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The Green Machine

U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team forward Summer Green has met long-time U.S. Women’s National Team great Lindsay Tarpley just once. The meeting came during Green’s recruiting trip to UCLA, where Tarpley’s husband, B.J. Snow, is the head women’s soccer coach.

Although Green didn’t end up choosing UCLA, Tarpley probably wasn’t too disappointed in her final choice. Green eventually verbally committed to the school where Tarpley was an NCAA champion and a First-Team All-American: North Carolina.

But even though the two soccer players, separated by a generation, have crossed paths only briefly, they have more than a few things in common.

To start, both are from Michigan. Tarpley is from Kalamazoo and Green hails from Milford, a small town about two hours east. Tarpley played for the Michigan Hawks and so does Green.

Both are blond, about the same height and build, and somewhat shy. Both carry themselves with a humility, cordiality and calm demeanor that is typically Midwestern. Best of all, both are crafty and opportunistic goal scorers.

Of course, it could be unfair to compare the 17-year-old Green to one of the USA’s most successful players ever. Tarpley has played 125 times for the National Team and scored 32 goals, including strikes in the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup Final and 2004 Olympic gold medal game. Young Summer, however, is off to a similar start to her youth career.

Tarpley, the one-time captain of the U.S. U-19s, scored 24 goals in 26 games at that level. Green has 12 career goals at the U-17 level so far, including nine in the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championships that will send three teams to the third FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup later this fall in Azerbaijan.

“Being from Michigan, I always watched her play and I always admired her tenacity in going forward,” said Green, who also sat and listened (remember, she is a bit shy) to Tarpley speak at regional camp and to the youth national teams. “She seems like she’s always determined to get the job done and play her kind of game.”

Green’s kind of game has been tough to stop at this level. She is a rare striker in women’s soccer who is comfortable playing with her back to goal, able to hold the ball under pressure to allow her team to move forward while also being able to spin off defenders and run at the defense with pace and lethal finishing ability.

“I like to go at players with speed, moves and the ability to combine with other players as well,” said Green. “I guess I just love to score goals.”

But like all young players, and many veterans as well, Green has hit rough patches with her confidence. Before this tournament started, she was admittedly in a bit of a funk

“I was just thinking too much,” said Green. “I wasn’t myself because I was focused on everyone around me instead of focusing of the things that can help me perform and in turn help the team. I just wasn’t relaxing and wasn’t having fun.”

After some talks with her national team coaches and some admirable introspection for a teenager, Green has turned it around. And that’s a great thing for the USA.

“I have to remember that I’m here for a reason or the coaches wouldn’t have selected me,” said Green. “I really stepped back, took a deep breath and went into depth about the things that are most important to focus on so I’m not thinking about everything at once.”

Green scored five times in the USA’s 10-0 victory against the Bahamas to open the tournament and might have broken the record for most goals in a game by a U.S. Women’s National Team player at any level had she not come off in the 71st minute. She then scored once in a 5-0 romp against Trinidad Tobago and notched all three goals in the USA’s group finale triumph over Mexico.

Like she said, the kid loves to score goals. But she loves scoring them for her team more than for herself.

“The goals weren’t as personally rewarding as they were rewarding on a team level,” said Green. “It’s also been fun because they all weren’t the same type of goal. They were team goals with a variety of finishes so hopefully I can be dangerous from all different parts of the field.”

Like millions of young girls out there, and especially those representing the USA at the youth level, Green would love to one day follow in Tarpley’s footsteps and play for the full Women’s National Team. But in line with the recent self-reflection in which she hit her reset button, she’s going to focus on the task at hand.

“I want to go wherever my talent will take me,” said Green. “If I work hard enough and I’m good enough then good things will happen, but obstacles are a part of life. When you face things and overcome them it makes you stronger and it makes you unstoppable. I want to be able to face all my obstacles and still get to where I want to be, and hopefully that will be the full team. But right now the main goal is to focus on the next game and help our team get to the World Cup. And the best thing is that we are not in this alone. We have all our teammates. It’s like a family and we will help each other reach our goals.”

The next goal? It’s not one that she will score, but scoring will certainly help her reach it: plane tickets to Azerbaijan.

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