August 23, 2017

Displaying Relentless Style, Finishing Touch, PU Grad Lussi Excelling for Portland of NWSL

PROFESSIONAL APPROACH: Tyler Lussi dribbles the ball up the field this summer in her debut campaign for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Recently graduated Princeton University women’s soccer star Lussi ’17, the program’s all-time leading scorer, didn’t waste any time making an impact for the Thorns, scoring a game-winning goal in her third appearance for the club. (Photo Courtesy of Portland Thorns)

Tyler Lussi was thrilled to be selected 21st overall by the Portland Thorns in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft this past January but she knew it didn’t guarantee anything on the pro level.

Instead, former Princeton University women’s soccer standout Lussi had to fly out to Portland days after her college graduation in June for an extended tryout to earn a spot on the team.

“I was out here for about two and a half weeks on trial; I hadn’t signed yet when I got here,” said Lussi, a four-time All-Ivy League performer who graduated as Princeton’s all-time goals leader (53) and points leader (122).

“I had to prove to the coaching staff and the team that I am going to bring a whole other level of intensity and work rate. For those two and half weeks, I just had to work really hard and prove to the coach that I can make the team.”

Lussi apparently proved her point and made the team. “I was signed on June 30th,” said Lussi. “It was definitely a great feeling and I was now officially on the team.”

Not wasting any time to make an impact, Lussi helped the Thorns pull out a 1-1 draw at Houston in her debut on July 8 and then scored the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Houston as the teams met for a rematch on July 22.

In her first appearance, Lussi came off the bench looking to spark the Thorns.

“At halftime, they told me I was going to go on; at that point we were down 1-0,” recalled Lussi.

“I had to go on with full confidence. Every time I play, I step on with confidence but at this point I had to do everything I could to put their back line under pressure and make sure to bring that work rate, create chances, and try to help the team. We ended up with a tie but in a hard away game, it was definitely a stepping stone for what the team needed.”

Two weeks later, Lussi was in the starting lineup for a rematch with Houston and tallied a 39th-minute goal that ended up being the game-winner in Portland’s 2-1 victory over Houston.

“It was definitely something I will never forget, scoring my first professional goal like when I scored my first college goal freshman year,” said Lussi.

“Each member of the Thorns team has the responsibility to do all they can to have the ball go into the back of the net. Helping with that effort is a real privilege and a great responsibility to have. Having 18,000 rock and celebrate that goal is like nothing I have ever experienced.”

While Lussi scored a lot of goals at Princeton, she makes it clear that her record output was the product of a group effort.

“It is a huge honor but I could not have done it without every one of my teammates in all my four years,” said the slender 5’7 Lussi, a native of Lutherville, Md. who was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American in 2015 when she helped Princeton win the league title and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“It is not something I did myself, it is the team that did it. I never want to look at it as I broke the record, I say the team broke this record.”

Reflecting on her Princeton career, Lussi notes that she grew a lot on and off the field.

“I think just maturity-wise as a person and a player, I learned to understand and work individually with different people and different teammates,” said Lussi.

“It was being able to prepare myself every single day and trying to do the best I can. That didn’t just happen when I came in freshman year. It is a process.”

That maturity has come in handy as Lussi has adjusted to the rigors of pro soccer. “High levels of performance and focus are necessary for every single practice and game in order to get better,” said Lussi.

“I have always tried to train, recover, play, compete, and prepare myself at a professional level in college so that part of my experience was what I expected coming into this. I think the major difference for me has been the high level of analysis of not just every teammate and game performance and practice during the week but also the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each member of the opposing team. There are constant adjustments throughout the week and games in an attempt to gain an advantage. Professional soccer is combining the team’s best physical performance with the strategy of the evolving game.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the Thorns’s season, Lussi is determined to perform at a high level.

“Coming in I didn’t expect anything but I knew that just working hard and bringing my intensity and my ability to press the back line is going to show something different and help the team attack,” said Lussi.

“That has always been in my mindset ever since I started playing soccer. I have always wanted to score, I have always wanted to attack. I want to bring that relentless intensity.”

Lussi is hoping that her intensity takes her to the top of the soccer world.

“I want to keep improving and learning from the best every day; I am playing on a team that has world class players,” said Lussi, who played for the U.S. U-23 team this March in matches against Japan, England and Norway at La Manga, Spain.

“I want to play soccer as long as possible at the highest level and continue to play in the NWSL. I want to make the top U.S. team so that is where I am headed and hopefully will be.”