There's a 'T' in Team
Standing in PPL Park on a cold night in October, the USWNT had just walked off the field with a four goal lead at half time of the 2014 CONCACAF Championship Final. AO Philly leadership and I were cheering on our Yanks at the front of the railing of the supporter section, when my friend and AO Oakland VP Leslie told me that someone was looking for me. I was completely shocked to turn around and see Taylor Racioppi standing there. I was impressed with Taylor's style of play since seeing her at the 2013 U17 CONCACAF Tournament in Jamacia. Her defensive work rate in the midfield was impressive. Here in the AO stands was a U20 WWC MF and future Duke Blue Devil. I greeted Taylor & introduced her to the AO Philly leadership who were suprised that she had taken the time to come into the stands with us supporters. AO Philly VP & I gave Taylor an AO scarf from our chapters, a sign of our support. Having a US player come into the stands with us means a lot to us Outlaws. Most of us are still talking about Christen Press drumming with us at the USA vs MEX match in Pasadena. I enjoyed sharing with our chapter members my experience meeting the New Jersey native.
I've continued to watch Taylor play an essential role on the U20 WNT squad that has begun final preparations for the 2016 U20 WWC. As a supporter of the beautiful game in the US and across the world, I enjoy seeing Tayor's genuine love of the game and gratitude at the opportunity to represent the US. It's been intriguing to see Taylor's college development; communication among teammates on the field & fitness reach a new level as a Duke Blue Devil. As a supporter, I've seen Taylor more comfortable relying on her teammates in tough game situations. I was excited to learn this past 2015 NCAA Tournament that Duke would face Stanford the day after Thanksgiving because I would have the chance to support Taylor in the stands. My son and I were in the stands on a cold night in November at Cagen Stadium, while I wore my #6 Racioppi kit. If you ever have a chance to see Taylor play in person, pay attention to her warmups before games & at half times. Her technical skills are something to see in person. Duke pulled out a win that night on PKs on the road to advance to the College Cup. After the match my son and I waited to talk with Taylor. My wife laughed when I recounted to her that Taylor went to shake my hand when she saw me waiting to speak with her but I gave her a bear hug instead. Fair warning to US players, us Outlaws are huggers. T couldn't stop laughing in the moment and told me she appreciated the support. When I think of T's performance of the field, I am reminded me of a phrase in the 1917 song "Over There" that us Outlaws use often, "send the word to beware." Beware of T's strength of character and exceptional technical skills, that makes any team that she starts on dangerous and capable of winning on any given day. I am excited to see T continue to work hard for her college and our country. #WeLoveYa.