Back in early February, the Canadian Soccer Federation announced its list of allocated players for the NWSL season, and that's how French Canadian Josée Bélanger joined the Orlando Pride. Bélanger played for FC Rosengård last season, but now finds herself in Head Coach Tom Sermanni's camp after arriving during the second week of the preseason. Much has already been written on Josée from her switch from forward to defender for Canada during last year's World Cup to her near retirement from soccer. The Orlando Pride was quick to highlight her strengths as well as create this video on her.
Following a recent practice, Bélanger took time to speak with us and answer a few questions.
Q: You played some time in Sweden, returned to the (Canadian) national team, then were allocated to the Orlando Pride. Can you describe the process of playing overseas and what drew you back?
A: When I got back with the national team, one thing that was on my mind was 'I want to be ready for the World Cup. I want to be able to represent my country'...so all my focus was towards that. I didn't sign anywhere before I wanted to focus on the World Cup and representing Canada. So that's what I did. Then, after the World Cup, people got to know me. I played a new position...after the World Cup, FC Rosengård in Sweden called me because they needed a forward to finish the season because two of their forwards were going to another league, so I thought the time was great. I decided to take the contract. It was a three-month contract. I went to play there as a forward, then at the end of the season, it was clear in my mind that I wanted to help my country qualify for the Olympics and we did. I thought to prepare and get the best out of it, it would be better to play in the U.S. First for time zones and traveling in the FIFA windows, but also the (NWSL) league brings a realistic level of international (play)...The speed of the game, it's more physical, more transitional, so I think...when you can master that it's what can make you win international games.
Q: How do you see playing in Orlando with Tom Sermanni helping you develop your game?
A: First of all, I'm lucky to be here because Tom is a great coach. So I think he's going to bring...it's not going to be about direct football, I think it's going to make us play more possession and smart soccer. So I think it's going to be good to continue to that and adding to that I'm going to be able to play alongside great players with different strengths and I think we can learn from each other on the field. I think having the chance to practice with those ladies day in and day out, it's going to help me.
Q: Prior to coming here, did you have a lot of conversations with Tom? Did he give you his expectations or did you share any concerns?
A: Not really. We talked about the organization to make sure it was really professional because it's important for the season we get that good support. He convinced me that everything was great. The club was putting a lot of effort and support for us. But that's it, he just told me he didn't know yet which position I would play as a fullback, a winger or maybe both. We're going to see. I'm not too worried, I think just to be here and get the opportunity to train each day and do what I love is what's important.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the strengths that you have as a footballer?
A: I think one thing that distinguishes me is my speed, my agility. But also I like to dribble so then, as I said, as a fullback I can bring that little bit of me because I get the ball at my feet, facing forward with time and space. Then I can bring that pace with the ball, do a little dribble, then combine with players and then overlap and then join the attack so I can bring that skill set I have as a forward now as a fullback to join the attack. So yeah, I think speed, dribble. I work hard. It's something also I've always been doing so yeah.
Q: What are the toppings on the perfect pizza?
A: Oh wow! I would say prosciutto with Rugula and Parmesan.