Boston Breakers / Group D / National Women's Soccer League / Women's World Cup

Simon reflects on daunting recovery and her return to the NWSL

Kyah Simon isn’t new to being a heroine, or viewed as a savior as her play in June’s Women’s World Cup showcased. The Blacktown, Australia native scored the most important goal in Australian football history to defeat powerhouse Brazil and help Australian advance to the quarterfinals for the first time on the men’s or women’s side. 

The Boston Breakers haven’t been close to the playoffs since the inaugural NWSL season, a year in which the club finished fifth. That subsequent offseason the organization lost a star in Sydney Leroux and the following season traded away another franchise player in Heather O’Reilly.

As the Breakers currently sit in last place and await a high draft pick in 2016, general manager Lee Billiard looks to have kickstarted his club’s rebuild and reclaimed a star for the future in Simon’s return.

For the first Aboriginal player to score for the Matildas, the process of coming back from the severe ACL tear she suffered in a 2013 friendly against the United States could be viewed as more courageous than her actions during the World Cup.

“[It’s] an amazing feeling, to look back and see how far I came,” Simon said. “All the relentless hours of rehab and extra work to get back into the squad, the ups and downs, it all was worth it once I was at the World Cup with my teammates, wearing the green and gold again [and] representing our country.”

To see as the then-22-year-old motionless on the Alamodome turf grimacing in pain was a horrific sight. Simon faced the prognosis of 12 months of rehab and her injury had the chance to be career threatening. During her recovery she had no idea what was before her, the only goal she had was cracking the Matildas’ World Cup roster.

“Definitely not,” Simon said. “I had one goal in mind and that was to make it back to full fitness in hope to make the squad of 23 for the World Cup. With that goal in mind, I knew if I got the opportunity I wanted to make as big an impact as I could.”

The year’s lead up to the World Cup was an uphill battle for the forward: the challenge of adapting to the voice of a new coach in Australia’s locker room, co-captain Clare Polkinghorne’s injury and the constant rehab to regain the form she had before her injury. Australia’s draw into Group D, the proverbial “Group of Death” added a heightened sense of awareness within the club. In a year of high aspirations, Simon’s path became only more difficult with the United States, Nigeria and Sweden staring her in the face.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy draw, but you have to beat the best teams to progress into the tournament,” Simon said. “Knowing we were the underdogs was an extra motivation in itself. Instilling a belief that we can match any team we faced help us play to positive football we wanted to play, and gave us the confidence to be able to take the game to our opposition.”

The tournament developed a mantra for the young Australian side; a little belief can take you a long way. And who knows what a more experienced team could produce in four years time with Simon upfront and leading the way.

“It’s only the beginning for us, and I’m excited to grow more as a team under Staj’s guidance,” Simon said. “We have progressed so far in six months being together, which excites me for how much more potential for growth this is.”

There’s more to Simon’s career than the World Cup, in the same way women’s soccer exists outside of every four years. In June, she made the decision to return to Boston and ride the post-World Cup wave of attention buzzing around the NWSL. In the global movement around women’s soccer, the league has reaped the rewards in attendance and support for the women’s game. She believes it’s been a positive step forward, but there’s also a larger role that fans can play to assist in the league’s growth.

“Support your team as best as you can by getting out to as many games as you can,” Simon said. “Interacting on social media is a great way to get to know players on a personal level. It’s a great entertaining league and the fans make the experience, so the more the support and excitement the better the atmosphere.”

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