Since last Saturday, the Swedish Damallsvenskan is back from the summer break. Its players are ready to give their all on the pitch during the second half of the 2022 season. One of them is American striker Hayley Dowd, who plays for Stockholm side Djurgårdens IF.
Dowd’s way into the Swedish top flight was an unusual one. In an exclusive interview from June, Dowd spoke about her move to Europe and her time with Djurgården so far.
Hayley Dowd: joining Djurgården and the Damallsvenskan
“We’re a pretty new team, so I think it’s definitely interesting,” said the American. “I think it’s been a really fun and attacking team. Like, I’ve scored seven goals [in 11 games]. But we’ve had lots of good contributions from a lot of players, so it’s like really fun to play with all these strong players.”
Djurgården found themselves in the middle of the Damallsvenskan table during recent seasons. To achieve better results, several new players were brought in ahead of the 2022 campaign. Dowd already joined the team earlier in 2021, having played in Sweden’s second division before.
She admitted it felt a little scary, but exciting when the Stockholm side showed interest in her the first time.Embed from Getty Images
“I mean, once you research you realize how big of a club it is, like men’s and women’s team-wise,” remembered Dowd. “Of course, all the time I’ve been a professional. But it’s kind of you look at their Instagram, just from the outside and you’re like: ‘OK wow. This is a really special club.'”
The striker added: “Just getting an opportunity to talk to them was a big deal.”
Coming to Sweden
Before the move to Stockholm, Dowd played for Morön BK in the Elitettan, for whom she scored impressive 48 goals in 52 appearances. However, after the 2020 season, the player felt it was time to move on. Dowd arrived in Sweden in 2018, with her departure from the US being rather spontaneous.
“For like 3 months, I was like on a professional contract [with Boston Breakers],” she told. “But they lost their owners, so they don’t exist anymore and I had only played one game in the NWSL, so no one was super excited to pick me up.”
Dowd continued: “That was a bit that was hard because I was just kind of working whatever job I could do at home. Still training, still hoping like maybe I could play somewhere.
“And then I had a friend who was playing in division one in Sweden. She called me like, ‘Just come over and play, you’ll probably score a lot of goals. It might be easier but they’re nice people, and hopefully, we’ll get to go to like a higher level.’
“So like within the week, I just flew over to Sweden with one suitcase and started playing for them.”
Adapting to different settings
The spontaneous move worked our very well for both sides and Hayley Dowd has since gained attention across the Swedish leagues she’s played in. In comparison to the Damallsvenskan, the striker described the NWSL as very physical, but less diversified, as only eight teams are featured there. The Swedish top flight now consists of 14 squads fighting for the title or against relegation.
“[Everyone] in Sweden who I’ve worked with was like ‘Go to the gym, do your work,'” explained Dowd when asked about the different approaches in the American and Swedish leagues. “But also like ‘How’s your technique? How are your tactics?’ So, I think that kind of attitude was really nice for me. I feel like it really let me enjoy football. The gym is always a part, but I get to really focus on playing football, which is what I love.”
The striker described herself as speedy player who likes to take shots, take on the opposite players in running behind them and pressing. “I think those are my main attributes,” she emphasized. “This year’s plan is more like sticking myself in the box more, instead of dragging myself out. Getting on the ball, staying in the box and having those easier finishes to help the team. But yeah, just speed running in behind.”
Improving in the Swedish top flight
Dowd was able to take her game to the next level at Djurgården. Her efforts earned her a nomination of the Swedish league’s Player of the Month in May. Since joining the Stockholm outfit, the American describes herself as more confident. Confidence. “I think once the first goal [in the Damallsvenskan] came, it was just like ‘I can score goals regularly, that’s just the most important thing”, the striker explained.
During her first months at the new club, several injuries cost her precious game time and lowered her goal-scoring numbers. However, Dowd started thriving again in the first half of the 2022 season. “Now, it’s really easy to play football when you’re happy on and off the field”, she reflected on this year’s campaign so far. So, I think just again confidence and joy was what I needed.”
Living in Sweden’s capital city Stockholm has also contributed to this. The striker pointed out: “It’s a pretty big city. I come from outside of Boston, I’m not really a city girl. I love living here and like especially enjoying the football culture. Like you go to a lot of the men’s games and you realize how big a deal like these derbies are and experiencing it [as a player].”
However, her first derby with Djurgården was played without fans in attendance due to Covid-19 restrictions. Coming back from the summer break, the club has an unbeaten run of three games. Dowd aims to contribute even more goals in the second half of the season to help the team climb up from eighth place. In addition, there are several Stockholm derbies coming up to look forward to.