In 1999, former U.S. women’s national team player Brandi Chastain scored the decisive penalty kick to win the World Cup for the U.S., a feat almost overshadowed by her ensuing celebration. Chastain is also a former teammate of current UCLA women’s soccer coach Amanda Cromwell. The Daily Bruin’s Aubrey Yeo spoke with Chastain to get her take on the Bruins’ season and her thoughts on how the team will fare in the NCAA tournament.
Daily Bruin: In your opinion, what about this UCLA women’s soccer team stands out the most?
Brandi Chastain: I think the thing that stands out to me is the roster is full of really good players, and in college soccer, it’s very difficult to have a roster that from the No. 12 to the No. 20 is almost be as good as your starters, so that’s a good problem for Amanda Cromwell I guess.
DB: Speaking of coach Amanda Cromwell, this is her first season as the head coach of the Bruins. Are you impressed with how well she has made the transition from the University of Central Florida to UCLA, and how would you rate her first season as the Bruins’ head coach?
BC: Well, I’m going to poke fun at her and say … any coach could coach a team full of good players. But I think what makes Amanda really successful in this situation is that she worked her backside off in Central Florida to create an environment and a program that, as you can see by the bracket, UCF is in the tournament as well. She left a good team at Central Florida and has continued coaching in what I think is a positive way at UCLA. So I think she, having played at UVA, was a good player with them. In my opinion I liked the way she played – she was hard-nosed, but she could also play with the ball on her feet, and I think she brings that perspective to her players, and I think that helps them be very successful.
DB: UCLA is ranked No. 2 in the nation in the NSCAA coaches’ poll, but the Bruins did not get any of the four No. 1 seed spots. What is your take on what some people have considered a controversial selection show?
BC: I have to say that when UCLA’s name came up in the No. 2 seed in that bracket, I was like, “What?” That caught me off guard as well because I felt that they probably deserved a No. 1. And I think that’s part of sports where you try and teach your players along the way these life lessons. You can only control the things that you can control, and don’t get bent out of shape over things that are outside of that. And this is one of those moments for UCLA, and this is a wonderful coaching opportunity for Amanda Cromwell to tell her players, and to hopefully see that you’re going to have to play all the good teams anyway to get to the final. And this is their path, and they have to go through their path … you can’t allow your emotions to lead the way, otherwise that could lead to not the results that you want.
DB: What in your opinion will be UCLA’s biggest challenge on the road to the Women’s College Cup?
BC: Well, of course you have to look down the list and you see Texas A&M;, and UNC there in the opposite side of the bracket, on the bottom half. I think (for) UCLA’s bracket, Stanford, you never know. Stanford has been in the Final Four four times in a row. They’ve got a young team this year, but they’re also capable of winning games. So, I think Stanford. Right away you’re looking at the bracket, and you’re looking at someone who’s in your own conference. I have not seen South Carolina, but they’re the No. 3 seed in that bracket, so they must have done something right. But I think North Carolina, in the bottom half, will most likely be the biggest threat to them going into the tournament weekend.
DB: One of the noticeable things of this season is how well the Atlantic Coast Conference teams have been performing. What in your opinion do the Bruins need to do when they face teams from the ACC?
BC: The ACC is a conference full of very athletic soccer players, and I don’t think that’s very different than the Pac-12. So, what happens to most teams when they face these ACC teams is that they’re overwhelmed athletically. So I don’t think that’s the case, so you can kind of throw out the chip that they’ve usually held against teams out of the game. The second thing is the style of play. I think both teams press their opponents, because they’re athletic. … UCLA to me, has an edge in terms of soccer, but again these are one-and-done scenarios, so it’s not always about who plays the best soccer, it’s about who handles the pressure, and who can be in the moment at the right time.