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What Is This USWNT Player’s Deal: Kristie Mewis

SAINT LOUIS, MO - APRIL 11: Kristie Mewis #22 of the United States with the ball during a game between Ireland and USWNT at CITYPARK on April 11, 2023 in Saint Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Bill Barrett/USSF/Getty Images).
Bill Barrett/USSF/Getty Images

Welcome to What Is This USWNT Player's Deal, a recurring series in which Defector selects a name from the American players most likely to go to the Women's World Cup this summer and answers the question: What is this USWNT player’s deal?

If 2023 is your first time seeing Kristie Mewis play soccer, you might clock her as a solid midfielder whose efforts frequently elude the highlight reel despite her being a high-functioning cog in the USWNT's machine. You'd be right to evaluate her that way, but her presence on the national team hints at a story far more interesting than anything she does on the field. Her journey to this point has not been a clean ascent, but rather an odyssey of hopeful persistence.

Mewis, now 32 years old, first got called up to the national team all the way back in 2013, even before her more well-known sister, Sam Mewis, became a fixture on the squad. Kristie never caught on, though, and so after a few years of call-ups, she fell off the team for half a decade, missing out on both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups. She was so absent from the USWNT picture that when I started following the NWSL closely around 2016, I had no idea she had ever been a national team player at all. She felt doomed to join the company of Arin Wright, Sarah Gorden, and Carson Pickett: players who, for one reason or another, never really translated their club talent to the national team. It wasn’t until Vlatko Andonovski took over the team after the 2019 World Cup that Mewis got a real shot at redemption, and she’s been a regular member of the squad ever since. 

It is exceedingly rare that players who fall completely out of the national team picture make a true comeback. This is why Mewis’s path is so impressive, and so exciting. She climbed back from years of rejection to become a necessary piece of this U.S. team as it heads into what will be its most challenging major tournament yet. And this journey didn’t happen over the course of a year or two: it’s been a decade of what I can only assume has been soul-straining yearning. It is a testament to Mewis’s self-belief that she is on this World Cup squad. 

In May, Mewis spoke about what being named to the World Cup roster would mean to her on her sister's podcast with Lynn Williams, Snacks. "I was scared to admit that I really wanted to go to the Olympics, or I really wanted to go to the World Cup," she said, "'cause I didn't want to fail ... then be disappointed and embarrassed." She opened up a lot during that podcast, giving us all a rare peek into professional athlete's mentality and the anxieties they have to deal with.

Every player on this World Cup roster has their own story of perseverance and prevailing against gargantuan odds (some more than others). For Mewis, her challenge has had to be met primarily in her own head—it's the psychology of continuing to push when the whole world seems to be saying, you missed your chance and now you’ll never make it. She had hope beyond what any reasonable outsider may have advised, and she’s worked towards her lofty goal with joy and humility. 

As solid as she is on the pitch, much of Mewis’s appeal lies in her non-soccer activities. She is one of the most publicly personal players in the USWNT pool, which makes her eminently compelling. Her younger sister, as I mentioned, is Sam Mewis, who has cruelly been kept from the pitch for over a year now by an injury. To watch these two interact is always a pleasure. Like most sister relationships I know, their exchanges vary between loving support that moves you to tears and hilariously (to an outsider) petty arguments. The Mewis sisters—or Mewii, I’ve seen them called—bring a sense of humanity to a team made of some of the most ultra-competitive athletes you can imagine. 

Kristie is also in a high-profile relationship with Sam Kerr, footballing hero for Australia and Chelsea. The two made their public debut during the 2021 Olympics, when the U.S. beat Australia in the bronze medal match and Mewis comforted Kerr on the pitch afterwards. Since then, they have posted plenty of loving photos and videos of each other on social media, done photoshoots together, and talked about their relationship in various interviews.

I was recently in Europe and ran into a few gregarious older Australian women, so I of course asked them if they were excited about their country co-hosting the World Cup this year. They were thrilled that I had asked, and one of them happily told me that Kerr is a national hero and a great example for young girls in Australia, in part because she is in a very public and proud queer relationship.

