. ECNL is considered by many to be the top youth league in the country. Bloomer says that back in those early days, her club could barely put together enough people to field a team. By the time she left, they had four solidly established teams across the required ECNL age groups.
Next, she played college soccer at the University of Wisconsin. While never a poor program, Wisconsin wasn’t historically a regular contender. Outside of national team midfielder Rose Lavelle, there hadn’t been many consistent appearances on the All-American list either. But Bloomer’s four-and-a-half years with the program, the Badgers not only made it to the Sweet 16 four out of five times they also won their first Big Ten Championship.
Says Bloomer: “I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of teams and groups of people that have put together some very special seasons starting with what many people would say is probably not much. So if that’s what people are saying about us here, then I don’t know. Kind of seems like I’m in the right spot then.”
A Little Insane
Bloomer is quick to credit her teammates for her past squads’ successes. Even so, there’s no doubt Bloomer’s fierce competitiveness played a significant role, too. Her single-minded desire to win is what put her in front of the net in the first place.
As is true in most youth programs, younger players on Bloomer’s childhood squad rotated around the field with no set keeper. If Bloomer kept a clean sheet as goalie in the first half but saw it ruined after she was pulled onto the field, it would darken her entire day.
“I would be so upset that we lost because somebody else didn’t do something that I thought I could have done,” she says. “So at one point I got so tired of that situation happening. I was like, you know what? Fine. I’ll just play goalie the whole time. I don’t care.”
Being a good keeper doesn’t just mean a player needs to be athletic. They also need to be fearless to the point of bordering on recklessness. After all, their job involves diving headfirst in front of nearly a dozen kicking opponents with spikes on their shoes. Bloomer shrugs nonchalantly after being asked about how goalies do this so readily.
“If I have to throw my face in front of the ball to keep us from losing then I’ll do it all in the name of the win. It sounds dumb now when we break it down, though,” she admits. “Like the concept of diving and like throwing my body through the air with zero intention of landing on my feet sounds a little insane. But I think I just built myself up to the point where it is what it is.”
Unlike most of the new players, Bloomer had already experienced Racing Louisville in-person prior to being drafted. Alongside fellow rookie Hillary Beall, Bloomer attended an off-season goalkeeping camp in Louisville this past fall. Run by Racing’s goalkeeping coach Sergio Gonzalez, it was held at the club’s training facility and featured nearly a dozen college keepers Racing wanted a closer look at prior to the draft.
According to Bloomer, Gonzalez called her coach at Wisconsin to invite her to join. Her coach encouraged her to do so, saying it would be a great opportunity.
“It kind of all fell into my lap, honestly,” recalls Bloomer. “It worked out where camp was held after our NCAA tournament had ended and our run in the Sweet 16 had just come to a close. And I pretty much turned around in the next weekend and went out to Louisville so it all worked out.”
Bloomer calls the experience awesome, saying she was particularly grateful for the chance to sit down and talk to Racing’s former captain Michelle Betos about playing in the league. She also appreciates getting a taste of the professional environment and learning more about what Louisville had to offer. The experience gave attendees a better idea of the level of play expected of NWSL keepers while also acclimating them physically.
Now that Bloomer’s been drafted and joined the full team in preseason, she says her estimation of the club and city has only grown.
“It’s been everything that I think I could have expected and then some ’cause I had no idea what I was jumping into,” she says. “But everything I’ve gotten to experience so far has been great, so no complaints here.”
Didn't take long to realize we had a keeper! 🧤
Jordyn Bloomer — the second player selected at her position in the @NWSL Draft — has signed a one-year contract with an option for 2023.
— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) February 8, 2022
A Mutual Respect
A large part of Bloomer’s comfort and satisfaction with the club so far is due to her teammates.
