Sounders’ Russell, Pulse motivated by competition

May 6, 2012 by  

Former Valley players making their case with Sounders Women ||

YAKIMA, Wash. — When an athlete has put in their time and paid their dues, there can be more than a little disappointment when new players arrive, potentially sending them to the bench.

Beth Russell and Tafara Pulse find themselves in such a situation with the Seattle Sounders Women’s soccer team, but instead of feeling threatened, they’re thrilled.

That’s because the new players in case are some of the best players in the world.

Elizabeth Russell dribbles the ball in an exhibition match against Seattle Pacific last month. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders Women)

“It’s a little intimidating but it’s also really fun,” said Russell, whose maiden name was Drollinger while playing at Naches Valley and later at Gonzaga University. “This year is particularly special given the high level of talent.”

“For lack of a better word, it’s been electric. Being an athlete, I never want to say I’m star struck, but at first, I couldn’t stop smiling,” Pulse said of the addition of six members of the United States national team, including Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

“It’s a great opportunity to have them out here, not that they’re taking anyone’s spot,” continued Pulse, who played at Davis and Eisenhower, graduating from the latter, and also Seattle University. “I don’t know who can say it’s not a privilege to train with them ahead of the Olympics.”

Both players, who have spent several seasons with the Sounders, said they’ve benefited greatly from the presence of such high-level talent, which also includes Team USA players Stephanie Cox, Sydney Leroux and Keelin Winters, all of whom were looking for a place to play after the Women’s Professional Soccer league suspended operations.

“It’s a lot more intense,” said Russell, a defender. “Here I am 27 and learning so much that I hadn’t known.

“You realize the gap (between us and them) is in the small things that they do. They’re so much more consistent. It’s exciting and I’m growing (as a player) from them.”

“I definitely think it raises the level of play and raises the level of competition,” said Pulse, a midfielder. “They bring a different way of looking at the game. They really expect us to be out there playing with intent.”

All six have been supportive and exceptional teammates since joining the Sounders, Pulse added.

“There’s no ego that comes with them and that’s really remarkable,” Pulse said. “They really bring a passion for the game and they just want to help us play as well as we can.

“I appreciate them for the skill they have but also the humility and passion they bring to the game.”

That said, the influx of talent has left Russell and Pulse now battling for spots on the 26-player roster (there are 18 active players on game days) when the 14-game season begins on May 27.

Tafara Pulse warms up before an exhibition match against Seattle Pacific last month. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders Women)

But neither is backing down from the challenge, even though they have ample reasons to hang up the spikes.

You see, neither needs to still be playing soccer.

Both have successful careers — Russell as an engineer for HNTB, where her current project is Seattle’s Alaskan Way tunnel, and Pulse, with a masters in public administration, handles marketing and sales for The Alford Group, a national company that works with nonprofits.

They want to keep playing.

In part because the sport is so ingrained in their respective lives, having played since their earliest years, but primarily because they want to help continue building the sport so young women will have something they didn’t.

“When I was in college, there was no women’s pro soccer. I didn’t think I would play after college,” said Russell, adding that the national team players have dramatically increased interest in the Sounders and women’s soccer in the area.

“There’ll be more than 5,000 people at our match,” she said, referring to the team’s final exhibition game this past Friday. “I’ve never seen that many people at a women’s game. It’s really, really exciting.

“That’s what’s been so great (about this). It’s exciting that women’s soccer is taking off. There’s been so much exposure for the (Sounders) women’s team. That’s what the national players have done.”

“For the majority of my playing career, I didn’t know what was ahead of me,” Pulse said. “(Growing up) there weren’t any women’s soccer players to look up to. It’s really amazing to have the opportunity to keep playing and help grow the sport.

“For me, the larger end goal is about all the girls playing youth soccer right now who want to have a higher level to play. I want to contribute to that and also help empower them as people.”

Despite their busy lives, both plan to keep playing — with this opportunity reminding them just how much they love the sport.

“There’s incentive every year. This year, there’s some added incentive,” Pulse said. “It feels like a reward every time we go out there.”

“Soccer has been part of my life forever,” Russell said. “I love the sport. I don’t have to play. I play because I love it.”

Even more so now that they can play alongside some of the best in the world.

Filed under All, Featured Stories, Seattle Sounders/MLS, Soccer (Girls)

Speak Your Mind

Comments are moderated, so your comment will not show up immediately.

Keep comments civil (no anonymous personal attacks), clean (no swearing) and properly capitalized (NO ALL-CAPS COMMENTS).

Comments are generally moderated daily between 3 p.m. and midnight. If your comment does not appear within 24 hours of submission, resubmit it (it may have been caught by our spam filter). Comments regarding moderator decisions will not be approved.

Comments may be closed at any time.

If you have questions regarding our comment policies, e-mail us.