Allie Long wanted more.
Last year the one-time Northport High standout enjoyed a career year. She was selected to the National Women’s Soccer League Best XI, finished tied for second in goals and earned club MVP honors with the Portland Thorns.
But she realized one accomplishment was still missing: playing for the U.S. women’s national team in a major tournament; in this case, the Rio Olympics.
“Representing the U.S. on the world stage is something that I’ve dreamt about forever,” she said.
Instead of taking a vacation, the 28-year-old midfielder and her fiancé, former U.S. youth international midfielder and Molloy College standout Jose Batista, embarked on an ambitious five-month training program.
“We just said, ‘What do we have to do to get you there?’” Batista said. “We just started working and working.”
They competed together in all-male indoor leagues in New York City. When they visited Batista’s parents in Houston they followed a rigorous schedule, rising early to run before working on Long’s speed, agility and strength at a gym.
“We didn’t miss many days,” Batista said. “We did not go out. We did not party. It was strictly putting the work in, hoping it would come in handy sooner than later.”
It may happen sooner, especially after Long’s performance in the USA’s 7-0 victory over Colombia in East Hartford, Connecticut on Wednesday night. The two-time Newsday Long Island girls’ soccer player of the year scored her first two international goals. Moreover, she acquitted herself well as a defensive midfielder in the first half and as an attacking mid in the second half. Smaller, 18-player Olympic rosters demand versatility.
Long said she “wanted to keep possession and make an impact in the midfield. I was lucky enough to score goals. I just wanted to be the building block for our attack, stop stuff on defense and sit in the middle and dictate the tempo.”
USA coach Jill Ellis, whose team faces Colombia again in Chester, Pennsylvania on Sunday, liked what she saw. “She had a good week of training,” she said. “We are still looking for depth and she did well. She made some good decisions, got a couple goals and was impactful.”
Trying to earn a spot on the Women’s World Cup championship squad is an Olympian task unto itself, given the overwhelming talent. Rockville Centre’s Crystal Dunn, the 2015 NWSL leading goal scorer and MVP, was a final cut from the WWC team.
“It’s insanely hard,” said Long, who twice before had been called into the team. She injured her MCL in 2010 and didn’t play up to her standards in 2014.
“So this time I made sure I was 100 percent ready,” she said.
Thanks in part to Batista, who sat next to her parents at Wednesday’s game. If Long earns a spot, Batista, who has family in Rio, plans to be in Brazil cheering for her and the USA.
“That would absolutely everything to me and would be so special,” Long said.
If she isn’t selected, time isn’t on Long’s side. She will be 31 for the 2016 WWC.
“I still think I could do another cycle, but if I didn’t do well I would be more upset because you get these opportunities every four years,” she said. “I try not to worry about anything in the future. I am really staying in the moment. Just the Olympics itself is motivating enough for me. Age is out of my hands, so I’m trying to take the most out of my opportunity.”