World Cup 2019: Former OSU goalie AD Franch living her dream with U.S. national soccer team
Adrianna Franch hung up the phone and immediately dialed it again.
She had to talk to her mom.
Only moments before, she'd gotten the news of a lifetime from U.S. national soccer team coach Jill Ellis. Franch had made the World Cup roster. From Salina, Kansas, to Oklahoma State to several professional outposts, she was going to the sport's biggest stage.
"Hey, Mom," Franch told her mom, "we made it!"
On the day the United States opens World Cup play against Thailand, no player repping the red, white and blue has come from a more non-traditional background than Franch. She didn't grow up in a soccer hotbed. She didn't play college soccer for a traditional blueblood.
And yet, many people believe this World Cup will be the first of many national team appearances for the 28-year-old Franch, the youngest of three goalkeepers on this year's roster.
"I know how badly she wanted to be on the full national team," longtime OSU assistant coach Karen Hancock said. "It really is a dream come true for her that she had since she was a little kid.
"I am very proud of her because she has not had an easy road to get there."
Franch was the oldest of three kids raised by her mother. When AD was little, they lived in lots of different apartments around Salina, the north-central Kansas town of 46,994. They'd stay in one until they couldn't afford the rent any more, then would go find a new one.
Franch's mom worked at the hospital in housekeeping, but even as she worked her way into the patient billing department, money was still tight.
When Franch was 10, her mom was selected to receive a house from Habitat for Humanity. Raqual had to work 300 hours on the new home before the family could move in, and because Franch was old enough, she got to help, too.
She made sure the walls of her bedroom were pink.
Once the family moved in, she added one other thing to the walls — posters of Brianna Scurry and Mia Hamm. The American soccer players had become heroes for throngs of little girls like Franch after Team USA's World Cup triumph in 1999.
Still, the notion Franch would be World Cup bound 20 years later was not a foregone conclusion. She grew up playing soccer, but as a kid in the Heartland, she also played basketball and softball. Even as she found her way onto a club soccer team based in Kansas City and earned a spot in the Olympic Development Program, she thought long and hard about playing basketball in college.
Franch was actually in Stillwater for a team basketball camp the first time Hancock and OSU soccer coach Colin Carmichael met her. They even talked about whether she might be able to play both soccer and basketball for the Cowgirls.
"It would've been possible here," Carmichael said. "But we also talked about how hard that could be to take on two sports."
Franch eventually committed to OSU soccer, and while playing two sports was an option, she decided to focus on soccer after tearing her knee while playing basketball.
That injury happened during her senior year of high school, and there was no guarantee she'd be ready to play soccer right away at OSU. And even if she was cleared, could she earn the starting spot after all the training time she'd lost to rehab?
Nothing was certain, and yet, there Franch was in goal in OSU's 2009 season opener as a freshman. The Cowgirls went to Colorado to face the nationally-ranked Buffaloes.
"AD actually missed a ball that she would be the first to tell you she should've saved," Carmichael said of a game OSU ended up losing 1-0. "I remember having a conversation with her just saying, 'Don't get too down on that one because you're gonna win us a heck of a lot of games here.'"
Franch only allowed 13 more goals that season, going 15-6-2 as a freshman and earning first-team All-Big 12 honors.
When her college career was done, she was only the seventh player in Big 12 history to earn first-team women's soccer honors four consecutive seasons. Her 38 career shutouts also rank sixth in NCAA history.
Still, the road to the World Cup was not an expressway. With Hope Solo firmly entrenched at the national team's goalie, Franch would have to a long and winding path that included stints on the U-23 team and professional stops in Rochester, New York; Avaldsnes, Norway; and Portland, Oregon.
But when Franch tore her knee again in 2014, a year before the most recent Women's World Cup, she wondered if her chance to ever play on that stage had passed.
"I thought, 'Man, is that dream kind of gone?'" Franch recently said on a video produced by the Portland Thorns, her team in the National Women's Soccer League. "I'm still going to keep trying for it, but those questions are in your mind."
The questions were amplified in early 2017 when Franch got a call-up for national team camp but performed so poorly she was told she wouldn't get another call-up for at least a year.
"I had to make a decision then," she said in that Thorns video.
She cut ties with some folks who she felt hadn't been good for her or her career. She also established some incremental goals for herself. She still had the grand goal of making the World Cup roster, but she realized she needed to meet some benchmarks along the way.
In 2017, she became the starting keeper in Portland. She set a league record with 11 shutouts during the regular season, helped the Thorns win the NWSL title, then was named NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year.
In 2018, she won the keeper honor again, becoming the first player in league history to do so.
In 2019, everything culminated when she landed a spot on Team USA.
"She's sort of the outlier," Carmichael said. "She's in there with kids from UCLA and Santa Clara and Duke and Carolina and Notre Dame. And here she is a kid from Oklahoma State. I think that was something that she always felt like she had to prove herself.
"It doesn't surprise me because going back even to her freshman year, you had an ultra competitive, super athletic, driven kid. The sky's the limit when you have that. It doesn't surprise me in the least, but it's really neat to see her develop."
Franch acknowledges effort and determination are essential.
"But you also need people," she said in a video released recently by the U.S. national team. "The people that you surround yourself with really guide the path and direction that you go."
She knows no one directed her more than her mom. Raqual modeled hard work and boundless passion for her family every day, and by following that example, AD Franch has exceeded nearly every expectation.
She has proven you can go from a Habitat house in Kansas to a World Cup in France.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
U.S. vs. Thailand
When: 2 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Reims, France
TV: Fox (Cox 12/HD 712, Dish 25, DirecTV 25, U-verse 25/1025)