28 March 2018 – Banyana Banyana midfielder Linda Motlhalo says she was very nervous before her debut for her new club Houston Dash in the United States of America who play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Motlhalo, was named in the starting lineup for the first league game of the season, and played for 77 minutes before she made way for Claire Falknor.

Houston Dash played to a 1-1 draw against Chicago Red Stars.

The clash took place on Sunday, 25 March 2018 at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.

“It was my first professional game and I was very nervous before the match but after the warm-up I felt better and ready to get going. One thing I did not do was to put myself under pressure because I knew that for me to have a good game, I would have to come out of my shell, out of my comfort zone and do what was needed of me,” said Motlhalo from the US.

“I am also grateful to my teammates who have been helpful from the first time I got here. They have been motivating me on and off the field. In terms of play, US play direct football with one or two touches on the ball, which is far different from what we play in South Africa where we have lots of skillful players – but I am adapting very well”.

Motlhalo was signed at the beginning of last month but had to travel to Cyprus with the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana to the Cyprus Women’s Cup where they finished 6th before she could join her new side.

She immediately flew to Portland, Oregon in the USA for the club’s pre-season training where she has been reunited with Vera Pauw, former coach of the South African Senior Women’s National Team who is now the head coach of Houston Dash.

Pauw selected Motlhalo to be in the Banyana Banyana squad that participated in the Rio Olympic Games.

“It’s always a pleasure working under coach Vera, she brings out the best in a player because she understands players. I am very grateful for the opportunity she has given me,” added Motlhalo.

Motlhalo joined Houston Dash after two seasons in the Sasol League where she was registered with JVW F.C.

Previously she was at the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria where she stayed for six years which toughened her up for life away from her family.

“I have never really stayed with my family. I was at the HPC for six years and I would see them every three or four months. I must admit though, I do miss home from time to time but the situation was made easier by the warm welcome I got at the club and also because I am with my home-girls Janine (Van Wyk) and Thembi Kgatlana this side,” said Motlhalo.

“Also, thanks to technology, I am able to video call my parents every now and again. What also keeps me going is the mission I am on, to play football in one of the biggest stages – I am basically living my dream.”

Houston Dash next host Utah Royals on Saturday, 31 March 2018 and the U20 captain will be hoping for another run in the second match of the season.

Meanwhile, Kgatlana is back in South Africa to sort out her work permit. She joined her new club at the pre-season training camp but returned home afterwards.

She is expected back in the USA early in the new week.

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