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Thorns' Allie Long set to play for Chelsea

Loan deal puts midfielder in club championship semifinal, with her hope to also impress U.S. national team coach


by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Allie Long of the Portland Thorns breaks past the Seattle Reign FC defense during the inaugural NWSL season.(story courtesy of Chelsea FC)

She may have only just finished celebrating winning the National Women’s Soccer League, but Portland Thorns midfielder Allie Long has revealed her desire for international honors, as she simply couldn’t turn down a short-term loan to Chelsea Ladies.

Long has joined the English Women’s Super League side on a short-term loan deal for the International Women’s Club Championship, with Chelsea meeting Australian outfit Sydney FC in the semifinal in Okayama, Japan on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old, from Huntington, New York, may only be on a short-term deal with the English side, but she is set to play a pivotal role, with manager Emma Hayes – who coached Long when both were involved with the Washington Freedom – set to play her in the heart of midfield.

And, while many players may have been satisfied with lifting the NWSL, Long insists she jumped at the chance to impress U.S. national team coach Tom Sermanni as she bids to force her way into the international reckoning in 2014.

"My main goal is to play for the U.S., and playing international football is the key to being successful," said Long, who has played for the U.S. at under-20, -21 and -23 levels but is yet to make her full debut with the top squad.

"To be successful in the national team, you need to be playing well at club level, so that is my aim," Long said. "I’ve not had a chance under the new coach, but I think eventually I will get that chance, and I need to keep working hard to make sure that happens.

"When it does, I have to be prepared, so that’s why I didn’t want to have an offseason and why I came to Japan.

"Tom hasn’t been in the job a year yet, but he has watched some of our games in the NWSL, and I hope he brings me in during 2014.

"I just want to get better, and I know I need games to do that, and right now we have six months off and training alone is hard, so I wanted to get games with a good club in a good competition."

Should Chelsea beat Sydney, they are likely to face Japanese league and cup holders Inac Kobe Leonessa in front of a bumper crowd in Tokyo on Sunday.

Despite spending less than 48 hours with her new teammates in Japan, Long said she has seen enough to know she has made the right decision to head to the Far East and link up with Chelsea.

"I really like being here, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to play for such a big club like Chelsea," she said. "I’ve enjoyed meeting the girls, and the standard is really good so it’s good fun.

"I didn’t have much time to tell everyone what I was doing, so a few people thought I’d left, but (after) I told everyone they have been really supportive and wished me well.

"Chelsea is such a big club to the U.S., so everyone is really happy I have the chance to play for them.

"Emma [Hayes] called me and said she was looking for players, and I was looking at going overseas to play in the offseason, so this was the perfect opportunity and I took it straight away."