Leesburg, VA., (9/16/20) – Jessie Scarpa is used to working in less than optimal situations. While playing at UNC, she suffered a litany of injuries, including two ACL tears and two meniscus tears. She also played through a torn labrum and a sports hernia. Through it all, Scarpa rehabbed with a determination to earn a contract and live out her dream of playing professionally.
In a career defined by grisly injuries, why wouldn’t Scarpa have to deal with missed time and a global pandemic in her first year? In a season where she has seen the field a total of 17 minutes, it would be understandable for a player to become dejected. That’s not Scarpa, though.
Scarpa entered Saturday’s contest in the 88’ minute, in place of forward Ashley Sanchez, with the game tied at one apiece. Even though Scarpa was a late-game participant, she still managed to impact the match in ways that are difficult to do, not only as a substitute, but as a rookie as well.
In the 93’, Crystal Thomas glided around the Red Stars defense and put a fizzing cross into the box, where Scarpa had made a brilliant run. She got on the end of the cross and fired Washington to all three points — a necessary result as Chicago played the entirety of the second half with ten players.
With one kick of the ball, Scarpa not only notched the game-winning score, she also scored her first career NWSL goal.
“She’s great coming off the bench absolutely,” said Spirit Head Coach Richie Burke. “Jess is a good football player with a great IQ and knows when and where to go.”
Much of the rationale behind the decision to bring Scarpa off the bench late in games has been her injury history and setbacks in training, causing the coaching staff to be cautious with her minutes.
According to Burke, “She’s probably got right now, at a professional level, 20-25 in her cause of the setbacks she’s had, so to get two games in a row where she’s come on and made a spark from the bench is great for her confidence, great for her belief playing at this level and it’s certainly good for our football club.”
It’s clear how highly the club rates Scarpa, and these late substitutions can certainly be used for further development. “I think just having that under my belt is a good place to start in terms of confidence and just assuring myself I can play at this level and contribute and help the team,” Scarpa said.
“Yeah, like I said, I think it’ll just contribute to my confidence and help me move forward,” she added. “The team, our midfielders, our backline put in an incredible shift, so I wanted to go out there and provide some energy and make something happen.”
Energy and determination, two words that have come to define Scarpa’s career. Through a plethora of injuries in college, and some minor knocks in the NWSL, Scarpa’s rookie year is further complicated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has drastically altered the course of the season.
“Some of the rookies that got some minutes today, you could see a little bit of their tactical naivety, but you know, they are willing to put in a good shift and work hard,” Burke said.
“In this COVID year the [rookies] haven’t had anywhere near enough matches, haven’t had anywhere near enough exposure to what it’s like to be in a professional environment,” he continued. “They make some mistakes that are rookie mistakes or inexperience shows.”
As a rookie seeing modest game time — she only played nine minutes against the Red Stars and eight minutes against Sky Blue in the opener — Scarpa again has been asked to work under extreme constraints, which threaten to hamper her progress and success.
Through two games, and 17 minutes, Scarpa’s statistics are as follows: five completed passes, two defensive recoveries, two fouls won, and one game-winning goal.
For a player who has had to overcome so many obstacles in her career, she relishes the opportunity to be on the pitch, whether it’s playing a full 90 or being brought on with ten minutes remaining.