It’s awfully hard for a soccer player to have a better year than the one Abby Dahlkemper put forth in 2019. Dahlkemper was one of two players to appear in every match for the United States Women’s National Team as it won its fourth World Cup, starting every time the side took the pitch and serving as a rock in the middle of the squad’s indomitable defense. She was also a starter for her club team, the North Carolina Courage, which won the NWSL this year and gave Dahlkemper the distinction of lifting trophies for club and country.
The potential exists for 2020 to bring even more success on the pitch, both with the Courage and as a member of the national team, which began Olympic qualifying on Tuesday evening with the hopes of making it to Tokyo and winning two major tournaments in 12 months. Off the pitch, 2020 is already off to an exciting start from Dahlkemper, as it was announced on Tuesday that she’s joining adidas.
“I was obviously looking for new representation and wanted to find a brand that aligns with my core values,” Dahlkemper told Uproxx Sports. “I value relationships a lot and I want to feel — I mean, who doesn’t want to feel wanted — but I really wanted to feel wanted and cherished and I felt like adidas was the perfect fit. Right from the bat we got along great and they made me feel so welcome and I’m just so honored and humbled to represent such an amazing, globally-recognized brand.”
Dahlkemper spoke to Uproxx Sports about how apparel on and off the pitch helped sway her to join adidas, her sense of style, the success her squads had on the pitch in 2019, and what she hopes to accomplish as a footballer in 2020.
I know you’ve a few teammates with the national team who are adidas, I know Heather O’Reilly is adidas as well. Did you talk to them about what it means to be an adidas footballer and what did they say, if anything, that positively influenced your decision?
I think there’s amazing athletes representing the adidas brand and I think everyone that adidas has represented has shined a huge positive light on the brand. And I think that speaks volumes to the type of people that are involved with adidas and the type of people that they want representing their brand. So, I am pretty close with Becky [Sauerbrunn] on the national team — she’s adidas and I really value her as a player and as a person and Lindsay Horan, and like you said, Heather O’Reilly too, with the club team, and she’s been adidas for a really long time I think too.
I think it’s also really cool, there’s this lifestyle, generational movement, in a way that you see Yeezy, you see the Ivy Park stuff coming out. Huge, influential people around the world are aligning with this brand that’s been around forever. And I remember actually when I was really young, just being like, this sounds so cheesy, but all day I dream about soccer, all this stuff. I’ve known adidas for my whole life, and I think that you associate this brand with excellence.
Something that you mentioned there, how important was knowing that when you were joining adidas, it’s not just about the cleats, it’s not just about whatever other stuff you might wear on the pitch, but it’s stuff you can use to express yourself off the pitch, too?
There’s this huge streetwear movement, I want to say, and I think that I like to express myself through fashion and I think, I value style and I think it’s cool and it’s fun. It’s a passionate hobby, I guess. And so like I said, with amazing collaborations and such amazing people and role models representing the brand, I think it’s so cool to be able to love the lifestyle product off the field as well as loving the classic Predator cleat that has been around forever and that’s only getting better with their designs and whatnot. But yeah, I just feel like when I’m wearing adidas stuff, it feels right, and I’m comfortable and I think the style is amazing. They have so many cool collaborations like Ivy Park and the Alexander Wang, I couldn’t be happier.
I’m glad you mentioned the Predator cleats because there’s the new one, the Predator 20 Mutator that got announced today. Had you gotten a chance to try them on and have you gotten a chance to check them out?
Yeah, I wore the Predators today, the new Mutators that came out and I love them. I’m wearing the mid-rise I guess, the sock with the laces Predator. I know that there’s different styles.
It’s been awesome, it feels right being with adidas. I used to wear Predators when I was younger with the tongue straps and whatnot and the soft leather, so for me to be back in Predators at 26 years old and right in the middle of my career, it’s awesome and it feels great. I wore the boot new all practice so I didn’t have to change or anything, they fit great on my feet. So yeah, I’m really happy.
I once asked Deshaun Watson about personal style on the field in football and he mentioned the importance of things like cleats to let your sense of style come through. You just mentioned that your interest in fashion, how would you describe your sense of style off the pitch and is that something you like to have come through on it?
Yeah, kind of like I said before, I really value and I think it’s a fun hobby to be able to dress the way that you want to express yourself on and off the field. And I think that the on-field style of the Predators with this black sleek sock, almost stylish but at the same time very functional element to the cleats is cool because it translates to different styles of the shoes or the streetwear and it’s this seamless transition. Again, I love so many of the Adidas lifestyle brands, the Alexander Wang, the Originals you see everywhere in department stores everywhere. It’s a really cool thing and I’m honored to be able to represent not only soccer stuff, but off the field, as well.
