ALLIE'S LONG JOURNEY
East Northport's Long made many sacrifices to make the USWNT for the Rio Olympics
By Michael Lewis
|Allie Long: "I'm prepared to do whatever the team needs me to do in order to be standing up on the podium with the gold medal around all of our necks."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If this wasn't enough motivation, then nothing would do.
While living in Houston at her fiancé’s parents for five months during the National Women's Soccer League off-season, Allie Long was always reminded as to why she was there.
"They would have a Brazilian flag in their garage," she said. "So every time I would leave or come in I would see it. Just be a reminder, just motivated me."
In less than a month's time, the East Northport, N.Y. resident will compete under another flag -- the red, white and blue of the United States -- after she was named to the U.S. women's national team for next month's Rio Olympics on Wednesday.
Oh, in case you were wondering, the parents of her fiancé, former Molloy College standout and U.S. youth international Jose Batista, are of Brazilian ancestry.
Given the popularity of the U.S. women's team, it should not be surprising that playing for USA in a major competition such as the Olympics has been a dream of Long's since she was young. Unlike millions of girls, Long was good enough to be given a chance to pursue her goal.
It certainly wasn't easy. There were some disappointments along the way. The one-time Northport High School standout was brought into several national camps over the past few years and did not make the grade, whether it was injury or great competition.
So, during the Portland Thorns' off-season she played in indoor leagues in New York City besides moving down to Houston.
"It means everything to me," Long said about making the team during an interview earlier this week. "It's been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I've set this goal and I have been working for it for years. The past couple of years I have really sacrificed a lot."
In Houston, Batista had family and friends. She had no friends or family down there except for Batista and his family. She worked out of Next Level Athletics in nearby Katy.
"It's been on my mind every single day," she said of making the team.
Long got the good news from head coach Jill Ellis while she was watching the Euro 2016 final on TV Sunday.
"I picked up right away and we kind of joked that I picked up the phone really fast and we laughed and she said, congratulations and that I deserved it, that she was really proud of me and that earned it,” Long said. “And make sure I'm fresh in the next 10 days. She said she would see me."
Batista gave her a hug as both teared up.
"Just thanking God for everything," Long said. "Then went back to the game. I didn't care who won at that point."
Not many American women players get an opportunity to play in a major international tournament so late in their soccer careers. Long is 28.
"I feel like your age, if you're the best player in that position, you deserve to be there," she said. "Of course, I think it definitely lowers [one's] chances, but I don't think anything is impossible if you want it or you're willing to work for it.
"It definitely helps me out for sure for the next World Cup."
That would be in France in 2019.
"I think that I try to savor the moment and the second I get too much into the future it could get stressful," Long said. "I just try to stay right in the present and just take it camp by camp and every training session by training session and do what I could. I am just so thankful that it happened."
Ellis was impressed with Long's drive and versatility. During friendlies, Long demonstrated the latter by playing both defensive and attacking midfield and making an impact at both positions.
When Ellis took over the team two years ago, Long did not make the grade or the team for Canada in 2015.
"When I brought her back in, she seemed to play with a lot of confidence," she said. "We're playing three in the midfield right now and that certainly opens up another spot. Needing depth and some experience in there, Allie fills those roles. She's comfortable in the six, she's comfortable playing up in the eight.
"She doesn't get rattled at all and she's been productive for us. I think not making it was potentially the bump she needed. Now, she's very versatile. Her ball winning, her distribution. She's keeping her game simple. She really embraced the six role when she's in there and the eight role. That's really good. Whether she comes off the bench for us or she starts, she's going to be an important piece of the puzzle down there."
Long is just happy to get that chance.
Not even the threat of the Zika virus has deterred her. Long said that Center of Disease Control officials have met with the team and explained the situation.
"I'm not too worried," she said. "It's definitely scary for someone who want to have kids in the next year or so. I'm not part of that group. I feel that I'm OK. I know that we will be taken care of in the best way possible by U.S. Soccer down there. It is a little scary, but I feel that going to the Olympics is a dream of mine and I wouldn't let it come in the way. I'm so excited it’s in Brazil because it’s the soccer country of the world. ... I'm focused on the gold medal right now."
For obvious reason After all, it's an opportunity of a lifetime for someone who has been living her entire life to represent the USA in a major competition.
"Just making the roster has been a dream come true and it’s been one of the goals I wanted for myself," she said. "The next goal would be to win gold. I'm prepared to do whatever the team needs me to do in order to be standing up on the podium with the gold medal around all of our necks."
While hearing the U.S. national anthem while the American flag is raised, thanks, part to some motivation from the Brazilian flag.