Behind the Pages

Mary Ellen Matthews for ESPN

In Your Face

Photographer Mary Ellen Mathews shares what it's like to stand in Julie Ertz's firing line.

It happened in the blink of an eye. Seriously, all it took was a matter of seconds and then bam. USWNT cover star Julie Ertz kicked a soccer ball-with full intensity and strength like she was striking it in a game-straight into my camera lens. The powerhouse kick smashed the lens hood of my camera, propelled my body back, gashed the area above my eyebrow and shocked everyone. And, here's the thing: I asked Ertz to kick the ball on set. I wanted her to bring the energy she has on game day to this photo shoot. I wanted to shoot in burst mode to capture it all, from the moment she started the movement to the ball in the air. It just so happened that the one place I was in at that exact moment wasn't the right place. Or maybe it was! After all, the shot ended up on the cover.

What I Learned While Speaking French to France's Biggest Soccer Star

Senior writer Bonnie D. Ford explains how she experienced, firsthand, Wendie Renard's leadership skills.

I asked Martinique-born Renard how it felt to have her accent mocked as a teenager. I could relate. I spent my high school years in Paris but never shed my telltale intonation. (I still have nightmares about having to recite to the class in French.) During our interview at the Olympique Lyonnais training center, Renard helped me when I fumbled with a word, like the supportive leader she is. She captains the dynastic OL club, which has seven players on France's roster, and a Lyon magazine recently named her the city's most influential woman. As she says, "The little one from the Antilles has come a long way."

Illustrator Joel Kimmel shares the process of creating the issue's signature artwork.

"I love sports statistics, but I don't typically keep track of exactly how many hours my projects take-mainly to preserve my sanity! If I had to guess, I'd imagine from start to finish it took about four hours per player."


Total number of hours it took to complete all 28 player illustrations from the U.S. 23 and the world.


Number of shoes Kimmel illustrated for this issue.

"Shoes are pretty hard to draw."


Number of eagles, kangaroos and dragons in the issue-and three lions, oh my! Can you find them all in The World Against U.S.?