Emily Boyd’s opportunity to play her first stint overseas presented itself during the final weeks of the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Red Stars coach Rory Dames received a call from HB Køge, a team in Denmark, expressing interest in his No. 2 goalkeeper, and he had one thing to say about it.
“I spoke to Emily the last week we were in Utah,” Dames said. “And I told her she needs to get games.”
There’s an obvious reason for that. The No. 1 goalkeeper in the world, Alyssa Naeher, is ahead of her on the depth chart.
Playing behind Naeher has presented a unique opportunity for Boyd. She’s learning from the best keeper in the game, but the only time she saw action last season was when Naeher was playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team in the World Cup.
Since being selected with the 15th overall pick in the second round of the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Boyd has played 13 games. Her most consistent stretch came in 2019, when she started 10 games for the Red Stars. Dames said he was impressed with Boyd’s play, but there was room to improve.
Boyd’s game has changed significantly under the tutelage of Naeher. Dames said her main areas of growth have been her level of professionalism, her fitness and her mental approach to the game.
“Emily was a young kid coming into the league out of college, and Alyssa was a proven world-class goalkeeper,” Dames said. “Naeher is in the top five or six fastest players on our team when we do sprints. Fitness-wise she’s very high in the group.
“You learn a ton of things when you train with Alyssa every day. You see things that she does well that maybe you don’t, you see her technique, her form, how she does it, how she trains it and how she improves at it. That’s invaluable, not just for Emily but anyone that trains with Alyssa.”
Boyd, along with Makenzy Doniak, who also will play for HB Køge in the Elitedivisionen league, are two of five Red Stars who will be playing overseas this fall, Dames said.
Three other Red Stars who have finalized their overseas contracts are forward Rachel Hill, who will play in Sweden for the Damallsvenskan league’s Linköpings FC, goalkeeper Cassie Miller, who will rejoin Apollon Ladies FC of the Cypriot First Division and defender Kayla Sharples will join the Kuopion Palloseura of Kansallinen Liiga in Finland.
The Red Stars said all loans end before the 2021 NWSL preseason. Dames anticipates March will be the earliest the team can return to any type of activity.
If that’s the case, it’s critical for Boyd’s continued development that she finds a rhythm in the box. She’ll have that opportunity in Denmark, where she will have her first chance to play consistently since college.
“No matter how many times you scrimmage, or how many times you do small stuff in training, you can’t replicate a real game,” Dames said. “You can only play in them.”
Miller is the Red Stars third goalkeeper on the roster, and Dames said she and Boyd will be competing for the starting spot next season when Naeher leaves for the Olympics.
Miller has two years of overseas experience over Boyd. Whoever will be in goal next summer will depend on each player’s development overseas.
“I told [Boyd] if you want to be the person we turn to when Alyssa leaves for the Olympics, you have to go somewhere and get games between now and then,” Dames said.