Bianca St. Georges is light-years away from the player she was when she got drafted by the Red Stars with the 20th overall pick in 2019.
Obviously, two years have passed since the Quebec defender was drafted out of West Virginia, but more significantly are the changes she has made mentally and physically that earned her an invitation to Canada’s upcoming national-team training camp ahead of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup.
Changes she hopes will earn her a key role in the Red Stars’ 2021 game plan.
“It was very hard to get my confidence up at the beginning [of the 2020 season],” St. Georges said. “Not only was I struggling with my individual performances, but the people around me were world-class players. It was a big pressure for me to show up and prove I was worth being part of the team.”
Despite being drafted in 2019, St. Georges’ rookie season began in 2020 after injury kept her sidelined. When she did make her debut for the Red Stars, it was with an intensity that matched her world-class teammates.
As she became more comfortable, her true style of play came out. It’s a style she describes as high-risk, high-reward.
St. Georges proved her value by starting all five games she appeared in during the Challenge Cup, earning a nearly 60% success rate on her tackles and scoring a goal in the semifinal.
She continued to impress during the Fall Series, improving her success rate on tackles to nearly 74%.
Last year was an opportunity for the Red Stars to get young, inexperienced players some minutes on the field. It was a rare chance for coach Rory Dames to give them game experience without threatening the team’s shot at winning an NWSL championship.
This year, St. Georges said all of that has changed. They’re bringing in the chemistry they gained from the Challenge Cup and Fall Series, but the focus has shifted from individual performances to team performance.
Some of the Red Stars players had a phone call this week centered around what they want the mentality to be in 2021.
“This year, we’re focusing on the team,” St. Georges said. “And then after that, individually thinking about OK, you have to fix this for the sake of the team.”
St. Georges will report to Red Stars training camp Monday before departing for national team camp for two weeks beginning Feb. 6.
Her main priority at her first senior national team camp is to continue proving her place on the field through steady contributions and consistency while showing she is coachable. She said if her teammates give her advice on her game, she plans to apply it immediately.
“Once people see you can be coached and you can grow, it’s a big indicator that player can go far,” St. Georges said.
St. Georges said it’s challenging to find the balance between the national team’s expectations that players excel individually and the Red Stars’ team-first work ethic.
Dames always has encouraged his national-team players in the process of finding stability between what their two teams need from them. St. Georges plans to handle this juggling act by reminding herself of the basics as a defender and not losing her confidence on the field. In the past, she thought her performance needed to shock people in order to stand out. Now she knows playing simple, clean soccer can help her stand out even more.
Still, that high-risk, high-reward mindset always will be a part of St. Georges’ game. She’s just learning to be more calculated with it.
“Consistency is something that coaches really like,” St. Georges said. “Then, when you do something unexpected, it better be good. High risk, high reward.”