Yesterday the NWSL announced that Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc had been voted Player of the Week by the media (for the second time this season). Due to her stellar play overall in Sunday's match, LeBlanc definitely would have been a candidate, but it was her amazing 84th minute block of Abby Wambach's penalty kick that made her the logical choice.
That play was such a huge moment -in the match, in the Thorns' short history, and in the history of JELD-WEN Field. Is it overkill to say it was epic? I don't think so.
During the post-game press conference, KK was asked a lot of questions about what that moment was like. Her answers give a really interesting perspective on what it's like to be a keeper facing a penalty kick, and also what it's like to encounter that particular situation with the support of the North End roaring behind you. With that in mind, it's worth reading her answers to media questions in their entirety. It's a pretty cool glimpse into the mindset of a goalie, and into the special player that LeBlanc is. Transcript below (followed by NWSL statement on the PoTW honors):
What happened on the PK?
I'll tell you the secret [leans dramatically into microphone] but then I'll have to kill you. Nah, I'm just kidding.
You know, Abby took a PK last game and I've gone up against Abby a couple times over the years and I just try to read her. I was thinking at first she was going to go one way but then she kind of opened up, so I guess I got lucky.
It's just one of those things, I mean she's a phenomenal --she's taken PKs on both sides so it's one of those things where you just try to read it and hope you're right - and I was fortunate to be right this time but she hits a good PK so you just have to try and get there and I got just enough of it.
When you have a late penalty like that, the reaction amongst the fans and some of the players is "This is so late, this is going to decide the game." What process do you go through so that you can prepare yourself for that kick?
It was tough because obviously as a keeper, you never believe it's a PK so you just try to not get wrapped up into that. And then just almost calm down and quiet down and pretend it's just you and that player --that nobody else is around-- and just try to read what you know to read and, you know, in my head I was just like , "I got this, I got this. It's what the team needs." And that's what a keeper needs to do, they have to do what the team needs them to do. And so late in the game, you just hope you come up with a save.
I was a little excited after that [laughs] but then right after I was like, "OK, calm down, you're still part of a game, and they have a corner." I didn't want to come flying out on the corner for a ball. So it's one of those things where you get amped up and immediately you're like, "OK, calm down. Just get back. Be present."
Did the sheer number of people in that North End affect you at all?
Aw, God, c'mon! You know, this place is the best place to play. You just got that feeling; when you say to yourself as a keeper, "I got this," they're just right there behind you, they pick you up a bit. I love playing in that end of the field -I mean I love playing anywhere in this field, but those fans behind me, when they're yelling the "Kar-iiina," you know, it's like family. I just love this place. And the fans -love them to bits and pieces. They're just great.
What did it feel like when your teammates came up to you, what was that emotion like?
You know, I don't react too much to saves, as you may know, but I definitely reacted to that one. It's just so much adrenaline you know, and you're playing for your teammates, your fans, and there's just so much in that moment. It's just, again to come up with that save, as a keeper you dream of so many different moments and that's a moment that I dreamed of as a child. And the fans make you want to express yourself. Usually I'll be like, "OK, we got this. Calm down," but something got ahold of me at that second. I can't stop grinning. [Clears throat.] Maybe I'll get a voice sometime. I lost my voice on that play. Yeah.
PORTLAND THORNS FC GOALKEEPER KARINA LEBLANC VOTED NWSL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
CHICAGO (July 16, 2013) - Portland Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc was voted the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Player of the Week by the media for Week 14 of the 2013 NWSL season.
LeBlanc, 33, made five saves - including stopping an 84th-minute penalty taken by Abby Wambach - in a 1-1 draw Sunday at JELD-WEN Field against the Western New York Flash.
The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native's save against Wambach was her second consecutive penalty-save after previously stopping Seattle Reign FC's Christine Nairn from 12 yards on June 16.
It is the second time in four weeks the Canada international has been named the NWSL Player of the Week. LeBlanc, who ranks second in saves (60) and third in shutouts (6) in the league, also earned the accolade for her performance in Week 11.
LeBlanc is the third player to be voted the NWSL Player of the Week on multiple occasions. Wambach claimed the honor for her efforts with the Flash in Weeks 5 and 9, while Boston Breakers forward Sydney Leroux won the award following Weeks 4 and 13.
Portland Thorns FC will return to action Sunday, July 21 at 4 p.m. ET against the Boston Breakers at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass.
The NWSL Player of the Week is selected each week of the regular season by a selection of journalists that cover the league on a consistent basis.