American midfielder Chelsee Washington joins Canberra United on loan from the Orlando Pride. (Photo: Orlando Pride/Facebook)

Having struggled through a tumultuous time at the Orlando Pride, midfielder Chelsee Washington is determined to return from her loan at new club Canberra United a better player.

Joining Canberra United on loan from NWSL side Orlando Pride, new signing Chelsee Washington wants to push her game to the next level.

After a successful college career, playing 81 games and scoring 19 goals with the Bowling Green Falcons, Washington joined the Pride through the college draft.

She’s made 10 appearances with the side since then, but like many others, has struggled with the inconsistencies COVID has brought.

A defensive midfielder by trade, the 23-year-old sees a strong routine as key to continuing to develop as a player.

“I’m looking to… come in and be better when I leave than when I come in,” Washington told media on Tuesday.

“For the last two years, my first year I came in and a month later there’s a pandemic. I haven’t really been able to experience too many games this season.

“My first year I got four and last year my minutes have been a little bit limited. Over the last two years it’s been constant training, and a lot of learning and growing off the field.

“I’m just really excited to apply that stuff on the field and get experience in another country.”

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Like many sporting competitions across the world, the NWSL was called off early in 2020 amidst fears of not being able to safely complete the season.

The 2020 season has been described as being forced to ‘end before it begins’.

Washington continued to apply herself despite the uncertainties, both in body and mind. While it tested her resilience, she believes it will help her come out stronger in the Canberra move.

“The most work I’ve done in the last two years has definitely been in my mentality,” she said.

“It’s been so much training and almost no pay off in a way. Vicki [Linton] asked a question like, ‘are you guys – usually when you come over from America you’re a bit more competitive, are you going to be able to bring that competitiveness?’

“I was like, ‘you don’t have to worry about that’.

“When you train for months and there’s no games, you’re arguing over the dumbest stuff at training. It’s been frustrating, there’s been a lot of questionable calls from our coaching staff in training that I held against them for a long time.

“But I’m just excited for a breath of fresh air, and that’s what I think this is going to me. I’m excited to be able to play and not feel so bottled up.”

The holding role

Joining a strong group of pacey and creative midfielders already signed for Canberra including Grace Maher, Holly Caspers, Chloe Middleton, Margot Robinne and Laura Hughes, Washington is a bit of a change from the norm.

She’s played most of her career in an attacking midfielder role, often pushing up through the middle of the ground and creating play forward of centre.

Though Washington flourished being more attacking with the Falcons, earning the college’s Female Athlete of the Year award, she’s set to move deeper back in Linton’s system.

It’ll be a different sort of role she believes she’ll be performing with United, but one that she’ll likely flourish in under their current structure.

“I’m a natural midfielder,” Washington said.

“Through this season with the Pride I found myself as a wide forward, which doesn’t exactly suit my abilities in my opinion. As long as I’m in the middle of the park, that’s where I’m the happiest.

“When I spoke to Vicki, I know she’s looking for a deeper holding mid, and a distrubitor. Someone who can dictate the tempo.

“I’m excited for that. Normally I’m a little bit more attack minded, but I’m excited to provide some stability in there and play a little bit more of a deeper role.”

What a new found versatility and change in game style could provide for her career is huge, Washington comments.

Her number one goal is to return to the Pride once the loan is complete as a better player than when she jumps on the plane to Canberra.

“I hope [Canberra] does everything me,” she said.

“These past two years have been inconsistent, especially at Pride with our COVID situation last year and some coaching changes.

“My role on the team has been fluctuating a little bit, so I’m just excited for some stability and consistency to be able to develop my game on the field more.”

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