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Throughout the UEFA Women's Champions League season Christen Press has known that as soon as Tyresö FF were eliminated, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) would insist on her returning to America – and she has made sure that her homecoming will not be until after Thursday's Lisbon final with VfL Wolfsburg.
Press joined Stockholm suburban side Tyresö at the start of 2013 after a year with Göteborg FC and has scored nine goals in her club's run to the final, including two vital last-four second leg strikes against Birmingham City LFC. The 25-year-old forward spoke to UEFA.com about her experience of Sweden, the showdown with Wolfsburg and why Cristiano Ronaldo scoring makes her smile.
UEFA.com: How has the experience of playing in Sweden been for you?
Christen Press: I've been in Sweden for two and a half years, it's my third season and my third Champions League. It's been an incredible journey: I never thought I would find myself here, but Sweden's been really good to me. I think it's a really quality league.
UEFA.com: What about your life here. Have you taken time to get to know the country and see the sights?
Press: A little bit – I think my first year I had more time because I wasn't with the national team, I did a bit of travelling through Scandinavia. I think I've embraced the 'Fika' culture of Sweden, just relaxing – they take things a little bit more slowly than we do in the US, we're coffee-to-go type of people and here you stay out with your coffee and your friends and you talk. I think that's a really nice culture that I've adopted.
I also love Stockholm on a sunny day, it's got to be one of the most energetic, lively cities when the sun's out. The Swedes love the sun, and I'm from California so I share that sentiment. So I think I've got the chance to enjoy the culture a little bit and see these very different people from the ones that I grew up with
UEFA.com: What's it been like playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League?
Press: It's been fantastic playing in the Champions League, because of course I've been watching it on the men's side since I was little, so whereas a lot of players here have lived more of this European soccer culture, it's really big in the US for the women to be playing and for me to come over and have the opportunity to compete in this major tournament and in this European competition where different sides from different countries come together and compete, it's been a dream come true. It's been such a fantastic opportunity to see how many different styles of soccer come out of different countries and how they match up and how that all works out.
UEFA.com: You talk about different cultures and different styles of play. How have you had to adapt your own game to playing in Europe?
Press: Coming to Europe has been a huge adaptation for me. In the United States, and with my upbringing, it was a lot more direct. Football was over the top and I used my pace to try and get in behind over and over again. But coming and playing with such technical players, savvy players, I've had to develop my touch on the ball, my understanding of movement and runs and timing. In the US, we hit hard, we run hard, we shoot hard, but here I've learnt the value of a finesse shot and a little quick movement before I make a break for it, so I think it's been a whole new dimension to my game.
UEFA.com: What do you think you need to do to beat Wolfsburg?
Press: What we've been saying all along is that our best is good enough but only our best – just short of that and Wolfsburg is a very quality team and I think it'll go their way. But I think that if our entire team and our staff bring our best performance, we're good enough to win the title, we're good enough to steal it from the defending champs but it's got to be an A game from us, quality throughout the park, tactical smartness, high pressure, a lot of energy. I think that if it's one of those games where we really embrace the challenge, if we take it with a smile and you can see it in the way we play, in our body language, then that's the type of game we can win.
UEFA.com: You've scored nine in eight games in Europe this term, why do you think you've been so successful this season?
Press: I think this team makes my job a little easier. We've got such a dynamic attacking line that no team can ever take any of the players for granted up there, so it gives us a little bit more space. Playing next to Marta, she attracts so much attention that I'm able to break free a lot more and I hope that I do the same for her and I think that with our midfielders as well, there's so many people that can score that there's almost an overwhelming amount of goalscoring ability. That allows us each to have our own success.
UEFA.com: Which strikers do you enjoy watching, and why?
Press: I enjoy watching [Luis] Suárez, because he's just a total package and I think I can learn so much watching his movement. Of course, I've been watching [Cristiano] Ronaldo for a long time – I lived in Madrid for a little while and so I was at their games a lot and I have so much respect for him because he shows up for every game and he scores so many goals and he's so clutched for his team. That's just something I really look up to and really respect, being in a lot of situations myself where I think the team has depended on me to score and I know how it feels to be under a lot of pressure, of course on a different scale. Every time he scores a big goal in a big game I can't help but smile.
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