Last Tuesday we chatted separately with both Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg. We asked them each the same set of questions about their experience in transitioning into the NWSL and their time with the Houston Dash this season. Our interview with Whitney Engen can be found here.
Meghan Klingenberg, the other half of the “Engenberg” duo, had a more adventurous transition into the NWSL than her Tyresö teammate. Where Engen was able to make her Dash debut on June 8th, a mix of circumstances kept Klingenberg from debuting until July 5th.
A paper work issue kept her from playing on June 8th, she missed the two ensuing games due to national team call ups and she was held out injured from the June 28th game against Washington with an injury. It seemed the fates were conspiring to keep Klingenberg from appearing in a Dash uniform. When she finally did appear, it was an inauspicious debut at right back in a disappointing 4-1 loss against Western New York.
Klingenberg now has her feet fully under her in NWSL and is part of the national team side that will face Switzerland tomorrow in a friendly in Cary, NC. There was an adjustment process in coming to NWSL, however, she says, “Absolutely there was an adjustment. I think the pace is faster and the pressure is a lot higher and teams like to press higher up on the field. So that is a lot different coming out of the back that way than playing against teams in Europe. So it was definitely an adjustment.”
Playing style was not the only adjustment, however. Coming off a UEFA Women’s Champions League experience and all of the success Tyresö had in Europe and in the league in Sweden, losing was a foreign experience. “It’s tough for any player. We always want to win, we always want to be the best, we always want to be on a winning team and unfortunately you can’t always be on the best team.”
Klingenberg continued, “I think at this point what we’re just trying to do is build for next season and make sure we’re all getting better and getting in good situations in the off-season so we can be better for the next season so that we can turn it around because nobody wants to lose every game. We want to be at the top of the league, especially for our fans because I think we have great fans and we have a great organization; and for ourselves as well. We work really hard at practice, we practice in the hottest environment every day. So, we want to get there and I think that, you know, it is tough for everyone on the team.”
As is the case with Engen, Klingenberg is only 26 but a senior member of the back line both in age and experience. This has meant she is in a leadership position that she is not necessarily used to. “Coming in this team has been really interesting because it’s been more of like: I’m a student and also my teammates are students of the game and we’ve been watching video together and trying to coach each other and communicating – trying to get on the same page because I think a lot of our issues come from when we are not on the same page.”
Klingenberg sees that communication/coordination aspect as being critical, “As long as we’re doing things together, even if it’s wrong, a lot of times it’s going to turn out okay because we’re doing everything moving together. It’s been a very different role than I would have had on Tyresö, but it’s good, I like it and it’s something I need to continue to get better at; communicating and getting my teammates to where I need them and be where they need me so it’s been a learning process but it’s been interesting and fun to be a part of.”
While the Dash have one more game remaining this year, Klingenberg’s NWSL season is over. She joined up with the U.S. Women’s National Team on Monday as part of the 19-person squad that will face Switzerland. With a smaller than normal squad in camp, this is a great chance for Klingenberg to fully establish her credentials for both the World Cup Qualifying tournament in October and the World Cup next year.
However, having been on the go without a break now for a very long time, going from the Europe season straight into NWSL, Klingenberg has one eye on vacation and the other on qualifying, “I’m going to take one big long month off, thank goodness. I need one I think. But yeah, we’ve got to qualify. That’s my main goal and I want to be on the field for that too so hopefully I’ll play well and impress the coach and get on the field because that’s ultimately where I want to be next summer.”
As for the Dash season, Klingenberg sums it up well, “We didn’t win as many games as we wanted to but you know we’re going to keep working and keep getting better this off-season and get it going for next season.” That’s all a Dash fan could hope to hear.