Women's Football

Iceland's Stateside flag-bearer

Portland Thorns Dagny Brynjarsdottir
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Now in its fourth season, USA’s National Women’s Soccer League has become a magnet for the best female players from all corners of the globe. Over 30 nationalities have featured in the league since 2013, with most countries supplying multiple representatives. But one new nation recently added to that burgeoning list is perhaps particularly notable - Iceland. And the unheralded Dagny Brynjarsdottir has immediately set about making a name for herself at the best supported club in women’s football.

Breaking barriers has been a theme for Brynjarsdottir from the very start. Hailing from the small seaside village of Hella, even a move to the modestly-sized Iceland capital Reykjavik was, Brynjarsdottir admit, a massive challenge. Yet by the time her teenage years were up, Brynjarsdottir had made a new home studying at Florida State University, but it was her on-field exploits that made the biggest impression Stateside.

Brynjarsdottir was a key off-season recruit for Portland Thorns for the 2016 season, such was the impressive college football credentials of the tall all-action midfielder. And the 24-year-old has since made every post a winner, starting in all six NWSL matches thus far and helping the Thorns remain the only undefeated side.

From village to epicentre
With crowds averaging in excess of 15,000, Portland Thorns’ home matches are noisy and colourful affairs. It is a marked contrast with Brynjarsdottir’s low-key football experiences as a child. Indeed, the population of her hometown could fit many times over into the Thorns’ Providence Park. So too, the experience of living amid the northwest city’s famed progressive counterculture ethos is another new part of the Brynjarsdottir journey.

Yet the Icelandic has proven herself to be quick to adapt, both on and off the field. So much so, that her friends back home joke that she is now more American than Icelandic. “I really like everything here in Portland so far,” Brynjarsdottir told FIFA.com. “It is a great experience playing in front of such big crowds. The fans give us extra energy. It feels like we have an extra player on the field when we are playing. Hopefully in the future, such big crowds will be normal in women’s football. 

“The environment at Florida State was very professional and they do a very good job of preparing their players to go into professional careers. So it has not been hard at all (to adjust), but the pace of the game is faster than I’m used to so I have had to adjust to that. The big names here are, for sure, going to make me better as a player. (Canada and Portland Thorns forward) Christine Sinclair is a legend, and I’m really excited to learn more from her.”

*The tip of the iceberg *
But this role-model for Iceland’s growing army of female footballers doesn’t just let her feet do the talking. Brynjarsdottir has set up her own company which provides assistance for young European players wishing to find a position at an American college.

Brynjarsdottir hopes she will be just the first of many to ply their trade Stateside. “I like being a role model, both for Icelandic players and other players outside of Iceland as well,” she said. “I really hope more players from Iceland will get the chance to play here because it’s definitely the best league I have played in,” adds Brynjarsdottir, who has also been on the books of Bayern Munich. “Every single game is very competitive and the NWSL has many great players.”

The next career milestone for Brynjarsdottir is a new-level of international success. Iceland, with a population of just over 300,000, very much punches above its weight. They have featured in the past two UEFA Women’s EURO’s, and currently boast a perfect record after four matches in their hunt for a ticket to the 2017 edition in the Netherlands. Brynjarsdottir, who three years ago scored the goal that sent Iceland into the EURO knockout stage for the first time, says breakthrough qualification for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualification is achievable.

“Iceland has definitely improved over the years,” she said. “We have been winning games against teams that we had never won against before. We have a good mix of players on the national team right now, so I’m sure we will keep improving.”

“I believe we will have a good chance to make it to the next World Cup if we keep improving our game like we have been doing. That is our goal, and our dream.”

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