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When Love Finds You

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The 2010 Women's Professional Soccer season started with eight teams in the league, but finished with seven as St. Louis Athletica folded at the end of May. FC Gold Pride dominated the regular season, finishing with a 16-3-5 record for 53 points, 17 ahead of second-place Boston, and a goal differential of +27 (46-19). As the regular season champion, they would host the WPS Championship Game on September 26th against the survivor of the Super Semifinal, which pitted Boston against the winner of the Philadelphia/Washington first-round match.

Once the 2010 season comes to a close, the US and Canadian National Teams will be busy with World Cup qualifying in Cancun. With only two spots to the 2011 World Cup available for CONCACAF, advancing to and then winning. the do-or-die semifinals will prove to be highly stressful for the two giants of the region.

The 2010 off-season will bring major upheaval to the league, as one team is sold and relocates, another team goes down a division to stay in business, and a third team sells off a significant portion of its talent to remain solvent for the 2011 season, Additionally, one team will lose its charter and three new cities will enter WPS. With increased costs and stagnant revenues, the league will move to place players in markets that are more friendly to them personally and the league's pocketbook and where their drawing power can lead to greater in-person attendance.

This story follows a number of players as they make rhyme and reason out of their place in the soccer world and seek to find fulfillment on and off the field.

Chapter Text

The 2010 Women's Professional Soccer championship game was played at Pioneer Field in Hayward, CA, the home of FC Gold Pride, the regular season champion. Their opposition, the Philadelphia Independence, had to defeat the Washington Freedom and the Boston Breakers to claim its spot against the Bay Area club. Goals from Christine Sinclair (2) and Kandace Wilson had staked Gold Pride to a 3-0 lead after 60 minutes. Up in the stands, a pair of Stanford players were cheering on their former teammates and alumnae on the home team. In the 66th minute, another one of their ex-Cardinal contingent came onto the field, as Kelley O'Hara replaced French international Camille Abily.

Christen Press: WOOOOO! KO on the park!

Cami Levin: Geez, Chrissy. You want everyone to think you have the hots for her?

Christen: Well, I do, sort of. I just don't know if she'd ever be serious about me as a girlfriend as opposed to on-again, off-again bed sharer.

Cami: I see your point. She's so shy when she tries to be serious, so all you have to work with is the jokester side of her. Maybe try to get her to open up when we talk to her after the game.

Christen: Good idea, Cami.

In the 90th minute, Marta put an exclamation point on the match with a well-taken goal. Referee Jennifer Bennett blew for full time shortly after that, bringing to an end FC Gold Pride's 4-0 victory and with it the 2010 WPS championship.

**********

Following the trophy presentation and subsequent on-field celebration, the Stanford quartet on FC Gold Pride came over to talk with Christen and Cami.

Rachel Buehler: Like how we did today?

Cami: That was a serious mauling.

Nicole Barnhart: Considering they had to fly here after playing in Boston on Wednesday night, the result wasn't really that surprising.

Christen: Speak for yourself, Ms. I-didn't-have-anything-to-do-today!

Ali Riley: Now, now, ladies. No need to squabble. We're all friends here.

Kelley sauntered over to where Christen was leaning against the fence and rubbed up against her arm, hoping that she'd drape it over her. The taller Latina got the message and brought Kelley in for a side hug and peck on top of the head.

Christen: Congrats! First year in the league and already a champion.

Kelley: Thanks, Pressious! Doesn't look like you're doing too badly in Palo Alto this season, chasing my single-season scoring record with your unstoppable shooting. Might I be handing my Hermann Trophy over to you in January?

Christen: I do what I can, but I'm not sure I'm the best player in the conference even, much less best in all of college soccer. Morgan is doing a bang-up job for the number of games she's actually playing with Cal. You know she has a bit of a thing for you, right?

Kelley: What, Mean Girl Alex and me?!?! What are they feeding you these days on campus?!

Rachel: Don't dismiss the idea, Kelley. Alex can be really sweet when she's not locked into her self-doubt.

Kelley: Well, I only have my eyes on one person.

Rachel: And if you don't act on it, that person might be gone by the next time you see her.

Kelley: Alright, alright!

Cami: We probably should find our way back to campus. Congrats again to all of you and I hope we Cardinal can bring home our own hardware come December.

Cami and Christen hugged Rachel, Ali, Kelley, and Barnie, then left for the trip back to Stanford. Meanwhile, a couple of Independence players came over to join the Gold Pride national teamers.

Amy Rodriguez: Where are you guys staying tonight?

Nicole: We're booked at the Hilton near the Oakland airport so we can fly out tomorrow morning for Atlanta.

Amy: I think we are as well. Lori talked to Pia yesterday and has the details.

