Opening day of any season is a special time for an athlete. But when the NWSL opens its 2020 campaign this spring, it will have greater meaning for Jasmyne Spencer.
Following the 2019 season when the Bay Shore native suffered a major left knee injury, Spencer said she will be back on the pitch for Reign FC when the Tacoma, Wash.-based club kicks off its new season.
“The knee is coming along good and I’m excited to get out there,” Spencer told SleterFC.com. “It looks like me and the knee are going to be ready just in time for preseason.”
In Reign FC’s season-opening match in April of 2019, a 1-1 road draw against the Houston Dash, Spencer suffered a non-contact injury that left her with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and tears in both meniscus. Following surgery a month later, she began a rehabilitation process she labeled as more challenging mentally than physically.
“Professional athletes are accustomed to putting a high level of strain and demand on their bodies,” Spencer said. “The hard part for me was believing and trusting that the work the surgeon did would hold and that I would be OK.”
While she was able to manage the physical demands of her rehabilitation process, support from her family, as well as current and former teammates including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, helped her overcome the mental part of recovering from a serious injury, Spencer said.
“Megan and Alex both have had knee injuries and they reached out to me offering their support,” she said. “It is massive for me to have them in my corner.”
While the rehabilitative process can be a long road for any athlete, the benchmarks along that path can be encouraging. Spencer recalls the satisfaction the first time she put a ball at her feet after surgery.
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said. “I was moving at a snail’s pace but to once again be able to do soccer movements was incredible.”
As Spencer prepares to hit the pitch in the weeks ahead, she returns to a league that saw continued growth in 2019. Following the United States winning its fourth World Cup in the summer of 2019, interest in the women’s game again grew.
Continued large crowds in Portland were joined by records crowds in Washington for the Sprit at Audi Field and in the New York Metropolitan Area where Sky Blue FC played two games before team-record crowds at Red Bull Arena, home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls.
“The continued growth of the league is great,” Spencer said. “For veterans like me who have been around (the NWSL) since day one, we feel like we are getting there. But the league needs to continue to grow and get to a point where players can make a genuine living. I’m excited by the direction the league is heading.”