So let’s talk footy a little bit. Every soccer player wants to do what you did last year — you won your domestic cup and you won the world cup. How much time this offseason have you spent reflecting on just everything that happened in the last 12 months?
I am so thankful. Looking back at 2019, it was honestly the best year of my life to this date. I’m really honored and humbled that I was able to experience all these things, and I feel like it wasn’t until December, the end of the year when we had like two weeks off before we had to start training. Not to sound cliche, but on New Year’s Eve, I really took a second to step back and be like, “Wow, I had a really, really successful, amazing, humbling 2019,” and I think that I am so appreciative and just thankful for 2019. But I’m also using that to hopefully propel me and give me confidence going into 2020 and knowing that everything that happened in the past was awesome, but now it’s about the present and the future.
So resetting and setting my sights on hopefully qualifying for the Olympics, making the Olympic team, and winning another domestic championship. So I think it’s great to honor everything that you’ve done in the past, but also not dwelling on the past and not being hung up on the past and look into the future.
Let’s look into the future. What is your mindset heading into Olympic qualifying and potentially the 2020 Olympics, especially knowing that there’s always going to be a target on the back of the USWNT, but now knowing that’s magnified considering what you just accomplished in France?
I think it’s a refreshed mentality. Intensity and focus are two words that I would definitely describe that. And this time being, it’s competitive, we’re number one in the world for a reason because we compete day in and day out. It’s the best players in the world, you’re bound to get better. And I think it’s about learning and getting better and trying to be your best version of yourself every day. I’m hoping that I have a busy and successful 2020, knowing that it’s not going to be easy, but in the end, it’ll be worth it all.
Getting back to the World Cup, you played all but eight minutes of the USWNT’s tournament in your first World Cup. How do you stay even keeled and on your game when you’re thrown into that fire, that early and often at your first World Cup?
That’s a really good question. I guess I was just so hyper-focused on details and being in the moment that I didn’t really realize how big of a moment it was until it was over and being like, “Wow, you know that actually happened,” and I was able to, like you said, play all those minutes and learn and experience and grow, and I’m so thankful for that. I’m thankful for my coaches, my teammates, the team, the fans, everything, I couldn’t have obviously written it better and to be able to say that I’ve done that and I was able to help my team win a World Cup is truly a dream come true.
The team did a really good job of mixing newer players with veterans, and you and Becky form quite the partnership at the back of that defense. What’s the importance of having someone with that World Cup experience as your center back partner, both during those matches and away from them as you’re getting ready and reflecting on whatever else you might have going on?
I think Becky is the best defender in the world, and I feel so fortunate to be able to look up to her and play alongside her. And I think she brings this calm, poised presence on and off the field that makes you be the best version of yourself, and I think that that takes a really special player for that to affect their teammates. Becky is so amazing that she makes everyone better around her, and that’s hard to come by in a lot of players. She has that quality and it was a dream being able to start my journey playing alongside and building this relationship with Becky on and off the field.
And then continuing that on for, I got my first cap in 2016, and then being able to play with her in 2019 through the World Cup. It’s definitely familiar now, which is amazing, and I’m always trying to learn and grow and watch her and she has a ton of experience and she’s so successful year after year and that speaks to the type of professional she is on and off the field.
So what is your favorite story that wasn’t lifting the Cup at the end of the tournament from when you guys were over in France?
So many stories, but I really valued our time … we were able to go to Tottenham for 10 days before the World Cup even started, and the team really got so much closer than I’d ever seen the team grow, and I think it was just this idea that, okay, these are the 23 people that our coaches picked and they trust us to get the job done, and everyone bought into what their role was, and I think that that’s really special. So I wouldn’t say there’s a specific story that’s my favorite, but I would just say our time in Tottenham before the World Cup was so pivotal.
You’re someone who has found themselves at the center of this really huge moment for women’s soccer in the United States. How does it feel to know that you’re playing a role in energizing untold numbers of people just to get into the sport with your team being the entry point?
It’s something that I’m so proud to be a part of. I think we’re in the spotlight, but I think that, I just tried to be the best version of myself on and off the field that I’m capable of being. And I think, like you said, we’re paving this road for others and hoping to just give back in the most positive way and inspire. I know when I was younger I looked up to the national team players, and I think that it’s really cool and special and humbling to be able to come full circle and be able to hopefully shine my light in a way that can inspire and hopefully push people to be their best at whatever they’re doing, and give them confidence and hope that they can achieve what they want to achieve.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.