Lori Lindsey joined the burgeoning group. "Are we all going to Oakland together?"

Nicole: It would make sense if we can get a vehicle big enough to haul all of us up there.

Lori: We'll have one. Worked that out with Pia so all the national teamers playing today would be able to stay together between here and Atlanta.

Kelley: Are we missing anyone right now?

Lori and Nicole looked around the circle, then compared the faces with their lists of who was called up.

Lori: Joanna's not here, and neither is Boxxy.

Nicole suggested everyone go get changed and meet in the lot in a half hour.

**********

After a short stop-over in Phoenix, the national teamers' flight to Atlanta had boarded and taken off. With a near four-hour flight in front of them, some of the players decided to nap for a bit. Kelley, never one known for being tired, chatted with Rachel.

Kelley: Buehler? Buehler?

Rachel chuckled before popping Kelley in the arm. "That joke was lame the first time I heard it, and it's still lame. Be more creative. I know you have it in you."

Kelley: OK. So, what am I going to do about Pressy?

Rachel: I'm not sure what you CAN do. You won't tell her how you feel. She can't read your mind, so she might not realize that you've moved on from being the non-serious type to someone who might commit to her.

Kelley: Should have asked Cami about it when I had a chance, since those two hang like CP and I did.

Rachel: Well, maybe not exactly like you two did, because I'm sure there's probably no boom-chicka-wah-wah happening.

Kelley: We only did it once. Make that twice. Three times, but they were all in the same day, so it counts as one continuous one.

Rachel: Listening to you justify your not having gone 15 rounds in the sack with our beloved cinnamon roll has to be one of the funniest things I've seen.

Kelley: So how do I tell her that I've changed and want her?

Rachel: I was going to say come back for Homecoming, but the team is away in Arizona that weekend. Maybe do the LA weekend after we're done with the two China friendlies.

Kelley: Hmmm. I don't know. I guess I have to see whether this "thing" Alex supposedly has for me is true, because if it is, that could be one messed-up weekend with me caught between who I want and who might want me.

Rachel: Do you know who she's rooming with in camp?

Kelley: Based on who's been called-in, I would guess Leroux. Is Pia pairing up the eight of us coming in today or will we get players already there?

Rachel: It makes more sense to pair us up than shell out for additional rooms before they'd be needed. I'd also guess that pairings will change when we go to Philly for the second match.

Kelley: We've known each other long enough for you to be honest with me. Which of these two would be better for me, Christen or Alex?

Rachel: I thought you found the idea of you and Mean Girl Morgan to be a bit of a joke.

Kelley: I do, but let's say it's not as far-fetched as I think it is at the moment.

Rachel: With either one of them, you'll be the up partner in terms of personality and protectiveness. Alex gets you probably more pub, but Christen is the less-polarizing one. Both are equally good choices. If I were in your shoes, I'd sit back a little and see how things play out. No need to decide right now which one you want for all eternity.

Kelley: Thanks. Can you possibly run me a little interference this week at camp, roomie?

Rachel: How do you know we're rooming together?

Kelley: Just a hunch based on your deduction of Pia keeping the Gold Pride players together and the Independence players together.

Rachel: You're probably right.

**********

Following touchdown at Hartsfield, the players collected their bags and were driven to the Residence Inn, their living space for the next week. As predicted, Kelley and Rachel were paired up, along with Barnie and Boxxy, Heather Mitts and Amy Rodriguez, and Lori Lindsey and Joanna Lohman. Kelley turned in not long after she and Rachel got to their room, determined to get a good night's sleep before hitting the ground running in her first day at camp tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Kelley's first full day at camp started with the dreaded beep test. Usually one of the higher-scoring players in the national team system, she finished in the middle of the pack relative to those who took it when they arrived at camp the previous week. After some lifting and other testing, she and the other seven newcomers joined the rest of the team on the field. Assistant coach Hege Riise got the eight of them caught up with where the squad as a whole was before sending them to their position groups. Kelley, Joanna, Shannon, and Lori walked over to where the midfielders were and were greeted by the other eight in the group. The twelve of them broke up into two groups of five with Carli Lloyd and Lindsey Tarpley playing for both sides in the 5+2v5 rondo. Following that, the wide midfielders went to a portion of the field to work on sideline/endline attacking and defending, with Kelley, Heather O'Reilly, and Sarah Huffman taking runs at Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, and Kristine Lilly, then vice-versa. After a water break, the teams broke up into two sides of 15 players each for a full-field scrimmage. As luck would have it, Kelley was slotted into the right midfield post and across from her at left wing was Alex Morgan.

