Q&A: Tyler Lussi05.20.22
Angel City forward Tyler Lussi has played on the forward line—both at striker and winger—for her whole professional career. Last week, against Washington, she got a new experience: she played where captain Ali Riley usually would, at left back. We chatted about how she prepared for that game and how the rest of the squad backed her up.
Three days before the game, you found out you were going to be playing left back. What was your immediate reaction?
I had a meeting with Freya on a different topic. At the end of our meeting, she says, “okay, on another note, I'm considering you at left back.” My initial reaction was to chuckle a little bit, because I was like, “is she actually serious right now?” And she was!
What qualities do you have that she thought might transfer well to that position?
My endurance, my physicality—a lot of qualities, because I've played the No. 9, the No. 7, the No. 11. I can run a lot—I know that. We needed someone there who has that kind of very intense mentality of, “Hey, I'm going to go win this ball and I'll get it for you.” So she was giving me all that confidence, and I was like, “yeah, I could see myself doing it. I’m confident in myself to play left back, or wherever.” But at the same time, I'm like, “she's serious—she’s actually going to do this!”
How did you prepare to play the new position?
It was the briefest thing. Practice [that day] was like a reentry, light session. We didn't do a full-field 11v11 that day. It was just testing it out. The next day we did 11v11. I needed to work with Vanessa, and she was telling me a lot in terms of spacing. DiDi was talking to me.
And then the day of practice before the game, I was like, “Hey, Vanessa, DiDi, I need you to hit me a bunch of balls from goal kicks, or wherever you think we're going to be on the field.” And for 20 minutes, I did that. I needed to get just that motion of turning onto my left, because I'm primarily right-footed, but I can use both. It's such a different motion, and I'm deeper on the field than a forward or a winger. As a forward, I get that ball, but I'm in our attacking third. So it's a little bit different, but there are similarities.
As a left back, you have your other defenders to cover you, but it's a little different from playing higher—if the forward gets by you, you need to run back and defend. That's where I was like, “Oh, this is going to be tricky! I need to get myself in the right position to handle that.”
I tried not to overthink it. I didn't want to get everything and just, like, start spiraling. I didn’t need that. It was, “give me the basics.” I thought of it like preparing for a test: do as much as you can to prepare, and when it comes, whatever happens, happens. I went into it with this mindset of, I have nothing to lose—well, I didn't want to lose the game!
You didn’t just play a new position, you got one of the toughest marking assignments in the league with Trinity Rodman. She’s so skilled and so fast—what was it like having to deal with her in particular?
I knew that I had to, first of all, get my spacing right with Vanessa, so that we're staying connected as a back line. That was the most important thing to me. I also knew that I needed to stay [back] more, instead of stepping out and trying to press and possibly get beat. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get really high and wide as much as possible, because she was going to be on my side and I knew that every time if I was close enough, I needed to get to her. Whether her back was to goal or she was just about to turn and go on a run. I needed to make sure she did not get that ball and go on a long run.
So I had to bring that physicality, and I needed to do it from the start, so she knew that I was there and I was not playing games. I wanted to not make it easy on her and shut her down as much as I possibly could.
You only had a couple days to get ready, but obviously you had a whole team backing you up. How did the rest of the team support you?
The morning of the game, I called Ali and I was like, I need my captain right now. I want you to tell me, what are some things that I need to do when I’m playing against Trinity Rodman? She was like, “do this, this and this, and also, you got this. Just be confident in yourself. You know how to play soccer. You know how to defend, you know how to attack, you got this.”
Obviously having the backup: Vanessa, DiDi, Megan Jas, and also the wingers, was huge. Press was there, Jun was there, everybody was helping me. I remember telling the team, “Guys, I'm being thrown into this right now. So I need as much communication and as much help as you can give in terms of back pressing, everything.”
This is a team mentality and the culture that we're creating. And it's really starting to come together, even when people are thrown in different positions. Everybody really stepped up in that game and I felt incredibly supported by every single person on the team and all the staff members. And yeah, I kind of just went out like, “Hey, let's just do this thing”—and I’m so glad it went the way it did!