Who Does She Play For?

Mewis is an integral part of the newly dominant NJ/NY Gotham FC squad. She previously spent the bulk of her NWSL career in Houston, and was moved to Gotham last year. The side has had a renaissance in 2023, bouncing back from an awful 2022 with the help of new coach Juan Carlos Amorós and an influx of new talent, most notably Lynn Wiliams and Bruninha. Mewis is a regular starter for Gotham, and works most often with Allie Long to steady the midfield. In Gotham's World Cup players send-off match on June 25, Mewis had a lovely shot-setting play that ultimately went uncapitalized. See her moving into open space for the ball, dancing past one defender, and making a perfect heads-up square pass in front of three others.

The Lindsey Horan Magnifique Test

The Lindsey Horan Magnifique Test refers to the following foolproof heuristic for determining whether or not a U.S. player is actually good or just good by our rosy American standards: Do fans tweet lovingly about them in their local language?

How Does She Play?

Mewis has incredible vision on the field—a necessary asset for any midfielder. She is a generous passer, has an eye for through balls, and floats at the top of the box during attacking plays. No matter where she finds herself on the field, she is a strong connector: at her best, she’s the oil that makes the gears of both Gotham and the USWNT run. Here’s an impressive pass from an absurd angle: 

Mewis does not score frequently, and hasn’t logged a goal for club or country yet in 2023. That’s not to say she can’t score if given the chance; many of her goals are from set pieces because she is typically the one setting up chances during the run of play. While we're talking about scoring, I'll note that she’s especially good at accurate one-touch finishes. During one memorable friendly against Colombia, Sam and Kristie Mewis scored a combined four goals for the U.S. side: a hat trick for Sam and a 85th-minute banger for Kristie. 

The Parental Recognition Index

The Parental Recognition Index is a holistic, objective metric that analyzes a player’s full array of skills and talents, distilling it all into a single number that corresponds to their ultimate potential and the likelihood that they will become a big enough star at the World Cup that one of your parents will send you a text message about them.

If your parents watched the 2019 World Cup, they might be confused about a player named Mewis who is shorter than the one they remember. "who is this midfielder who seems to have stolen sam mewis’s jersey??” they will probably (a 71 percent chance) ask you. You can reply by just sending the link to Kristie’s aforementioned appearance on Snacks. Let them figure it out from there, assuming they know how podcasts work.

Show To Me A Cool Highlight

The calm, the precision, the awareness: what more could you ask for? 

How Does She Fit In With The U.S. Team?

Ever since Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis fell out of the USWNT picture, creating a cohesive midfield has been Andonovski’s biggest challenge. Kristie Mewis has always been in the mix, but no combination of players have gotten enough regular playing time together to build an obvious starting trio. Mewis has only started in seven of the 35 U.S. games she’s appeared in since 2020. In those games she started with a rotating crew of fellow midfielders: Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan, and Ashley Sanchez. The inclusion of Savannah DeMelo on the roster, who has received no international caps yet, further clouds the midfield picture. Maybe—though I doubt it—Andonovski is actually a mad genius, and the merry-go-round of midfielders over the past few years has prepared all those players to be extraordinarily versatile. Mewis would certainly know something about that. 

If nothing else, Andonovski has spoken about how important Mewis is to the team's morale. In his call to let her know she had made the roster, he talked about her value off the field, and in his post-roster release press conference, he said that she "knows what it takes to bring the best out of her teammates." High praise.

How Close Is She To The Hypothetical Best XI?

Considering Mewis was on the bubble of being invited to the roster at all, I don’t anticipate her starting every game, if any. She only played for a handful of minutes in two group-stage matches at the 2021 Olympics, so her dearth of experience in big tournaments could be a point against her. But Mewis is a remarkably talented playmaker, with a vision and grit honed by years as a stalwart in the NWSL and a persistent USWNT hopeful. The distinguishing factor of the U.S. team is its massive pool of excellent players, and Mewis’s role this summer will be a case study in the team’s ability to create a system that best takes advantage of its personnel. 

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