Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
When she was in the seventh grade, Alessia Russo was born and bred in Westwood, a middle-class neighbourhood in Los Angeles. Her parents, both educators, took their daughter to a soccer match every Saturday, where the teenage Russo would sit at the edge of the pitch with her friends, waiting for the game’s final whistle to signal the end of the match.
“I remember the day my mom showed up at my school,” says Russo, who started playing soccer when she was seven and who grew up playing in the LAFC Women’s team along with her brothers, John, who is 16 and plays for the LA Galaxy and Patrick, who is nine and plays for the LA Galaxy Jr. Team.
“We were just in the stands and no one knew who I was,” she says. “I was told to head to the locker room and wait. It was the best feeling ever.”
A few years later, it was when Russo was in high school that her football career began when the American Football League, the predecessor to the NFL, saw her with her older brother Patrick as he made his way to the junior team. Now, she has turned her passion for football, which she started in fifth grade, into an opportunity for herself and her family to achieve their dreams.
The former sixth-round pick in the 2018 SuperDraft (37th overall) joined the US Women’s National Team on a contract in May, a day after the team won the U-20 Women’s World Youth Championship in Russia. She scored a goal in the US WNT’s 3-1 win against Canada in the semifinal of the competition where she was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
This week, she will make history again. The US WNT will compete in the third edition of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, the first in the country since 1985 and the first time the U-20s has ever represented the USA.
It is a huge week for Russo. She not only heads to Germany, the site of this year’s Olympic gold medal game on Wednesday, but she will be representing the state of California, and the legacy of her parents, who raised her in a �