Who Is Jessica McDonald? New Details On U.S. Women's Soccer Forward Competing In World Cup

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Who Is Jessica McDonald? New Details On The U.S. Women's Soccer Forward Competing In The World Cup

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team won all their games in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup so far, defeating Thailand 13-0, Chile 3-0, Sweden 2-0, and Spain 2-1. And today, June 28th, they’ll face off against France in the quarter-finals. If the team makes it to the finals and wins, they’ll become champions (again!) on July 7th.

The U.S. team is the most successful team in international women’s soccer. They have won three Women’s World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, but they still aren’t receiving equal pay to the men’s team, who aren’t nearly as successful. Because of this, the entire team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March, alleging unequal pay, and violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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But don’t let this lawsuit be a distraction, because these ladies are kicking major butt in their season and, now, this tournament. And we’re curious about their personal lives off the field. So, who is Jessica McDonald? Here are 7 things to know about the forward for the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.

1. She’s always played sports.

Growing up, McDonald’s father was in and out of prison, and her mother battled addiction. She revealed that her childhood was plagued with verbal abuse, but it didn’t mar her amazing athletic abilities. 

In high school, McDonald played basketball and ran track, and set many records for both teams. She was also a member of the Sereno Soccer club.

2. Her brother is a pro-athlete.

Her brother, Brandon McDonald, is also a professional soccer player. 

According to her bio, “As a kid, Jessica’s grandma told her she couldn’t just sit on the couch — that she had to pick up a sport. Her brother played soccer, so she thought to herself, ‘I guess I’ll play soccer like Brandon.’ He continued to inspire her, playing on Youth National Teams as a kid and playing in the MLS from 2008 through 2011. Since then, he’s played in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, and he follows his sister’s career as closely as she follows his.”

3. She continued playing in college.

After high school, she attended Phoenix college, playing soccer, track, and basketball. She was named a first-team junior college All-America in soccer, and National Junior College Player of the Year. In her sophomore year, she transferred to University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and joined the Tar Heels.

4. She eventually made the move to pro.

In 2010, she was drafted to the Chicago Red Stars before suffering a knee injury. Following the collapse of the league, she joined the Melbourne Victory FC in 2012, and in 2013, signed again with the Chicago Red Stars as a free agent. However, later that year, she signed with the Seattle Reign FC, and was traded to the Portland Thorns in 2014.

In 2015, she was traded to the Houston Fash, and in 2016, was traded to the Western New York Flash. In 2017, she moved to the North Carolina Courage, where she remains. She has played for nine different professional teams in the last ten years! In 2016, she also received the call of a lifetime: to play on the USWNT.

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5. She almost quit soccer.

Back when she got a knee injury, which was a torn patellar tendon, she never thought she’d play again. According to McDonald, “My chances of playing at a high level were very, very slim... Science told me no. They told me no. Here I am, though.”

What made her almost quit, in addition to her lengthy injury and recovery, was financial trouble. Being a mother to a young son, she struggled to make ends meet. She would work 11-hour days at an Amazon warehouse with barely anything to show for it, while working an off-season contract with a club in Germany. Said McDonald, “That was when it really hit me. Like, OK, maybe I am done. Maybe this is it.”

But her uncle said something that changed her mindset: “Look, you have this capability. You have this skill that God has given you. You need to continue using it if you can. You were given this small chance of even playing again, and here you are. Why give up now?”

6. It’s her first World Cup.

And so far, she scored a goal in the game against Chile! But when she got the call that she’d be on the roster for the World Cup, she was nervous:

“[Paul Riley, the coach for the North Carolina Courage] was like ‘Jess, you’re gonna do great. You’re gonna be just fine.’ He was very confident from that point on that I was going to be here. Whereas for me, it was up in the air for me. Like, OK I’m going to give every camp all that I’ve got, that’s all I can do. I’ve got my chance, I need to take advantage of this because there are so many people in this world and I’m just this one speck that gets this chance. I’m a very small percentage in the United States that gets this chance to represent my country.”

Before she left for France, she told reporters how she was feeling.

“Obviously, this is something huge. Just to be playing on the world stage and repping all the parents out there. Not just the parents, but obviously all of the African-American girls who feel as if they don’t have much to rely to make your dreams come true, whatever the circumstances may be,” she revealed. “Hopefully it inspires the African-American community. Just to show them that these things are possible. You’ve got to grind it out, but you can do it."

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7. Being a mother is the single most important thing to her.

McDonald has a son, Jeremiah (born in 2012) with her husband, Courtney Stuart. And when she found out she’d be in the World Cup, she knew she’d be making a difference in her child’s life.

“I’m not just working for myself anymore. I’m working for my kid as well, someone who’s actually looking up to me on a whole other level than the younger generation. Being able to inspire my kid with what I’m doing now, it’s going to help him succeed in the future, and that’s one of my main goals here. Is to try and succeed on the field, and succeed as a mother,” she said.

And her child, according to her, keeps her grounded: “Being able to go home to my kid is such a relief because he’s such a happy kid. He balances my life out in such a good way... When you become a parent, obviously it changes your life in so many ways. I know people who have a) given up on their careers, or b) change career fields because they became a parent, and so I didn’t want to use that as an excuse.”

McDonald has high hopes for her child. She said, “I hope that when he is older, what I’m doing now, the things that his mother has accomplished, is going to inspire him for whatever it is that he wants to do in the future. That’s what pushes me every day to want to be successful on the soccer field. Being able to not only take care of my kid on a financial level and be stable, but most importantly, to inspire my child.”

And in a true tear-jerker moment, she recently shared her reunion with Jeremiah, who arrived in France to watch her play. 

How sweet is that?

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.