There’s more to a good soccer team than its marquee players. The Chicago Red Stars have plenty of, er, star power to keep people talking— Sam Kerr, Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Casey Short. Those are the names you see in headlines.
But you can’t build a team on a few big names. You need a whole squad. You need Swiss Army Knife players. You need people who can do the jobs that need doing, that are willing to throw their bodies on the line, who can make a difference when things are in doubt.
Taylor Comeau heads into her third season as a Red Star as a shining example of this kind of player. The Cal graduate is known for being versatile and working harder than anyone else on the pitch. She also has a habit of finding breakthroughs when no one else in the team can— as evidenced by her late equalizing goal last week against Houston in the NWSL season opener.
Comeau is the kind of player every team needs in their squad. And she plans on making herself totally indispensable in 2018.
We caught up with Comeau toward the end of preseason training earlier this month. Here’s a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and flow.
Hot Time In Old Town: Thank you so much for taking a few minutes out of training today.
Taylor Comeau: Yeah, no problem.
HTIOT: I won’t take up too much of your time. I only have a few questions. First thing is first, really, really important question, how was your offseason, and did you do anything fun?
TC: That is a very important question. It was good! I tried to go to Thailand but it didn’t happen.
HTIOT: You tried to go to Thailand?
TC: I did, I wanted to go but I couldn’t make it happen.
HTIOT: Aww man, that sucks.
TC: Yeah, I know. But it was good, it was relaxing. Did a little California training.
HTIOT: That’s awesome. Do you usually go home to California for the offseason?
TC: My first offseason I spent in Cyprus and I got to play in the Champions League.
HTIOT: Oooh, that’s right.
TC: Yeah, for Apollon Ladies.
HTIOT: That’s awesome. So, I did want to ask you about that semi-final game last year. The loss against North Carolina. There’ve been post-mortems about that game and I don’t want to relive it too much, but I’m curious about like, what the game was like from like your personal perspective. As someone who was in the Gameday ’18 and someone who prepared for that game, what was that day like, and then what was the immediate aftermath like for you?
TC: Yeah. I think it was a weird game because we played them three times before that and we won every game before that, and I think we’re the only team that basically beat them every time we came against them except for, you know, the game where it matters most. But I think it’s tough because it’s kind of a weird mental thing. Like, we beat them three times before that game, so we knew how to, but for some reason in that last game I guess it was just a different atmosphere, a little bit more is on the line. Going into it, I think we were pretty confident, like since we had done well against them, but I think afterwards, the mindset for this year is different. I don’t think our style is going to be the same as it has the past three years. We’ve been to the semi-final, I mean, when I have been on the team, twice, and lost both times, which is really unfortunate. So I think our mindset for this year is just different. It’s going to be a different style than it has been in the past.
HTIOT: I guess that leads into my next question which was what your main takeaways were from last season and what lessons you learned from it? Both you, Taylor Comeau, and you as in the Chicago Red Stars?
TC: Personally, I mean, I was playing a different position last year than I have in the past. So it was basically like for me to learn. I was playing right back a lot, to learn that position and get comfortable with it and that was like my main goal for the season. I’ve been put in a lot of different positions so I kind of need to know them all. Midfield, defense, whatever. But I think last year it was basically just getting comfortable in a new position for me, personally, as like a player for this team. [Rory Dames] still sees me as a versatile player, so I still need to know other places. But yeah, getting used to a new position and then as a team I think just this year we are trying to do something a little different. You still have a lot of talented players, which is exciting, but we want to do more obviously. I think we don’t want to get to that semi-final game again and have the same result. Obviously we know that we can get to like, that place, so our focus is to get better as a team, get used to our style, trust the process of what we’re doing, and then hopefully, you know, in the end, that pays off.
HTIOT: I want to ask you about the pulmonary contusion incident from last summer. You collided with a Washington Spirit player during a game last summer. You picked up a bruised lung as a result, and then you came back really quickly. I guess first question is, are you actually a Terminator?
