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Portland’s Simone Charley on the NWSL Fall Series and Life Post-Bubble

Football player Simone Charley on field / JWS

imone Charley is a forward for the Portland Thorns. In college, Charley played soccer and ran track and field for Vanderbilt University where she was named to the 2019 SEC Class of Women’s Legends.

Your first game was pushed back due to the fires in the Pacific Northwest. How was it dealing with that in practices and games?

Luckily, the air quality has improved a lot. It’s pretty much fine now, but for a while it was bad. We just bunkered down indoors — that’s pretty much all you could do. And yeah, our first game was originally pushed back about a week and a half. They delayed it two more times after that because they thought that the air quality would improve, but it didn’t. They just kept having to push it back further and further. It was pretty crazy.

Well, luckily you are safe and you guys were eventually able to play your first game of the Fall Series and beat Utah. How was it being back on the pitch? 

I’m pretty proud of how well our team played. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks and we have a lot of new faces this year, so we’ve had to develop a new team chemistry. I think that as more time has passed, we’ve had more time to play with each other and it’s all starting to come together. So, yeah, I was pretty excited with our performance and how it all played out.

What are your thoughts on the format of these games, since this is obviously very different from the Challenge Cup? 

I like the idea that now we get to play for something bigger than ourselves. We are playing for the Verizon Community Shield and Mimi’s Fresh Tees, which is a really cool organization that makes t-shirts in support of social justice causes. Being able to play for something so much bigger than ourselves and something that will impact our community is a really cool opportunity. I’m enjoying it so far.

Are there any safety concerns you or your team have had given traveling for games while we are still in a pandemic? And if so, how has the team and the league handled these concerns?

The whole series looks a little different than the bubble in Utah. We’re going to have to travel when we go to Seattle and Utah and we’ve had many team meetings about it. We’ve talked about how to do it safely and how to take as many precautions as we can. We’ve had a lot of conversations about it and we’ve figured out a plan that everyone is comfortable with. It was definitely not an easy discussion, though, because it’s for sure not the same as the bubble that we had in Utah.

How have you felt since returning from life in the bubble? Other players have said that the bubble was fairly draining for them. Was that a similar experience for you?

Yeah, I kind of felt removed from the real world and real life for the month and a half we were in the bubble. Returning home afterwards was very weird, especially because I was used to everything being so structured — where you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. In the bubble, everyone is masked up and being as strict as possible all the time. You come back to the actual world and it’s not as strict. When I first got back, I was a little paranoid, like, “Oh my gosh. What’s happening? I can touch things? This is crazy.” It was definitely an adjustment for me, but it was nice to come back.

Are you all still getting tested for COVID once a week?

We’re actually getting tested twice a week right now. I was joking with my friend the other day because I can’t even count how many times I’ve been tested, and it’s like you get it down to a science. It’s like, okay, I like this nostril better and remember to breathe out as soon as they start. But, yeah, because games were a lot more frequent in the bubble, we were getting tested more often because you’d have to be tested before and after every game. It was upwards of three or four times a week. Sometimes even more. And now it’s around twice a week, which is still a good amount.

What are your team’s goals for the remainder of the Fall Series?

Like I was saying earlier, it’s a pretty cool opportunity to play for something bigger than ourselves. I think that’s definitely something in the back of our minds. We want to have the opportunity to give back to our community by wearing the Community Shield. We also want to build for next year. We have a lot of new faces and a lot of young people on our team, so this is a great time to just get more experience under our belt and look forward to the next season.

You came out strong with a goal in your first game against Utah. Do you have any personal goals you are striving for in the last few games?

Just getting more experience and more games under my belt. I want to be consistent and help to continue the momentum that we had as a team throughout the rest of the fall series.

A big storyline before the Fall Series were all of the trades and loans that occurred with some big-name players. How do you think that has affected, if at all, your team or the league in general?

A lot of people decide to go play abroad, which is a pretty cool opportunity. With everything going on, I think that a lot of people thought that playing overseas would be best for them. I do think it’s affected teams who lost a lot of their players, but it also gives more people an opportunity to grow and it allows other players to step up and get more minutes on the field. I think now it’s a cool opportunity to play in the US because you’re going to see players who you wouldn’t normally get to see play.