Adventures in soccer

Passion propels Camas goalkeeper to Jamaica

Lauren Rood’s love for soccer has kept her away from home for 127 days in 2013.

“And the year is not over yet,” said the 16-year-old from Camas. “I still have some traveling to do.”

Rood’s odyssey began by attending national camps and tournaments in Texas, England and Florida. She was determined to earn a spot on the U-17 U.S. women’s soccer team.

“I got back from England two days before school started, and then I went to the Florida camp two weeks later,” said the CHS sophomore. “That was probably one of the craziest months of my life.”

The ultimate rush hit Rood when she was selected as one of the goalkeepers for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football’s U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She started three games for Team USA and gained four saves.

“Just putting on that jersey, walking out on that field and listening to the National Anthem gave me chills,” Rood said. “It was unreal. You can dream about those things, but you never think they’re going to happen. This is something I’m never going to forget. You’re representing your country.”

The U.S. women defeated Trinidad and Tobago 8-0 and Guatemala 7-0 in the first two rounds. Rood snagged two saves in a 2-0 victory against Canada, Nov. 4.

Although she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders, Rood believed the hard work she put into this journey gave her the tools to defend the net on an international stage. She also thought of her friends and family watching on television.

“This community of Camas has helped me so much. My friends, family, coaches and teammates,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.”

Rood grabbed two more saves in the semifinal game against Mexico Nov. 7, but both teams were locked in a 1-1 tie after 90 minutes of soccer. Rood got her hands on a couple of the balls fired at her during the shootout, but she couldn’t stop them.

Mexico won on penalty kicks and went on to capture the championship. The loss prevented Team USA from qualifying for the U-17 World Cup.

“Despite what happened in that Mexico game, PKs will always be my favorite thing to do,” Rood said. “When you lose, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But when you win, it’s one of the greatest feelings you will ever experience.”

Rood smiles and her eyes sparkle when she talks about her experience.

“Soccer is just a huge part of the culture in Jamaica,” she said. “They would play on the grass or have pick up games in the streets. Some of the fields were just dust and mud. Some of the fields didn’t have nets. Just two posts, and that’s all they needed.”

But the pain that one devastating loss is still right on the surface.

“After that game, the feeling we described was empty,” Rood said. “We had been working hard for months and dreaming about this for years. To have it all taken away after that one game; we were heartbroken.

“After you get through all the crying, you remember why you play and how much you love the game,” she added. “You just focus on the next thing that’s ahead of you, even if it’s not the World Cup.”

Rood plans to attend a few college soccer showcases with an Elite Clubs National League team from Seattle. In the meantime, she is back at practice with her local U-16 Washington Timbers soccer team. She also hopes she can return to the CHS girls soccer team next fall.

“A soccer team cannot function without the friends and the chemistry,” Rood said. “You spend so much time together that you become a family on the field and off the field.”

The game of soccer still has so much to give. Rood looks forward to uncovering the next discovery.

“I love the challenge that each game brings,” Rood said. “You can look at the other team and study their players, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. Each game is different. And in my position, you have to be ready for anything.”