“I feel like our comfort level with everyone around us has grown so much and like we’ve really gotten to a point where like it’s fun,” says Bloomer about the chemistry is developing amongst the Racing teammates. After only one year, Racing turned over almost 50% of their roster. This leaves new and returning players with a lot of relationships to build during the preseason. Bloomer reports that the team has made big strides in this department.
“After a training, somebody’s gonna go grab a coffee or somebody wants to go do dinner later that night and it’s just a random group of people can get together and sit down and have a good time. It’s gotten to a point where I feel very comfortable with everyone and it’s been under 30 days, which I think speaks volumes to the type of people we do have.”
This is a common refrain among Racing players this preseason. In all the rookie interviews and even some post-scrimmage chats with returning players, everyone mentions how close they’ve already become. And not in the perfunctory PR “we’re a great team, rah-rah” kind of way. They almost seem taken aback by just how well they’ve bonded over the course of only a few weeks. Some have said this is the best team environment they’ve ever experienced. The word “family” gets used frequently.
This chemistry being built socially amongst players will have a direct impact on how the players will succeed as a team. According to Bloomer, “You can’t get to know how to talk to somebody on the field if you don’t know them off of it.”
On-field communication can be a challenge for players coming together for the first time. As a result, relationship building between teammates has been by design, to some extent. Bloomer says communication and how it impacts team culture is definitely a topic they’ve discussed collectively. This can be particularly important to goalkeepers who often have to communicate and direct the rest of the players on their side. Fo their position of the field, they have more of a full-field vantage point and can tell their field players if an opponent is coming up behind them or making a run towards the box.
“I have a responsibility to my teammates that if we’re gonna win and we want to stay competitive in the game, they need the information of what’s going on when they can’t see it themselves,” says Bloomer. So being a vocal keeper is important, as long as it works with the players in front of them. After all, it has to be intimidating being a rookie trying to direct an accomplished veteran leader like Gemma Bonner, right?
“It was definitely intimidating at first,” admits Bloomer. “But it’s been growing in the sense that we’re now generating a mutual respect and we’re able to have conversations. I can learn from her and then that strengthens my ability to communicate with her, because now we’re on the same page, so it’s actually gone a lot better… The ability to learn from these girls that have been in the league for even just a couple of years, it’s been huge. It’s been good. And I think it’s going to keep growing, which is exciting. “
— Bekki Morgan (@bekki_morgan) February 24, 2022
An Amazing Goal
During the interview, some of that team chemistry was put on display. Racing was still in Tallahassee to play scrimmages against Florida State University and Bloomer chose to do the interview in the hotel room set aside for recovery and – more importantly – snack storage. As a result, numerous players came in and out as they sought out food. First, Emina Ekic (“We’ve got the hometown hero entering the chat,” chides Bloomer as Ekic walks in.) Next, came Nadia Nadim and then Freja Olofsson who both waved hello before settling down to watch the end of the conversation.
During this interview series, every rookie mentioned how welcoming the team has been. Everyone said there were no divides between rookies and veterans and that everyone was able to be themselves. Seeing Nadim – one of the most veteran and accomplished of all Racing players – settle back onto the bed behind Bloomer certainly demonstrated that to be true. Nadim had only been with the team for a couple of days at this point. Freja had only known Bloomer for a couple of weeks. And sought each other out to hang out together.
The last question of the interview was about Bloomer’s personal goals for the season. Does she have any set accomplishments she wants to achieve or will she just go with the flow and see where the year takes her?
Although she admits she’s a very “go with the flow” person by nature, Bloomer ultimately says: “I guess right now the only goal I keep in mind is that I just want to grow as much as possible and take in all the information that I can. Try to develop and get myself ready to, you know, compete at the highest level that I can personally and do what I can to contribute to the team in any way I can.”
As soon as she finishes speaking, Nadim pipes up in the background to say: “That’s an amazing goal! Great job. I like that.”
“Well, it’s Nadia approved!” responds Bloomer with a big smile as she pans the camera to show Nadim who immediately gives a thumbs up. “You can’t get better than that.”