Sometimes taking the most complex route proves the most rewarding. So it proved for American Beverly Goebel, who last year completed a two-season stint in Japan’s Nadeshiko League and, as one of the league’s few foreigners, found the rewards to be plentiful.

Fast-forward to the present day and Goebel’s Seattle Reign will be aiming for a maiden national championship when they host Kansas City on Sunday in what promises to be an enthralling finale to the NWSL’s second season.

The southern California native has enjoyed a successful return to her homeland this year following her Japan odyssey, with the all-conquering Reign losing just two matches during their charge to top spot.

Goebel has made every post a winner in Seattle and is the only player on the star-studded roster to feature in all 25 matches for the club this term. It is no mean feat given the attack includes star imported forwards Kim Little and Nahomi Kawasumi, plus USA poster-girl Sydney Leroux.

“The club pulled in players that have amazing personalities,” Goebel told * *when asked about the reasons for the team’s success. “The team really gelled so well, and it really helped us to perform. I can’t say enough positive things about the club, which has created such a positive environment. It has been a wonderful experience so far, and I’m really thankful to be part of it.”

*Big in Japan *
Goebel’s returned to the US followed a hugely successful spell in the land of the rising sun. It was capped last year as her INAC Kobe Leonessa team made a cleansweep of all four trophies on offer. And Goebel played a hugely significant role becoming the first foreign top scorer in the Nadeshiko’s League since the 1990s. Not bad for a player who had been converted to a forward little more than 12 months earlier.

A tour of Japan with Sky Blue FC in 2011 proved to be somewhat of a life changing experience. She was picked up by Leonessa and became part of the American diaspora abroad following the demise of the now-defunct WPS, but unlike many Goebel elected to remain abroad last year when the NWSL kicked-off.

On the field the athletic 26-year-old was successfully pushed into the forward line from midfield, and there was personal development off the field as well. “I came back a better person,” Goebel says. “I was able to find myself as a player. Given the language barrier I had to figure out my own solutions which helped me grow as a player.”

I think it is important to go out of a comfort zone and learn about yourself, not just as an athlete but as a person.

Many football fans across the globe have marvelled from afar at Japan’s brand of modern football, highlighted by the *Nadeshiko’s *2011 FIFA Women’ World Cup™ win. Goebel though had the joy of experiencing Japan’s football culture up close. To say she liked what she saw would be an understatement. “Their work ethic is simply unreal,” said Goebel with unabashed admiration. “I was so impressed with their touches on the ball, movement off the ball, their tactical understanding of the game, and their technical ability.”

After the first season, Goebel eschewed the option of a return home for the maiden NWSL season. “It [playing in Japan] was so different,” Goebel says. “It felt like a whole new game to me. After the first year it felt like I just wasn’t done yet. I have always been a student of the game, but it was so different, and I was so intrigued by it. I was challenged, but I enjoyed that. I have a lot of respect for the Japanese style of soccer, and for their culture.

“It was really difficult at first with the lack of English speakers. It was one of those things that if you go in with a positive mentality and willingly, you walk away with a great experience.

“I think it is important to go out of a comfort zone and learn about yourself, not just as an athlete but as a person. I learnt things from the Japanese culture that I hope to one day teach my kids. Japan definitely holds a special place in my heart, and it always will.”

Football has been long been a consistent theme for Goebel. Her high school sweetheart, and now husband, Othaniel Yanez is a football man through and through, and was once on the books of MLS club Columbus Crew. “Pretty much our dates were going out kicking a football,” says Goebel with a smile in her voice. “Soccer has been a big part of our relationship. Having someone that understands the game has been great, which also means he has been a great support system.”

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