"Goofy" Makes the Big Time

Karen Bardsley started playing soccer at age 5, and became a goalkeeper because “basically no one else really wanted to do it, and I was naturally good at it.” When she asked her native-born English father to sign her up to play soccer, he said “Girls don’t play soccer.” He signed her up anyway, and now with her English mom, they are Karen’s biggest fans.

Q: Goalkeeper—it’s a “feast or famine” position, right?

It is. You’re either the hero or goat. It’s a difficult position because obviously there’s only one opportunity, for the most part. And you’re either the hero or the goat. Most people tend to blame the goalkeeper. You can either win a game for your team, or make one mistake and the whole world knows it. It’s all your fault. Growing up, that pushes people away from the position because they don’t want to deal with those type of situations.

Q: How did you feel when you saw Jenni Branam go down with what was obviously a serious injury?

Honestly, I was upset. I really don’t ever want to see anyone get hurt. I was angry at the situation. It didn’t need to be. But, obviously, we were both fighting for the position and unfortunately because of her injury it has given me an opportunity. I’ve been in Jenni’s position. I’ve broken both my legs, so I know what it’s like to have a season ending injury. (left leg in Dec.’99; right leg in Sept. 2003)

Q: Were you nervous for the first game?

No. I really don’t know why. I felt confident in myself and in my team in front of me. I felt more excitement than nerves. I suppose at times it’s like, “been there, done that.” I felt a sense of calm. I’m sure people were feeling jitters. I’ve felt nervous before. The first time I played for England, when I was 18, I was really nervous. I’ve kind of learned how to control my emotions since then. I have a different way of channeling it into a positive I suppose.

Q: Pauliina (coach) called it the team’s “B game.” How do you get to the “A game?”

By playing together as much as possible, and working on our communication—by trying to get the entire team on the same page, all the time, whether defending or attacking. During the game, I felt that it was more of a noise thing. The fans were so awesome, but it was hard to hear on the field. I’ve watched the game 3 or 4 times however, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In the 2nd half, we started to string things together and control the game more so that Chicago wasn’t imposing their will on us.

Q: What unique piece of advice do you give for youth goalkeepers?

Embrace your gifts, your talents. But I was always the kid that didn’t mind getting dirty, diving around. I just kind of ran with it. Obviously, I didn’t reach 6 foot tall until late high school or college. But people see my hands and say: it was meant to be (I have pretty big hands for a girl.) in glove sizes they are 10; that’s bigger than a lot of guys.

Q: What was it like to be Goofy at Disneyland?

It was one of the greatest experiences. I really enjoyed every minute working at Disneyland. Mostly because no one knows it’s you in the costume. I’m sure they thought I was some creepy guy in a suit; little did they know. I got to be a big kid, and dance around and act silly. Kids eat it up; they want to take your picture. It was a fun release. It didn’t even seem like a job. I couldn’t believe people were paying me to do it. Pretty cool.

Bardsley and Sky Blue FC are currently on the West Coast to play a road contest this Saturday evening against Marta and FC Gold Pride. The team will return home to Yurcak Field on Saturday, May 1st, when it hosts FC Gold Pride in Piscataway. Tickets for that match are available now, and you can click here to purchase!

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