Montpellier goalkeeper and US youth international Casey Murphy is hoping that her brief experience of the Champions League so early on in her career will be a significant positive long term.
The New Jersey native only joined the club in January after graduating from Rutgers University, but was thrown in at the deep end as she played both legs of her club’s quarter-final tie with Chelsea.
Despite a 5-1 defeat on aggregate, Murphy put in two assured performances, making some key saves in the first leg, while often playing the role of ‘sweeper keeper’ in the second leg as Chelsea looked to play through the middle and over the Montpellier defence.
Murphy also has the added motivation of keeping out French international and former Lyon keeper, Mélanie Gérard, who started both games on the bench. For the young American, the experience of the Champions League was a positive one, while she also praised her time with the US youth national team for helping her prepare for this moment.
“It’s been an incredible experience to play in my first Champions League matches,” she said.
“The level and speed of play is quicker than I have ever seen. But I know that my experience with the youth national team at home has prepared me for these moments.
“We have a big game on Sunday, so we are going to regroup and refocus and get ready for that.”
That big game comes up against second placed PSG, who sit three points ahead of Montpellier, although the Parisians do have a game in hand.
Anything less than a win and it will almost certainly rule out Murphy’s side of a Champions League place next season, which would be a bitter blow having reached the quarter-finals this year in their debut season in the competition.
It could have been very different for Murphy, however, who could have been taking to the field in Cary, North Carolina, this weekend, rather than in France.
The 21-year-old was drafted 13th overall by Sky Blue FC, who kick off their 2018 season against the Courage this weekend, but decided that the move to France, at this stage of her career, was the best option for her.
“I think putting myself in an uncomfortable position outside of my comfort zone this early in my career is going to help me tremendously going forward,” she said.
“I’m always up for a challenge and this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, playing for one of the top French teams and one of the best teams in the world. I’m thankful to be part of this club and I’m looking forward to working with them.”
Of course, Murphy is not the only American making her mark in French Division 1. US international Morgan Brian is of course adapting to the European culture and style of football at Champions League holders Lyon. She will have the opportunity to play her first final in Europe as Lyon progressed past Barcelona and will face English champions Manchester City in the semi-final – a repeat tie from last year.
Murphy will have to wait her opportunity again in Europe, but for now, the biggest challenge is adapting to her new surroundings.
“The culture and the language is obviously all so different, but I am not fighting it.
“I’m doing my best to adjust as quickly as possible and at the end of the day soccer is soccer, I have been playing it my whole life and it’s something I love and want to keep doing, so I’m excited to carry on with this team.”