BRAD SMITH/ISI PHOTOS

You may hear the name ‘Kristie Mewis’ circulating headlines over the next few days, following the midfielder’s instantaneous impact upon returning to the pitch for the U.S. women’s national team in a friendly against the Netherlands last Friday. 10 minutes after coming off of the bench, Mewis received a pass from teammate Lynn Williams, took a few touches, and buried a shot past Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, sealing a comfortable 2-0 win for the United States.

Mewis made scoring a goal against an international opponent look easy, as if it’s a part of her regular routine. But here’s the catch. Ahead of Friday’s game, Mewis had not made an appearance for her country since 2014.

To start, let’s revisit Mewis’s career. In 2013 and 2014, Mewis received call-ups to the U.S. women’s national team, earning 15 caps for her country before abruptly falling off of the national team radar. In terms of the National Women’s Soccer League, Mewis was traded a total of five times from 2013-2017 (with two of those trades happening only a week apart), bouncing from FC Kansas City to the Boston Breakers, then to the Washington Spirit, then to the Chicago Red Stars, before finally landing on the Houston Dash roster.

Needless to say, it was a tumultuous time for the young player — and just when she had begun to find her footing with the Dash, Mewis tore her ACL in a match against the Washington Spirit in May 2018.

Mewis’s injury was certainly a tough pill to swallow, as she was just beginning to return to the level of play that earned her two national call-ups four and five years prior. Now, she would be restricted to the sidelines for the remainder of the year. As teammate Rachel Daly would put it, “[The loss of Mewis] is obviously so difficult because I think she has been our best player this year.”

And indeed, she had — Mewis started all 11 of her appearances with the Dash that season, recording 919 minutes of playing time and scoring two goals. But unbeknownst to Mewis and her teammates, her injury would quickly prove to be a turning point in her playing career.

Given that an ACL injury takes anywhere from eight to twelve months to recover from, Mewis suddenly found herself coming to grips with the harsh reality that she had been okay with being ‘average’.

As reported by Seth Vertelney in October of this year, Mewis said of her injury: “Me tearing my ACL was kind of a blessing in disguise because I feel like it just woke me up a little bit. It just made me ask myself, ‘Kristie, what are you doing? You need to come back from this. You’re being OK with being 70 or 80 percent,’” she continued, “It was just hard to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy with where I was. But I think I just woke up one day and was like, ‘Let’s do this.’”

It was with that mindset that Mewis would return to the Dash in 2019, even better than before. She appeared in 22 matches for Houston, 20 in which she was a member of the starting line-up, logging 1,818 minutes of playing time, 4 goals, and an assist. But Mewis refused to stop there — she was on the cusp of greatness, which was further affirmed upon the receipt of her third national team call-up in November of 2019.

For Mewis, she could only go up from there—that is, until COVID-19 brought the 2020 NWSL season to a sudden halt. Amidst great uncertainty surrounding how the NWSL (and sports in general) would proceed, the NWSL Challenge Cup was announced. The first-time event would bring eight NWSL teams into a ‘bubble’ in late June, with each team playing a total of four matches in a preliminary round before a subsequent knockout tournament.

The Dash, who finished the 2019 season with a 7-5-12 record and in seventh place in league standings, were given +2,000 odds to win the Cup by the William Hill Sports Book — superior only to Sky Blue FC and the Orlando Pride, who were forced to opt out of the tournament due to a slew of positive COVID-19 tests within their organization.

Despite the unfavorable circumstances, Mewis and her team were determined to prove themselves, cruising through the preliminaries of the tournament and eventually defeating the Utah Royals in penalty kicks to advance past the quarterfinals. Now, the chance to punch their ticket to the Challenge Cup final was well within reach with a win over the Portland Thorns. A late goal by Rachel Daly would send Houston to the final, where they went on to secure a comfortable 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars, defying the odds to earn their first hardware in club history.

An integral part of the Challenge Cup victory, Mewis started 7 matches and played 558 minutes, notching a goal and an assist in the process.

In the subsequent NWSL Fall Series, the Dash boasted a 3-1-0 record, finishing the short-lived 2020 season at second place in the table. Likewise dominant were Mewis’ stats through the four matches — she notched two goals and five assists, continuing to reach new heights. The cherry on top? Being called into the USWNT team training camp for the fast-approaching friendly against the Netherlands.

Back in December, Mewis discussed her initial return to the USWNT in an interview with American Soccer Now.

“Putting the U.S. crest on again was pretty cool. I always hoped I would be able to do it again. It was definitely a special moment for me since it has been a really long time,” she said. “I have made huge strides to get back. But I obviously don’t want to just get back to where I was, I want to get back to an even better place. So that’s what I’m striving for. I want to be better than I was before I tore my ACL. I don’t just want to be the same.”

Mewis certainly isn’t the same player she was before her injury — in fact, she is exponentially better — and others are starting to take notice. In only 30 minutes of play during Friday’s friendly, she made a lasting impression on the national team, inscribing her name on the scoresheet with the added bonus of getting to celebrate the achievement alongside her sister, Sam.

Inclusion for the Olympics may still be a long shot, but at just 29 years of age, Mewis still has time to work her way into the national team rotation. Friday’s goal may have been a remarkable milestone in her six-year comeback, but if Mewis has proved anything over the past year and a half, it’s that she’s no longer settling for just being good enough. She wants to be great, and it’s time we take notice.

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