Jessica McDonald on leadership, success and underdog mentality

Jessica McDonald Western United

Having officially departed Western United at the conclusion of her guest contract at the beginning of the week, Jessica McDonald has returned to the United States where she will get ready for pre-season with Racing Louisville in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

But before she jetted off for Hobart with the Green and Black for one final match, McDonald sat down with KEEPUP’s Sacha Pisani to chat about her experience in the West.

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McDonald has done it all in her career. The 34-year-old sits fourth all-time in goals scored and has the most assists in NWSL history, she has won three NWSL Shields and three NWSL Championships and, of course, the FIFA Women’s World Cup with the United States in 2019.

All of that success, experience and quality ultimately led her to become one of the biggest presences in the Western United dressing room, and she stepped willingly into a leadership role within the group.

“This is really my second year in my career playing this type of role,” she explained.

“I almost feel like an assistant player because I’m on the field with them and it’s been amazing to kind of help coach them on the field.

“Here we are, one of the younger teams and a new squad. It’s been a learning curve for me because I know they’re looking up to me so I’m like ‘ok, I’ll take on this pressure’.

“They turn to me about issues or even good things in life. I feel I almost bring that mum, presence, being the only mum on the team. I definitely play that leadership role and I think I do it pretty well, so I’ll pat myself on the back for that.”

That mother-like role only increased McDonald’s pride through the first half of the season as she admitted the side’s development was “almost like watching your own child growing up”.

“It was absolutely amazing and very impressive – honestly as a group, an organisation, since we’re the new kids on the block,” she said.

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect coming into this because obviously it’s a brand-new team. It was a really good feeling. By game three or four, we’re like ‘okay, what’s happening?’ Well alright, we’re going to run with this because we know we’re actually good.”

Something McDonald particularly tried to instil in the group as the success on the pitch has rolled on has been a fierce mental competitiveness through buying into the underdog tag.

“One thing I wanted to inspire the group was to run with this underdog mentality, because we really are at the end of the day,” she said.

“The record may not show it, but being a new team at the professional level – it’s a very difficult thing to come by.

“I’m just really proud of this on how we’ve responded this season. It’s been really impressive.”

McDonald’s journey to Western United included great sacrifice in leaving her 10-year-old son back home in the United States.

She said that has undoubtedly been the hardest part of playing on the other side of the world, but that he was able to understand the significance of her sacrifice.

“I don’t think anyone understands, like, my little buddy is 10 years old. That’s my little best friend,” she said.

“I have to break things down a little bit for him, almost talk to him as an adult so he can understand a bit more. He’s just like, ‘okay’.

“But obviously there are a lot of days where he will text me and be like ‘I miss you, I’m sad today’. I’m like, ‘I’m sad too buddy and miss you as well but I will be home soon, so hang in there’.”

McDonald departs Western United having scored two goals and added three assists in her nine matches, contributing to the side’s league-leading start to the campaign.

The American’s legacy within the team and the entire Club will continue to live on this season and beyond, while everyone at Western United wishes her the best of luck going forward.