When you watch a soccer match, the nerviest moments as a fan tend to be when your club is defending and the pressure is on their backline. But, for the Washington Spirit defense, Sam Staab never seems to be bothered by the chaos surrounding her.
Staab’s defensive positioning is great, but it’s that composure and her passing that jump off the film. The San Diego native showcased those traits in her college career at Clemson, too. She was the 2018 ACC Defender of the Year and her 33 career assists ranked fourth all-time for the Tigers when she graduated. “I’ve played more of a defensive role on teams in the latter parts of my career, but when I was younger I started out as an attacking player,” Staab told BGN. “I guess I’ve always kept that nose for goal, but now being a defender, I’ve transitioned to being more of an opportunity creator than doing the actual finishing, which I do thoroughly enjoy because well who doesn’t like scoring goals and winning?” In her rookie season with Washington, Sam did score one goal, connected on 84% of her passes, made 11 key passes, and registered an assist.
That great skill in distribution is amplified by her calmness when under pressure, able to slide past an opposing player and fire a diagonal pass or push the ball to a midfielder. “I’ve had quite a few of my coaches comment that they sometimes feel they have to check if I even have a pulse so I’m glad I give off that kind of composure, but in my head, it isn’t always as zen as it may seem,” she explained. “I think overall though I am a very chill, go with the flow person so I think that’s my personality shining through on the field.”
After letting that personality shine for Washington as a rookie, Staab joined Western Sydney for the 2019-20 W-League season in Australia. “I absolutely loved playing for Western Sydney this past offseason. I loved the girls, the staff, Sydney, Australia, basically everything about the experience,” she said, adding that it gave her a great opportunity to work on things in a different setting.
It remains to be seen if her positive performances abroad and in the NWSL will earn her a call-up to the USWNT first team. She scored the lone goal in the 2018 Nordic Tournament final to win the tournament for the US U-23 side. “I go into training each day wanting to get better, to grow, learn, and develop in order to be the best center back in the US and then eventually hopefully one of the best in the world,” she explained.
Sam’s favorite center-back has carried the distinction of being one of the world’s best: former Manchester City star and captain Vincent Kompany. “I always enjoyed, not only how calm and controlled he could play, but also his leadership on and off the field,” she said. “Being a professional athlete is a great platform to use to continue the growth and progression of whatever causes you are passionate about along with growing the game and being a positive influence for younger players. I always felt like he embodied that role really well so I’ve always looked up to him more so as a person and for his character, but he also happens to be a tremendous player.”
Next up, Sam Staab will get the chance to showcase her leadership, composure, and passing ability in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup. Washington will take on Utah Royals FC on June 30th for their opening match, live from Zions Bank Stadium and streaming on CBS All-Access.