TC: A Terminator? [Laughter]. No, I am a human being.
HTIOT: That’s definitely a relief.
TC: [Laughter]. Yes, I am a human. But I think you know me coughing up blood shows that I am a human because the reason I came off the field was, I think it was like the 80th minute or something, I coughed up blood into my hand, and obviously that’s not a normal thing. So I knew that something was off. So I had to come off. I had a bruised lung, and that’s why I was coughing up blood, which is okay, like, it wasn’t a collapsed lung or anything, and I think the main thing is what they’re saying is as long as I wasn’t really coughing up blood like, generally after that I feel great. So it’s basically just like a bruise and you have to play through pain. But yeah, a little scary at first, definitely.
HTIOT: Obviously, I’m glad you were okay and you bounced back quickly.
TC: Thank you.
HTIOT: You’re in Portland right now for pre-season training and for the invitational friendly tournament thing. So how is that going so far?
TC: Good. We just beat Portland yesterday, 1-0, so that’s always nice.
HTIOT: You played all 90 minutes, didn’t you?
TC: I did, yes. Yeah, I played 90 minutes. It’s going well. I mean, we’re still here for like, five days. It’s a long week, I think. Just three games in one week is a lot, and then it really helps us—last year we were able to see what everyone can do, if he was going to try to put dual positions we could try that out, like all this—it’s not like, not crazy serious like to win the games. Like yes, obviously we’re all competitive so we all want to win, but the main thing is to just like to see if you know we want to try people in different spots and see how that looks and all that. That’s kind of like the main takeaway of why we’re here and still building off of.
HTIOT: During preseason you played as a fullback for scrimmages. Is this your new settled position now?
TC: I think it’s a little too early to tell where my spot is. I mean, Rory still sees me as a versatile player, so saying that I have one starting spot right now would be I think jumping the gun a little bit to say that. and you know, I have to do well if I want to start, so it’s not like it’s just given to anybody. Too early to tell.
HTIOT: That definitely makes sense. How would you rate your performance at right fullback?
TC: I think like I said, I’m still getting used to the position. I do well against some of the better players like, I played against Seattle which was Rapinoe, and I played against Orlando at right back, which is, you know, they obviously have a lot of talent on that team too. The fact that I’m able to do well against those players defensively I think, you know, shows that I can play there but it’s still new to me. So positionally, I still need to get used to being in the right spots and basically tactics is what I need to work on a lot with that position still. And I’m learning, so.
HTIOT: I think it’s obvious what the team’s goals are for 2018. To go further than they have in the past few seasons, get to the semi-final, and then actually win and go to the Championship Final. That’s pretty obvious, and Rory has said as much in interviews. I’m curious about what your specific goals are beyond what the team’s goals are. Or what, if you have any benchmarks for yourself, what are you aiming for in 2018?
TC: I guess for me, stay consistently on the field more would be one of my goals. And then to be starting in that semi-final game. I started in the one two years ago, but not last year. I think that’s my personal goal, and yeah, and I think overall for this year for me I’m just trying to like, stay positive and just work on getting better. Hopefully getting better like every game, learning as much as I can about our system and getting really comfortable in it. Those are my goals.
HTIOT: I just have one more question. What is your favorite thing about Chicago?
TC: Chicago? Oh, that’s a tough question.
HTIOT: I’ll accept a top three or a top five.
TC: Top three? Okay. Number one would be the Chicago summers because I love just the atmosphere and everyone is always outside and excited to be outside. So that’s one. two, I really like the lake, or as you Chicagoans say, your beach, you know? It’s not a real beach! [Laughter]
HTIOT: I am shocked and appalled.
TC: [Laughter] I’m from California, so it’s hard to treat it like a beach. Finally, your burgers are amazing. They’re so good.
HTIOT: Taylor, thank you so much for your time today. It was really great talking to you.
TC: Yeah, you too!