Kelley (mentally): Oh boy. Not the person I REALLY wanted to be facing right now. We haven't even talked yet about what Pressy and Buehler told me in the past couple of days, and now I have to keep my mind off that and focus on burning her tail with a couple of too-quick runs. After training won't be a good time to do so since Erin is coming by the hotel to drag me off on some shopping excursion she has planned. Maybe I can run all of this by her before I head back there. It would probably put me in a better frame of mind for when I start making rounds to see everyone here.

Alex (mentally): Aw yeah. First day of her being here and I get to spot up against her. Maybe I'll get a little closer to her on the off-the-ball defending than might be considered normal. I need to get my interest across so she doesn't continue to think of me as the pissy, prissy type. Oooooo, that smile just mmmm takes my breath away. Focus, Morgs. You need to keep pushing forward to get onto the qualifying roster, and if it means you make her look a little bad, hey, all's fair in love and soccer.

The head-to-head match-up ended up a bit of a dud as most of the action was driven by Carli to Abby and the requisite crosses aimed for her head. Once the scrimmage ended, Kelley went to pester her Irish soul sister, Heather O'Reilly, about getting a group together for a movie time after dinner. She said she'd ask around the team to see who was up for it. On the bus ride back to the hotel, Kelley texted Christen to see how things were going at Stanford and whether she'd be interested in her coming out for the UCLA and USC matches in ten days.

KOHara19: Buehler said that I should come out for the two games in LA. Would you want me to, and would we be able to spend a little time together if I did?

Pressy23: I always want to see you, Kel. How's camp?

KOHara19: Not horrible. Got stuck marking Alex in this morning's scrimmage. She was flirting with me a little bit since neither of us saw much of the ball during our time on the field. Still not sure about her, really.

Pressy23: Don't get defensive about it before she has a chance to show or tell you about her interest in you.

KOHara19: I promise not to run the other way until after she confronts me with it. THEN, I'll go screaming down the hall.

Pressy23: She isn't as bad as you make her out to be.

KOHara19: She's not you, Chrissy.

Christen took a minute or so to think of a proper response to Kelley's latest text.

Pressy23: As in....

KOHara19: She doesn't have the eyes, the laugh, the chill personality that makes me melt.

Still believing that Kelley isn't serious about wanting a committed relationship with her, Christen accepted her comment as sweet talk and little more.

Pressy23: Awwww. Love you too, KO. I need to get to class. Call later?

KOHara19: Will do. <3

**********

Erin dropped Kelley off back at the Residence Inn after the two of them spent most of the afternoon at the Town Center at Cobb. After exchanging hugs and making sure the rest of the O'Haras (Erin, her brother Jerry, and their parents, Dan and Karen) were coming to the game on Saturday, Kelley went into the hotel and straight to the conference room for dinner. After making a plate for herself, she sat down with Heather, Ali Krieger, and Alyssa Naeher.

Heather: How was shopping with your sister?

Kelley: It went well. Of course, I have no sense of fashion, so my opinions on her choices are usually taken with a grain of salt.

Ali: Maybe I should go shopping with you sometime when I'm in camp, figure out what you're comfortable in and with and then stretch that a little bit to make the cute become hot.

Kelley blushed. "Me, hot?! Not sure that would be an accurate description of what I see. Besides, I'm never going to outdo you or Pressy or Morgs."

Alyssa: Don't compare yourself to them. You're you, KO. That should be good enough for someone to see beneath your chapstick look and find you adorable.

Kelley: You sure you're a goalkeeper, Alyssa? Seems to me you're too friendly for that job.

Ali: The year the two of us played at Penn State, she was pretty shy. In fact, she's more that than anything else, but around people she knows, like me, she loosens up and is a bit of a cherub.

Kelley: Heather, get any bites on tonight's post-dinner activity?

Heather: These two are in, along with the New Kids. Crossing my fingers Thunder and Lightning don't join us, or the two college kids. Could make things a little tenser than any of us would probably want.

Kelley: Why?

Heather: Well, Pinoe is a bit of a Yente. She's had Morgan's head twisting all over the past week with suggestions of who in camp she should be snogging. Then there's the drama that is Syd the Kid. I swear she thinks that because she snubbed Canada for the US that we should be grateful. She's a bit of a bad influence on Baby Horse, if you ask me.

Kelley banked away that knowledge for when she would finally get a chance to talk to Alex.

Chapter Text

As I am going to finally get moving on this story in the coming days/weeks and need to do a bit of sketching of who's with who outside of the love triangle/quadrangle at the center of the book, I want to ask the readership a big question about their fanfic reading and writing preferences.

How much of real life do you bring into the fanfics you write or read regarding relationships? Are there certain ones that you won't put in a story, or won't read? Are there certain couples that you take as gospel and will not/cannot pair up those individuals with others? Do you have certain biases in your writing or reading preferences (e.g., no infidelity, no threesomes, RL hetero is fanfic hetero, etc.)?