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Checking In With CanWNT: Carmelina Moscato

On today's edition of Checking In With CanWNT, we've got central defender Carmelina Moscato. The 28-year-old from Mississauga tells us about her whirlwind few months since London, her burgeoning coaching career and her thoughts on the Canadian program's future, and whether she's been able to successfully use an imposing, Brazilian-style single name on the field.
So, what have you been up to since the Olympics ended?

Well basically, we arrived home Aug. 13; I remember that because it was a significant date, it was weird to wake up in your own bed after everything that had just happened. I was actually scheduled to come to the University of Wisconsin, because I had accepted the assistant coaching position a couple months prior. So I was going to leave on the 15th, believe it or not, of August, right away. No idea how I thought I could pull that off. But something interjected: my visa actually wasn't approved, for some reason. It was just a little glitch in the system. So I had to wait two weeks to get another visa approved.

I was actually at home, almost a blessing in disguise. Although I wanted to be with the team, I needed the time to unwind. So I was back home for two weeks, enjoying the feeling of the bronze medal with family and friends... and everyone else, really. It really caught on, as we all know. It was amazing to be back in our home country after so long, just celebrating and sharing the experience with everyone.

On Sept. 2, I packed my car up and drove myself to Madison, Wisconsin, where I've been ever since. I haven't actually left Madison, except for a couple of recruiting trips and the Caymans for an international coaching course. We went into the season, the NCAA season, my third; I coached in 2007 and 2008 with the Louisville Cardinals. We had a relatively successful year, made it to the NCAA tournament, lost to UCLA, a powerhouse.

Now that all is said and done, after a long -- actually, short season I should say, for me anyway -- just trying to make the decision if I wanted to play still. I was here coaching. I wasn't sure. I had intended, a couple of months prior to the Olympics, to retire. That was my intention. My teammates knew that, (Canadian head coach) John (Herdman) knew that. Then everything else happened: the collective success, the individual playing time. I really hadn't played in any major tournaments in my whole career, believe it or not. But after things had kind of clicked and come together after a long 10 years, it's hard to walk away from a team that I think is only just beginning.

So for me, as of Oct. 15, we were given our domestic program to do, in preparation for our Four Nations tournament in January. I put my name in the hat and said, yes, I'd like to continue, you have my commitment. That's what I've been doing: training every day, coaching every day, and trying to find some Carm time in between.

You mentioned a coaching course down in the Cayman Islands. Could you tell us a little more about that?

CONCACAF has now started to put on a series of courses, this being the first pilot course. It's a partnership with the English FA, meaning we're using the curriculum from the English teaching courses there. They're coming over, and they pick 21 coaches from the Caribbean and then two from Canada, in which they're going to continue with the particular group for another two or three courses in the future.

It was a foundational level course, Level 1 equivalent in England, and it was basically getting everyone on the same page in terms of how we're coaching grassroots. We touched upon higher level playing, but that wasn't really the purpose of this particular course. I walked away without a certificate or license of any sort, it was strictly educational and people sharing their experiences. People from all walks of life were there, it was honestly a really enlightening and interesting experience.

Soccer unites us, but we all go about it a bit differently.

You said there were two Canadians down there -- any chance we would recognize the other one?

(laughs) I'm pretty sure you would, pretty much a legend, Paul Stalteri. He was the other representative from Canada. It's the first time I've ever met him. Funnily enough, as the women's team we never really interact with the men's national team, there's no opportunity to do that. So it was really cool to touch base with somebody doing the same thing, who's basically done it all, and kind of pick his brain. Funniest guy I've ever met, by the way. Had us in stitches all week.

It was very enlightening, really refreshing to go back. The instructor's name was Chris Dowhan, and he kind of reminded all of us of the pureness of the game. Sometimes you just have to simplify things and go back to being a kid and what you enjoy.

You said the Olympics were the first major tournament you got to take part in with the team. How would you describe your first Olympic experience?

I think that I've never felt -- and I think I'm speaking for the whole group when I say we've never felt more prepared to play soccer on the world's biggest stage. It was a combination of a year's work where we showed up, everything was so intentional. We all had our particular nutrition in order, we knew exactly what we needed to eat, how much, this and that. There was nothing left to the imagination.

Tactically, I'd received comments from people saying, "Carm, you look so composed." It's the first time in my entire career anyone's told me I looked so composed! It was due to the clarity in the classroom, essentially, that John created where everyone knew our decisions, A, B, C and otherwise. He simplified the game to the extent where it's not like he made the decisions for us, we ultimately always did make those decisions, but the pictures were clear.

Every team's scouting report that they came and presented to us was spot-on. On the day there was, again, nothing left to the imagination, we knew exactly where every player would be, when and why. To have that kind of confidence not only in your staff, but in everybody knowing their jobs on the pitch, it's incredible. I think the unity -- above all, knowledge aside and preparation aside -- I think the unity that we were able to create, having gone through everything we've gone through in the past 10 years, and knowing that for this particular moment we owed it to ourselves to put it together.

I think we've come to tournaments in the past maybe physically prepared, maybe mentally prepared, maybe tactically prepared, but never all together. It was truly all a time where I felt we capitalized on peaking as a collective -- the staff, everyone was on board. I've never felt such unity with a group, through good times and bad, and again, that's obviously the reason I'm staying on board. I think there's more.

