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'My Nephews Play FIFA, It's Going To Be Really Cool For Them To See'

'My Nephews Play FIFA, It's Going To Be Really Cool For Them To See'
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Sitting outside in the sun of Mexico City, Denise O'Sullivan gives an ambiguous nod towards the laptop camera. The Ireland international has just been told that she has an overall rating of 80 on FIFA 23. The NWSL, where the Cork native plays for North Carolina Courage, has just been integrated into the game for the first time.

How to take the rating, O'Sullivan seems unsure. It sounds like a good number, and it is, though it perhaps slightly underrates her.

"It's pretty cool. 80 is not bad, I guess, I don't really know how the ratings go, but I'm happy with that," she says.

Then she's informed that Ireland teammate Katie McCabe, who plays for Arsenal in the WSL, has a rating of 84.

"We're very competitive, we'll definitely have to discuss that!" says O'Sullivan as she rocks back in her chair laughing.


O'Sullivan and her Courage teammates are in Mexico City for some pre-season preparations ahead of the new campaign which gets underway on March 25th. On Thursday, they played Rayadas in Monterrey, the 2-1 defeat was the American club's first ever game on foreign soil.

It's been an off-season of change for the Courage. Of the team which started their 2019 NWSL Championship final win, only newly installed team captain O'Sullivan remains.

"It's tough to see people come and go as a player who's been here for six years," she says.


"It's a new challenge for us all now. It's a mix of younger players coming in, players who want to learn, who are coachable. They are there to listen. We have these experienced players as well who are leaders on the team and bring it together.

Starting March 15 across all platforms, all 12 NWSL teams will be present within Kick Off, Tournament Mode, Head to Head season / Co-op Seasons and Online Friendlies on EA SPORTS FIFA 23

"I think change is good. I didn't really know what to expect throughout the off-season. That was me sitting back and seeing what the club was going to do. It's a fresh start for us all.

"The coaching staff, and all the staff throughout the club, are doing an excellent job. I really feel that connection with everyone within the club. This is the first year that I really feel that strong connection throughout the whole club.

"Throughout the last few years, we wouldn't see many people. This year, the club has made a really good effort to be at training sessions, come out and be there for the team.


"In this pre-season tournament, we have so many staff there on this trip. Usually, in years before, we wouldn't have seen that many staff travelling with us. It's really good to see that they are pushing to new levels. We've added two new assistant coaches, which really helps. The club is doing a fantastic job in pushing this team forward."

It's seven years since O'Sullivan was signed by Houston Dash from Glasgow City, where she had spent the previous three years. Midway through her second season with Houston, she departed to join North Carolina.


"I didn't know a soul," O'Sullivan says about what it was like moving across the Atlantic.

"It was very intimidating and scary. I was always a homebird. So, even going to Scotland was very tough for me, leaving my family. Then making that next jump to come halfway across the world was scary. Everywhere I've been in the US, I've been made feel very comfortable. People are very friendly. It was definitely scary at the time, but I had to grow up pretty quick.

"I came from Scotland, and I think that step up was pretty good, coming from Ireland to a semi-professional league. Then going on to a professional league for the first time, I think I got hit with a bit of a shock. The [NWSL] is so athletic, physically demanding. The mentality of the players is phenomenal. I had to get used to that.

The Top 10-rated NWSL players on FIFA 23

"My overall game has improved. I usually play as a 10. That's where I played the majority of my career. Then coming to the Courage, I was put in the number six position, and that's where I am still. You have to change the way you play a bit and the way you think. In this league, you don't have much time on the ball at all. Once you receive it, you've got one or two touches and you need to release it again.

"The fitness side of things, you have to be in top shape or you're going to be left behind. They were the two main things I had to adjust to.

"It's one of the best leagues in the world, and it's changed me as a player. I've had to become more independent as a person since being here."

denise o'sullivan fifa 23 nwsl

11 October 2022; Denise O'Sullivan of Republic of Ireland after the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Play-off match between Scotland and Republic of Ireland at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The influx of new players means O'Sullivan's additional role as captain has some extra importance this season.

"I lead with my intensity and the way I act on the pitch," she says.

"Now I definitely see myself having to become more vocal. I have that little bit more responsibility communicating with the coaches, communicating with the players about whatever they need, and protecting the players as well - that's the main job for me.

"I'm not the captain who stands up and makes these big speeches to be noticed - I don't need to be noticed. That's not me. I lead from the back. I don't need all this recognition.

"I want to be a good person for this team, create a good environment. That's really important. When I need to speak, that's when I'll speak.

"I've been with this team six years, and that's always been an important role for me. The camaraderie and spirit in the team is number one, and how we are as players, how we respect other people, respect each other.

"Having these new players coming in, you have to set a good example. That's what I'm here to do. There are other girls who are really good leaders in this team as well."

For the World Cup-bound O'Sullivan, whose current base in Raleigh is more than three and a half thousand miles away from home in Knocknaheeny, it's a nice thought that a young girl or boy on Cork's northside may sit in front of a television next week controlling one of their Irish idols.

"It's incredible actually thinking about it now, just having young girls who look up to myself and look up to girls from the national team," she says.

"To be able to play as us on FIFA, it's incredible. My nephews play FIFA, it's going to be really cool for them to see."

Denise O'Sullivan: World Cup Last-16 Is The Goal For Ireland

denise o'sullivan fifa 23 nwsl


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