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USWNT’s Sam Mewis is as humble as ever as the Olympics loom

Despite being one of the first names written in a U.S. or Manchester City starting lineup, the midfield general carries herself like she's still fighting for a roster spot.

Samantha Mewis on the ball during the U.S. women's national team's win at France on April 13.
Samantha Mewis on the ball during the U.S. women's national team's win at France on April 13.Read moreDavid Vincent / AP

In the months before the 2019 World Cup, and even at times during it, Sam Mewis made it a mantra that she was just happy to be there and help the U.S. national team in any way she could.

Since then, Mewis has become a force with few equals anywhere in women’s soccer. The 28-year-old is a commanding presence in central midfield for the United States and Manchester City, and has built up a resume to match it: that World Cup, an FA Cup title with City, and U.S. Soccer’s women’s Player of the Year award in 2020, on top of two NWSL championships and three regular-season titles with the North Carolina Courage before moving to England last August.

Last month, an ESPN poll of worldwide media (including this reporter) ranked Mewis the No. 1 player in global women’s soccer right now, above big names such as Crystal Dunn, Australia’s Sam Kerr, the Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema, and Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsán.

» READ MORE: Crystal Dunn’s time arrives to be one of American soccer’s top stars

While City is likely to finish second in England’s FA Women’s Super League this season, it won’t be long before Mewis gets a shot to add an Olympic gold medal to her trophy case. The U.S. will head to Tokyo this summer as the overwhelming favorite in the 12-team field, with the potential to become the first reigning World Cup champion to win the ensuing Olympics. Mewis’ name will be in ink in the starting lineup.

Has any of this caused Mewis to change her approach to life? Of course not.

“Obviously, I have gotten some recognition this year, and that’s a huge honor,” Mewis told The Inquirer. “But what I’m really looking for is for that kind of, like, sense of accomplishment to come from myself, and I know that I still have a lot that I want to do. So I still feel like I’m not ready to like reflect yet — I would still want to push to improve and grow as much as I can.”

She described herself “feeling very much like I’m in the weeds” as she works toward goals held by herself and her teams. If you laughed while reading that, you aren’t alone: it’s hard to conjure up a mental image of a 6-foot midfield general laying low in the weeds.

But there are obvious virtues in the approach. With so much of the world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mewis is focusing on what she can control as she gets ready for the Olympics.

“I think if this past year has taught people anything, it’s like, we can’t control a lot of these things, and the best that we can do sometimes is to just prepare for what might happen,” Mewis said.

That includes possibly playing behind closed doors if Japan can’t get its population vaccinated fast enough.

“I just want to go to the Olympics — I want to make the team and I want to be able to go and I want to be able to compete,” she said. “So when we get to that, maybe not having fans would be disappointing. But right now I’m just really focused on trying to make the roster myself and trying to be in the best form as possible so that I can hopefully help the team win.”

There’s the classic Mewis-ness again, as if there was any possibility (barring injury) that she won’t make the squad.

» READ MORE: Pennington School alum Alana Cook is on the rise with the USWNT and Paris Saint-Germain

She has been at work away from the field, too, getting into the content creation game with a high-profile platform in the women’s soccer realm, Just Women’s Sports. The outlet was launched last year by former Stanford soccer player Haley Rosen, and its staff includes ex-pros Rachel Quon and Haley Kopmeyer. Notable contributors include U.S. women’s soccer veteran Kelley O’Hara and WNBA stars A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier.

JWS’ head of content is Ashley Braband, a Wayne native and Penn alum who had a brief soccer career there. She worked for 13 years at ESPN, most famously with popular TV and podcast host Katie Nolan.

Mewis launched a podcast this month with her former Courage teammate and current national team colleague Lynn Williams. It’s called “Snacks,” and it’s about whatever they want to talk about. Which is just fine by the audience.

“I never really thought about doing anything like this in the past, but when Haley [Rosen] kind of gave Lynn and I the opportunity, we just thought it sounded like fun, and it has been so far,” Mewis said. “I think that it’s a great way to kind of share little bits of ourselves with the audience and with fans who might be interested in. It’s probably good practice for me to do something like this, too, but it just feels like it’s something fun.”

» READ MORE: A decade after calling Philadelphia home, Estelle Johnson is on a big stage with NWSL’s Gotham FC