June 22 (Reuters) - Rose Lavelle thinks she is growing up.
In a U.S. women’s soccer team including household names like Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, the versatile midfielder is part of a group of younger players whose talent has, so far, outpaced their mainstream fame.
But the Tokyo Olympic Games could change all that for the 26-year-old Lavelle and the prospect makes her nervous.
“I’m like getting all sweaty,” she said, when asked about her growing profile since she scored the clinching goal in the World Cup final two years ago.
“I had thought that after I had accomplished this like huge life goal of mine that I (would) feel so different... But I don’t.”
With a relentless commitment to self-improvement, Lavelle has transformed her game in the nearly two years since, joining Women’s Super League team (WSL) Manchester City in August 2020, where she endured a knee injury and struggled to get game time.
The World Cup Bronze Ball winner told Reuters the trial-by-fire was “the best thing” to happen in her career.
“It constantly was pushing me and challenging me and making me uncomfortable,” said Lavelle. “I have... gotten so much better because of it.”
She impressed on her return to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) last month, where she joined Rapinoe with OL Reign, and picked up a sponsorship deal with Icy Hot - one of the biggest individual contracts of her career - this month.
She gave the Stars and Stripes a scare when she took herself out of last week’s friendly against Jamaica after tweaking her ankle, a “precautionary” move she believes was more a sign of maturity than a cause for alarm.
“I usually kind of try to push through those things, but given what we have coming up and if I make the team I just want it to be like smart with it,” said Lavelle. “I’m newly mature.” (Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond)