Exclusive: Washington Spirit’s Julia Roddar talks what drew her to NWSL

Julia Roddar at Washington Spirit.
Julia Roddar poses during team photos with Washington Spirit. (Photo by Washington Spirit)

Swedish international Julia Roddar joined Washington Spirit in the NWSL ahead of the 2021 season. Roddar made a move across the pond after winning the Swedish league with former Kopparbergs/Göteborgs FC.

It’s not the first time Roddar has played football overseas. Back in 2015, she graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University where she also played in NCAA D1, Atlantic Sun Conference. Now she is back, this time to play in what some would say is the world’s best league, the NWSL.

“I’ve always wanted to play abroad and when Washington Spirit’s offer came up, I felt straight away that this was the right choice. It feels so good to return to the country where I spent five years of my life when I went to college,” Roddar told Her Football Hub. 

Swedish domestic league

Roddar has played for two different clubs in the Damallsvenskan in her home country. First, she was a part of Kvarnsvedens IK in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, she joined Göteborgs FC, which as since merged into BK Häcken ahead of the 2020/21 season.

According to WyScout, Roddar played a total of 4,647 minutes in the Damallsvenskan for Göteborg. Being versatile, she has played both in the midfield and in the defence. She had 77 shots with 36.4% of them on target, scored 7 goals and made 6 assists. She also had a passing accuracy of 76.2%, 260 successful dribbles, 239 interceptions and won 53.4% out of 1,275 duels.

Roddar alternated between the positions of left and right winger, left and right fullback and operated in the central parts of both sides of the midfield.

Julia Roddar’s heat map from Göteborgs FC.

“Since I’ve been playing in the Swedish top-flight for two different clubs I’ve also felt the difference between playing in a team that fought to avoid relegation and a top team that fought to win the league title. For example, when I joined Göteborg ahead of the 2018 season I could focus 100% on my career as a footballer. When I had been playing for Kvarnsvedens IK, I always had to work full time alongside my football there.”

Göteborg’s dedicated supporters saw Roddar and Göteborgs FC finish as runners up two seasons in a row before they finally won the title in 2020. As any modern midfielder, Roddar can defend but is also capable of participating in the attack. Her time in Göteborg showed her intelligence and “football brain” that with full speed, she found her teammates well in attack.

Julia Roddar celebrates winning the 2020 Damallsvenskan title.
Julia Roddar celebrates after Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC win the Damallsvenskan title on November 7, 2020 in Linköping. (Photo by Maxim Thore)

“I’ve played five seasons in the Damallsvenskan where I think I’ve developed as a player every year. I think I’ve become a smarter football player and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the NWSL has to offer. I feel it’s hard to say what differs me from others that play in my position. I’m a very flexible player so I would say that my strength is just that; that I can be used in several different positions.”

Sweden national team

Roddar has eight appearances so far with the Swedish senior national team. She was a part of the squad that won the bronze medal in France at the 2019 World Cup. Ahead of the Olympics in Tokyo, there are high expectations on Sweden. They are among the tipped candidates that are able to grab another championship medal.

“I feel very privileged to be a part of the national team. Every time I have been called up I have enjoyed every minute of it. I think we are playing very inspirational football at the moment and that we for sure are one of the best teams in the world right now. I think Sweden definitely can go very far.”

A roster of 18 players, including two goalkeepers, will make up the Olympic squad. Through her move to the NWSL and her ability to switch in positions, Roddar hopes she can prove herself worthy of a spot in the squad that will be going to Tokyo in July.

Julia Roddar of Sweden.
Julia Roddar of Sweden during the international friendly against Malta on February 23, 2021 in Paola. (Photo by Ludvig Thunman)

Since joining Washington Spirit, she has played just over 200 minutes in total after making her debut in 2021 Challenge Cup. She has already shown her versatility of playing in the defence and on the midfield for her new club. In her first game, she started as a centre back and won 7 out of 8 defensive duels. 

“I’m looking forward to my time here and to get as much playing time as possible. All the while I get to know my new team. I also hope to get the chance to compete for a spot in the Swedish national team ahead of the Olympics but also that my new club will be able to fight for a title in the NWSL.”

The future 

Julia Roddar is not the first Swede to try her luck across the pond and in the NWSL. Her fellows Kosovare Asllani and Caroline Seger have been in the US to play as well the last ten years. The high demands that are put on pro footballers every day while being far from home is not always easy. Roddar seems confident in what inspires and motivates her to put in all the hard work she needs to succeed.

“I love my job as a pro footballer and all I know right now is that I want to keep doing this for as long as I can. That is what motivates me right now. I’ve also learnt over the years that mentally it goes up and down when being an athlete at this level. When I was younger, I did not think about it and just kept going. But, the older I get the more I realise that there are two ways to feel pressured; from others and the world outside and then from myself. I work with that every day.”

Washington Spirit's Julia Roddar.
Washington Spirit’s Julia Roddar during a preseason friendly against Sky Blue FC on April 27, 2021. (Photo by Washington Spirit)

Roddar can look back on her career and be proud of her achievements so far. Winning the league with Göteborgs FC in Sweden gave her the opportunity to play in the Champions League. It’s one of two moments that she rates highly so far in her journey.

“The most memorable things so far in my career have been when I got my first call up for the national team. That and to play the Champions League with Göteborg. Now, with the Spirit here in the NWSL, I’m looking forward to making new memories and to achieving new things to be proud of in my football career.”

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