He had a year with us, we have another four years. Who's to say what's going to happen in the next four years, but I have faith that if we continue to do the right work, we're going to come out pretty strong.

You definitely needed to be composed, as you became the rock in central defence during the Olympic tournament. You had three different central defensive partners during the Olympic tournament (due to injuries). How do you keep it all together in circumstances like that?

Well, I played with Emily (Zurrer) significantly, I played with Chappie (Candace Chapman), I had never played with Robyn (Gayle), and I sure as hell never played with Lauren (Sesselmann). So, you know what it was? I have a nature in me, when you're on that world's biggest stage ... it was to do my job, in and out. We all had known each other's stuff by now, so everybody was quite coachable. So we guided not only John, but we guided each other.

So I said to Lauren, I may yell at you and I may say things I don't mean afterward, but let's do this. We're going to be women about it and we're going to figure this partnership out. And I really do think because that willingness was there for the team, to do the job that we needed for the team, it wasn't about personnel, it was about what the team needed on the pitch.

Flash forward to the medal game. Diana's shot hits the back of the net. What's going through your mind at the moment, or is it all a blur?

I've never felt anything like it. I don't think you could forget that feeling. In the moment, if I have to be honest, it was relief, because I don't think any of us had an overtime in us, physically. (laughs) I'm just kidding, we would have figured it out. But I do think it was complete joy... I don't know if I've experienced joy like that.

If you've never won -- maybe there's a couple other countries or club teams, if you rack up some gold medals here and there, I'm sure it doesn't feel any different, every gold medal, I'm sure it feels special -- but your first, you never forget your first significant achievement on a world stage.

Our whole goal, going into the tournament, was two things. We wanted to see our flag rise -- it was symbolic, part of our anthem, see thee rise, and then it was something that was a motto for us. And we all had to rise to the occasion. Being on that podium, regardless of the position, was an emotional moment, to see our flag rise, and that bronze represented that. And the second, probably bigger picture goal, was that we wanted to leave the sport in Canada better than when we found it. I think we played a pretty cool brand of soccer where we accomplished both.

When you set massive goals like that, and you end up actually achieving them, there's no better feeling in the world -- (especially) to do it with a fantastic group of people.

Speaking of leaving a lasting impact on the game in Canada, are you already looking ahead to the 2015 Women's World Cup on Canadian soil, and what kind of effect it could have?

As a player, no. But as somebody who's an advocate for the sport in Canada and for women's soccer in general, yes. As a player you have to take it day by day. There's no doubt that your reality can change on any given day, whether it's your position on the team, your injuries, whatever. The whole reason I feel like I arrived at the Olympics was that every single day I kept it in stride. I tried not to get too high or too low -- I wasn't always successful, but that's what I needed to do to get there.

In 2009, when (former head coach) Carolina (Morace) brought me to my first camp, if you asked me about being in the Olympics, I would have laughed at you. You never know what's going to happen.

In terms of the impact of what it's going to do to the sport in North America and Canada, it'll inject a completely new level of passion into the grassroots -- even coaching. I hope coaches get on board and want to get certified and licensed and start teaching this game properly for our future. That's really what it's about. We want a revolving door. We want to have the next (Christine) Sinclair brewing in some little town.

The top level's great and all, but we need a whole new generation. I'm not saying they're not there, I'm just saying it needs to be consistent. That should be our goal, going into this World Cup. We want to present ourselves properly on home soil, but I also believe in 2019 and so on, there's a huge picture here and we need to get moving as a nation. We need to start producing top players, and I believe we can.

Is that something you see yourself being personally involved in, helping develop future generations of players in Canada?

Absolutely. It's something in my heart more so than on a piece of paper as a goal. It's something I have to do, I feel like. I'm here at the moment, circumstantially. But big picture, at the end of the day, absolutely, I want to be home, working with who knows where, what level I'll be working with. Perhaps grassroots, perhaps the youth national team, maybe the full team. You have to set your goals, and I'll just take it in stride. But I'd like to be in Canada, affecting the game domestically, that is ultimately in my heart.

Given the importance of young players going forward, what are your thoughts on the new North American professional league?

I wish it the best, and I hope we can sustain it. If you're 18 years old in Canada, and if you don't go to the U.S. or overseas or wherever, whatever opportunity, there's something else for soccer players. Hopefully an education is in that path, and then an opportunity to play. There's been a generation that's slipped through the cracks because they had nowhere to go. This, perhaps, is where they can go, a high level to achieve or shoot for, that makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day.

You can't be 22, after college, and left with, really, nothing. That happens to more people than we'd like to admit. Hopefully it's sustainable under international rules. Hopefully we'll have one day where it's not just 16 Canadian players in the league. It's a start, and it's a special start, and we'll take it. But you always hope for more opportunities for Canadians in the future.

Back in March, on the Some Canadian Guys podcast, we were trying to get you to establish a Brazilian-style single name. You came up with Moscatinho, I was lobbying for Moscatidas. Have either of those caught on in 2012?

(laughs) You know what, I would love to say that I did... but we could make one up right now and say that we did. You said what, Moscatido?

You were going for Moscatinho.

Well, Ronaldinho is one of my favourite players, so it makes sense. Let's go with Moscatinho.

Looking back at 2012, if you could try to sum up the year in 10 words or less, what would you say?

The game has evolved, and as women, we're continuing to raise the bar.