FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: No. 6 – Christen Press
There is no player in the United States women’s national team pool with greater potential than Christen Press. That statement has held true for years, but the conundrum is that it has been most evident at the club level.
Press’ first two full seasons in Chicago have only seen her available about half the time, due to club commitments. But when she is with the Red Stars, she scores; it’s almost automatic. And she typically does so spectacularly. She scored eight goals in 14 games for Chicago in 2016 while dropping deeper into a No. 10 role as the season progressed. A year earlier, she scored 10 times in 11 games. She’s unstoppable in the NWSL.
Press is something of the Landon Donovan mold: A pure goal-scorer who can also create; someone whose athleticism might not jump off the page but has a subtle extra gear to torch defenders; a player with technique on the ball like few other Americans. She makes the spectacular look easy. And like Donovan, she’s at her best when she is happy in her environment. It’s why she became the first American to win the Golden Boot in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan, and came within minutes of winning a UEFA Champions League title. Press’ move to Sweden was the best decision she ever made.
She returned to the U.S. to play in the NWSL largely because signing a national-team contract meant she had to, but her production continued for Chicago. That success, however, is yet to truly translate on the international stage.
Her ratio of a goal every other game for the U.S. (41 in 80 caps) remains outstanding, but Press was quiet at the 2015 World Cup and at the 2016 Olympics, tournaments which most had pegged for her to be a breakout star. Is it the pressure of the big stage? It’s possible, but it’s also compounded by the national team’s setup. Under Ellis, Press has played largely on the wings, where she is willing and able but not optimized. She is best in front of net, but that fight on the depth chart has always included Alex Morgan and now features Lynn Williams, among others.
Press’ talent is undeniable. If Ellis & Co. can get the best out of her at the international level, there’s no reason she couldn’t be the best American on the field in 2019.