Stec steps up (to the mic) for USWNT

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, FC Cincinnati’s very own Alex Stec received a text from a friend who handles in-game entertainment for U.S. Soccer. He asked if she at all was interested in doing in-stadium PA for the U.S. Women’s National Team game at Allianz Field in early September.

Previously, she had been the in-stadium host for women’s games in both Columbus and Cleveland.

But this was entirely different.

When she asked me if she could take the extra days from work to do it – it was almost as she was asking if she SHOULD do it, not if she COULD do it.

And, of course, we said, YES! Pretty much before she even finished getting the request out, in fact.

The time wasn’t the issue at all. We’re fortunate enough to have staff to cover her responsibilities back in Milford at the team’s training center for the two days she’d be gone.

But to have the opportunity to do something pretty cool, pretty unique and pretty rare – it was a no brainer for us to agree and fully encourage her to take this opportunity. As a club, we always have – and will continue to – support women’s soccer … locally, regionally and nationally. This was a fantastic opportunity for us to continue showing our support.

You may remember we also have a pretty big hometown interest on the U.S. Women’s National Team. You may have heard of her. Rose Lavelle? This would be an opportunity for us to catch up with the Queen of the Queen City a couple of months removed from the championship celebrations. And there is also a pretty decent group of national soccer media who attend WNT games – so I joined along.

Anyone who knows Alex can attest that she’s never anything but fully prepared. She watched last Thursday’s game against Portugal in Philadelphia to get familiar with the Portuguese names. She read up on notes and watched previous U.S. Soccer videos to ensure she had the right pronunciations for the hometown crowd … even though we’d all heard the same exact names over and over this summer!

Alex preps in the Allianz Field control room before the teams arrive during a few moments of quiet.

So just before 5:30 p.m. when gates opened, Alex took her seat in the Allianz Field control room next to Aaron Gonzalez, U.S. Soccer’s game entertainment guru, and got to work.

In a finely choreographed dance between PA announcements, video board features, sponsor commitments, in-stadium hits with host Jordan Angeli and musical interludes from DJ Amy Robbins, it was a full 90 minutes of action until the women took the field to face Portugal at 7 p.m.

Aaron Gonzalez, U.S. Soccer’s lead for in-game entertainment, goes over a few last details with Alex before the full program begins.

Aaron skillfully guided a staff of almost 25 people – including many of Minnesota United FC’s stadium entertainment group – with ease through the program, with Alex reading a heavy load of PAs to fulfill sponsor and federation needs leading up to warm-ups.

The build’s excitement to see the U.S. Women take the field was pretty rousing and Alex timed her intros with video board headshots and pyrotechnics and fireworks with ease.

After kickoff, PA reads are pretty unscripted and at the will of the game. Would there be goals? (And with the U.S. Women’s National Team, there almost assuredly are several.) Subs? Cards?

Alex got to announce three goals on the night, including Carly Lloyd’s successful penalty kick in the 32nd minute, directly under the control room.

Alex ended up with reads for it all on Tuesday night: a pair of Carly Lloyd goals (including a penalty), a Lindsey Horan goal, a card or two and plenty of substitutions. Plus, she got to announce Kristen Hamilton’s entry into the game for her first cap.

The game flies by in the booth. Just as quickly as the build-up to kickoff arrives, the final whistle blows. With a last player of the match read and then a thank you to the fans, Alex’s job was finished. But all accounts (including mine!), she did really, really well.

U.S. Soccer may have positioned Alex in the control room, but they couldn’t stop her natural professional urges to capture a cool moment for social.

After the game, we were able to catch up with Rose down in the tunnel. We’d spent a lot of time with her both before and after the World Cup and got to know her pretty well. But when she finished signing autographs for a line of fans coming off the field and she turned to head to the locker room – and saw us? She was a bit confused – familiar faces in an unfamiliar location. (We actually predicted that would be her reaction!)

I asked Rose – who didn’t dress for the game – what she thought of the PA announcer, and she said she honestly doesn’t hear it during the game. It’s just part of the game.

When she asked why we were there and then realized Alex was the PA announcer? She blushed a bit and quickly followed up by saying it was the BEST PA job she’s heard in years! (Speaking of Rose, be sure to read this awesome profile of her in The Ringer.)

As we got ready to fly back to Cincinnati this morning, I asked Alex the best part of the experience now that she had 15 hours to take it in and reflect. 

“Can I give you two?” Alex responded. “The fact that it was a different experience, that’s one. I’ve done similar roles but this was the first time I’ve been a PA announcer. And it turned out to be a really fun experience. And also, I think when you say something and you hear the crowd react so loudly – having the ability to increase the excitement level of fans during the game while highlighting some of the most talented women in the world – that was pretty exciting.”

Alex and Jordan Angeli, who was the in-stadium host on Tuesday night, are old friends and are able to meet up on the field after the game ended at Allianz Field.

And the most nerve-wracking part of the new experience?

“I think it was the game intro and from there to the lineups. It was probably just the pronunciation of the Portuguese names. Some of them were a bit difficult,” she laughed.

With an awesome PA performance in the books and past experience as an in-stadium host, FC Cincinnati fans can expect to see (and hear) more of Alex at future national team games. There may have already been an ask made for a future game before we even left!

But until those times arise again, Alex will be back bringing FC Cincinnati fans information and entertainment about the Orange and Blue tomorrow.