Katie Stengel touched down in the nation’s capital earlier this month as Canberra United’s flagship signing but it became quickly evident that the American would not be afforded any special treatment.
The 27-year-old United States international striker joined United on a one-year loan deal from National Women’s Soccer League outfit Utah Royals on November 4.
Stengel had only days earlier stepped off a plane before linking up with her new teammates at her first training session where the ex-Bayern Munich forward saw first-hand the competitive drive of coach and Westfield Matildas legend Heather Garriock.
“The first day of training she yelled at me to work harder,” Stengel told W-League.com.au.“I was still fighting the jet lag.”
The Florida-born forward arrived in Canberra boasting proven Westfield W-League pedigree having scored freely for Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets in seasons previous.
Stengel’s best return came for Newcastle in 2017/18 when she tallied an impressive 13 goals in 18 matches.
It is part of the reason why Garriock was so eager to secure her signature and make her the fulcrum of Canberra’s re-vitalised attack, having posted just 13 goals in last season’s eight-place finish.
“I thought Heather [Garriock] could take my game to the next level and that's the whole point of coming here, to get challenged so you're an even better player by the time you get back to the states," Stengel said.
“She called me up and gave me an offer and I didn't really look at much else.
“She definitely brings out the best in players. I think she still wishes she had her cleats on so she could go out and play with us.
“She's a strong leader on the bench and keeps us physically on the field. She's very, very competitive.”
2019/20 is Stengel’s fourth season in the Westfield W-League, and despite the beach being further away in Canberra, she says the transition into life in the nation’s capital has been seamless.
She is living with Canberra’s fellow international signings, visited the war memorial and relishes the small-town feel and family atmosphere in the Canberra.
The biggest problem so far has been how to deal with mouse traps and getting the air conditioning working for summer, where the feeling of homesickness at Christmas is often particularly melancholic for the Westfield W-League’s American contingent.
Before that, Stengel has all eyes on this Saturday night’s return to McDonald Jones Stadium to face the Jets, where she was a firm fan favourite and boasted a prolific record despite her 2018/19 campaign being curtailed by an ankle injury.
“I really enjoyed my two years there and I’m so excited to go back and see everybody," she said. "I loved my experience there and hopefully I can replicate that here."