This week Manchester City leapt on the chance to scoop up a proven champion as uncertainty over the return of competitive football in the United States left a hefty hole in the calendar. That hole is likely to be filled with some form of competition later in the year but, in the meantime, players need matches.
One of those players is the World Cup-winning midfielder Sam Mewis from North Carolina Courage and, make no mistake, her transfer to City is one of the biggest recruitment coups ever made by a Women’s Super League club. On Monday the signing was announced and the day after Mewis was talking to the English media – while in quarantine – about the move.
“It’s a little scary doing something new but I’m hoping that making this decision will continue to push me, develop me as a player and put in the best position to make the Olympic squad,” she said. “I want to try and make that roster. It’s a tough roster to make, I’ve never made it, so part of me is thinking how can I be in the best position possible.”
A move overseas was always on the agenda, but the uncertainty meant it “crossed her mind” sooner than anticipated. “I wasn’t actively seeking anything out,” she says. “My agent brought this to me over the summer and my ears perked up because it was Manchester City, an awesome club. And I’d heard so many good things about the team and the league.”
The pandemic “has thrown a lot of twists and turns for everyone and I thought this season here in the WSL was a good opportunity to push myself and grow. It felt like a good opportunity and I didn’t want to pass it up.”
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder exemplifies the grit and never-say-die attitude embedded in the US team and is a shrewd second acquisition for the new City manager, Gareth Taylor, following the signing of the goalscoring winger Chloe Kelly from Everton.
“I hope I can bring my attacking mindset,” says Mewis. “I’m known for being aggressive and going forward. I think it’s a mentality piece that I’ve learned from my club team and the US team. I haven’t played with this team yet but I want to be productive, get goals and assists and to help the team win games. It will be tough and I have to earn my playing time but I think and hope the American qualities in my game will help me to succeed here.”
In quarantine, Mewis is yet to meet up with the squad and “no way”, she laughs, will she be mentioning the US defeat of England at the Women’s World Cup in France last summer when she does link up with the team that provides a huge contingent of players to the Lionesses squad.
“I know a bunch of the midfielders here and they’re so talented. Keira [Walsh], Jill [Scott] and I remember watching Caroline [Weir, for Scotland] during the WWC and thinking she was such a great player, so smart and tactical. I have to earn my playing time and perform well to make sure I get out there on the field.”
The arrival of the midfielder is the first big transfer from the NWSL to the WSL this summer and it is expected that more will follow her path. Mewis, though, is coy about the possibility of an influx. “I can’t speak for anyone else’s situation,” she says. “Some of my teammates have played abroad but it’s an individual decision depending on where you are in your career and your life. I don’t see there being a huge influx but that’s just my opinion. There could be though, the WSL is such a great place to play.”
She has not watched much of the WSL before her arrival in Manchester but says she does like Manchester City when it comes to the men’s Premier League, quickly adding “I know you guys will roll your eyes” upon hearing that. “I really like Kevin De Bruyne, I’d try to emulate him if I could,” she laughs. “I watched the All or Nothing [documentary] series a couple of times and I really admire the way the men’s team operates.
“I don’t know if I’ll be shunned for saying this but Paul [Riley, head coach of North Carolina Courage] is a Liverpool fan and we adopted a bit of [his support for them] because he was really nice to us when they won.”