READY TO SHINE

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Los Angeles Sol midfielder Aya Miyama hopes to establish her place in the sun when the new team kicks off March 29

Aya Miyama takes time for a bit of dribbling, after Thursday’s workout of the new Los Angeles Sol at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Aya Miyama takes time for a bit of dribbling, after Thursday’s workout of the new Los Angeles Sol at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

 

 

 By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
RAFU SPORTS EDITOR

CARSON.–As her team dispersed after

Thursday’s workout at the Home Depot

Center, Aya Miyama found a ball and

began to punt it along as she ran laps

around the perimeter of the pitch.

“Aya! Where are you going?” shouted

one of her teammates.

Kickingu,” she said in her heavily

accented English. “Joggingu.”

Miyama 24, admits she hasn’t spent

much time working on English. She

hasn’t had much time for anything. She

is preparing for her new role, in a new

league, as her Los Angeles Sol will

play their inaugural match on Mar. 29

in Carson.

Miyama, one of the stars of Japan’s

Olympic soccer team, signed with

the Sol on Feb. 3 and is one of three

Japanese players in the new Women’s

Professional Soccer league. She has

often been called the “female David

Beckham,” after her curling free kicks

against England garnered attention

during the 2007 Women’s World Cup

in China. In 68 appearances for the

Japanese national team, she has 19

goals.

Not surprisingly, she’ll be one of the

Sol’s main free kick specialists, despite

playing the midfielder position.

Her attitude during Thursday’s practice

was one of focus and seriousness,

even as some of her teammates shared

a laugh or two. Once the workout had

ended, Miyama let herself smile a little

more.

Born in Chiba, near Tokyo, she said

she is thrilled to be playing in the new

league.

“This is the top level in the world for

women’s soccer, and I’m happy to be a

part of it,” she said.

For seven seasons, Miyama’s professional

club was the Okayama Yunogo

Belle, which she joined in 2001. Now,

living far from home for the first time,

she has found adjusting to be slower

than she had hoped. New surroundings

in a strange city–she’s rooming with

a teammate in Beverly Hills, of all

places–has given her a little pause to go

out exploring.

“In Japan, I feel safe and it’s easy to

relax. Here, I’m just not sure what’s safe

and what isn’t,” she explained. “Also, I

haven’t done anything but play soccer.

When I get a bit a free time, I’m too tired

to do anything else.”

She was determined to learn English

immediately, but hasn’t found much

study time.

“Just a little bit,” she said. “It’s really

difficult.”

Showing no signs of nervousness as

Opening Day approaches, Miyama said

she’s eager to test her skills against the

best players around, in a league that

represents the sport’s top tier.

“Here, there seems to be more advancement

in most areas of the game,”

she said. “Power, speed, technique; it’s

all on a higher level.”

In recent years, the popularity of womens’

soccer has exploded in Japan, but

is still looking for a watershed moment

in the United States. Miyama said the

game needs a standout player, a Tiger

Woods or an Ichiro or Beckham, to draw

major interest.

“If the league has a hero, that helps

a lot. Hopefully, one of us will be that

hero,” she said.

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