Kristie Mewis had to wait six long years for her moment in Friday night’s U.S. Women’s National Team Friendly against the Netherlands.
Mewis had an ear-to-ear grin as Rose Lavelle trotted off the pitch and she took her place in the midfield next to Julie Ertz and her younger sister Sam. Nine minutes later, she collected a perfect flick off Lynn Williams and bolted in on goal by herself. Mewis calmly slotted a shot past a diving Sari van Veenendaal and inside the far post to put the USWNT up 2-0. Any sense of calm was gone and she threw her arms in the air in celebration as if the last six years didn’t happen. The first teammate to embrace her was her sister.
“I just had to rewatch it actually because I think I blacked out what actually happened,” Mewis said during the post match Zoom call, still beaming from scoring her first international goal in 2,723 days, the longest period between goals by one player in USWNT history.
“I was so nervous to shoot it, but I just wound up and gave it the best I could, and then yeah I mean like turning around and just realizing what just happened and seeing Sam and Alex running towards me was so special.”
The nerves didn’t hit Mewis right from the start. She knew from conversations with head coach Vlatko Andonovski in the week leading up to the game that she would probably be subbed into the game at some point, so she went through the entire game simply wondering when she would get her shot. That, combined with her sister Sam’s presence on the pitch kept her at ease right up until she found herself with a golden opportunity to score.
“I felt oddly comfortable,” Mewis said about the moment she was put into the game. “I was definitely a little bit nervous, but I didn't feel uncomfortable. I mean, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I was trying to be so serious but I couldn't. I just saw Sam and she was smiling at me, and I did feel oddly comfortable and I think it was probably because she was on the field and obviously I've been training with the other players so I did feel a sense of comfort.”
It is fitting that Mewis made her USWNT return under Andonovski. The two have a history together dating back to 2013, when Andonovski was the head coach of FC Kansas City. Mewis was his first ever draft pick as a NWSL coach when she was selected third overall in the first round of the 2013 NWSL College Draft. He saw the way Mewis battled back from a career full of setbacks and felt she belonged on Friday night’s squad just as much as any of the established veterans.
“One thing that I know about Kristie Mewis is that in the last year starting at the end of 2019 and 2020, we see a little bit of a different player,” Andonovski said after the match. “First, off the field a little more committed and a little better pro, but then on the field with her play with her performance she showed she deserved to be around this group of players.”
Mewis jumped back into the spotlight after featuring heavily for the NWSL Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash and leading the NWSL in assists during the Fall Series. The revival season came after a period of positional uncertainty and a devastating ACL injury in 2018, adding another layer of relief to Friday’s appearance and goal.
Mewis never stopped following her sister’s or the USWNT’s progress during her six years away from the side. She only attended a few games in person, but she always made sure to watch and cheer Sam on. She is as much of a fan as she is a player and watching the team succeed at the highest level only increased her desire to return to the squad in the future.
“I mean I did have a couple years there as a spectator and it's always it's always so fun to watch them play,” Mewis said, “but always in the back of my mind I did want to get back here and I did want to play for this team again. So it was very motivational to obviously see Sam here, and to see how much success this team has had so it kind of just pushed me even harder.”
Mewis’s persistence and hard work finally paid off after six years and scoring nine minutes into her comeback made it all worth it. Next on her list is maintaining a spot with the team. No part of Kristie Mewis wants this to be a one time, feel good story.
“In my years away and obviously I need to continue now to grow and get better,” she said. “I think I can still improve so much as a player so that I am able to hopefully stay here with this team for as long as I can.”