RALEIGH — Wendy Gebauer looked right at home as she played with the Raleigh Capital Express. She made history Friday night when she became the first female to suit up and play with men at this level.
The A-League is the AAA of soccer. Friday's game counted in the standings, and Gebauer knew that she would not be cut any slack.
"I don't want them to, that's not what it's about," she said. "Plus, they have a game to focus on. They have to go out there and they have a job to do. I don't expect them to cut any slack, not only the guys on the Express, but the guys on the Boston team. I'm sure they are going to come out fired up to win."
This was a one shot deal for Gebauer. It is not a stunt, but rather a way to celebrate the upcomingWomen's World Cup, which will be played in the United States.
"I think it's big for her because she's a household name here," says Capital Express coach Pete Peterson. "It's celebrating women's sports, and the Women's World Cup, and just brings a spotlight on that. There's no harm."
In fact, the Capital Express hope Gebauer's appearance will increase interest and expand the team's fan base.
Gebauer has made history before as a member of the U.S. team that won the 1991 Women's World Cup. She scored a goal in that game, but she had no illusions about the challenges she faced Friday night.
"I don't have any unrealistic expectations," Gebauer said. "If you look out here on the field the average body size is 6 foot 2 inches, and 200 pounds. I'll have to think a couple steps ahead and play quickly."
Gebauer plays for theRaleigh Wings, the women's professional team. The athletes she was teamed up with Friday say she was up to challenge of playing with the men.
"She is a very technical player, and she showed it at practice yesterday," says Express goalie Dave Allred. "So maybe she can help us."
Nearly 2,000 fans showed up for the game, one of the biggest crowds of the season.