Boston Breakers forward Lianne Sanderson has had a standout start to the inaugural NWSL season.
The Lewisham, England native has played in her home country, Spain and the United States.
She and Breakers teammate Joanna Lohman have also created a foundation to help spread soccer to young women in underprivileged and developing countries.
The NWSL’s Ben Meyer-Abbott recently got a hold of the former England international to find out more about her in this week’s NWSL Player Q & A.
BMA: Why did you want to come play in America?
LS: My dad always saw me playing in America from a young age and he used to say that to me and I’d say, “Dad, I want to stay at home.” Then when the opportunity came around [after being selected by the Philadelphia Independence in the Women’s Professional Soccer league international draft], it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Not everybody gets a chance to be a full-time professional every day. I got to train every day with professionals and you can’t be in an environment like this and not improve as a player.
BMA: How do you like it here?
LS: As soon as I came to America I fell in love with the country, I just loved it. I love training every day, I love being treated like a full-time professional. The ability of my teammates is second to none and I’ve had the chance to play with some great players.
BMA: What was your reaction when you heard the NWSL was coming into existence?
LS: I felt like I was in mourning when I found out the WPS was folding. It was the best league in the world and the best opportunity. I had a couple of opportunities to go back to play in Europe, but at this moment in time my life is in America and the NWSL is a massive opportunity for women’s soccer.
BMA: Why did you want to sign with the Boston Breakers?
LS: I was in talks with a couple other teams, but as soon as I talked to [Breakers coach] Lisa Cole and she said what my position would be on the team and where the club is going, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. They have an academy system, which is something I believe in, and Boston is a great city and we have a really good fan base. I’m really happy I came here and I’m enjoying it.
Lianne Sanderson has played a vital role for the Breakers this season (Photo by Mike Gridley)
BMA: You lead the league with six assists. Do your teammates get you the ball just so you’ll set them up for a goal?
LS: [Laughing.] I don’t know about that. It’s nice to feel like your teammates believe in you and obviously I can’t get the ball to other people if my teammates don’t get the ball to me. I feel like I’m the kind of player that always wants the ball. Sometimes it can be a downfall, but Lisa Cole allows me to be me on and off the pitch and I love being part of this team.
BMA: Including you, the Breakers have had three NWSL Players of the Week (with Heather O’Reilly winning in Week 3 and Sydney Leroux in Week 4). Are you all trying to one-up each other?
LS: [Laughing.] It’s great to get these awards and achievements, but whenever one of us gets that award I think it’s a representation of how well we play as a team. You don’t win awards if your team is losing. As long as the team wins, that’s the main thing.
BMA: You and Breakers teammate Joanna Lohman started the JoLi Academy, a foundation to bring soccer to young women across the world. What does the academy do?
LS: Our aim is to help young women around the world in underprivileged countries. We’ve been to Jamaica and also had two amazing trips to India, one of which was this past January when we put on a tournament and more than 120 girls participated. It’s not necessarily about teaching them soccer moves, it’s more about life skills and showing them what they can have. When you see how happy the kids are and the smiles on their faces, it puts everything into perspective.
BMA: You were part of one of the most successful women’s teams of all time. What was it like to win the ‘Quadruple’ with Arsenal LFC in England during 2006-07?
LS: I’ve been raised in the Arsenal way. There never was an option of losing. As soon as we stepped over that white line, we knew we were going to win. It wasn’t an arrogant thing. We just had the belief in each other and the confidence. To win the Quadruple (FA Women’s Premier League, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s League Cup and UEFA Women’s Cup) by the time I was 19 was a dream come true.
BMA: What’s your favorite thing to do in Boston?
LS: We love to ride bikes around the city. It’s just amazing here. It reminds me a lot of London. The transportation system is great and there’s a lot of English-style food as well. So it kind of reminds me of home. My favorite place at the moment is Faneuil Hall. But there are a lot of things to do in the city, especially when you ride bikes around.
BMA: You’ve tweeted more than 21,000 times – 6,000 more times than any other player in the NWSL. What do you like about Twitter?
LS: I love interacting with the fans. I just love having discussions about soccer on there. It’s a great way of doing things. There can be a downside. You do get people who are not polite. But for me, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences and had a chance to talk with a lot of really great people on Twitter.
BMA: You got to meet former Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson. What was that like?
LS: We spoke for about five minutes [last October]. It might not seem that long, but to me it felt like half an hour. I grew up a Manchester United fan my whole life and he is Manchester United. Just to be able to speak to him was amazing. A moment I’ll never forget.
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Photos courtesy of Washington Spirit and Boston Breakers.