Rochester's Madison Schupbach puts best foot forward in Welsh soccer

Larry O'Connor
The Detroit News
Madison Schupbach battles a Swansea City FC player for the ball.

Amid the alphabet soup that can be misconstrued for the Welsh language, Rochester's Madison Schupbach is going for her MBA.

The 5-foot-3 whirling dervish is also driving toward the net with venom.

The former Stoney Creek High and Bowling Green standout is piling up goals as an attacking midfielder and center forward for Cardiff Metropolitan University in the Welsh Women's Premier League. She has 14 in league competition and another seven in cup play.

Her latest tally came in the 50th minute of a 3-2 Welsh FA Women's Cup semifinal victory over Briton Ferry Llansawel Ladies last Sunday.

The unbeaten Archers clinched the Welsh Premier League title March 10 with two matches remaining, and are still competing in the FA and League Cup competitions. Schupbach, who starred two seasons with the United Women Soccer Detroit Sun, has emerged as the university outfit's talismanic figure.

“Madison has been a real asset for us as a squad player, but specifically she adds a physical and very direct dimension, which is what we were missing previously,” said Dr. Kerry Harris, Cardiff Met manager and women’s football performance director. “She’s a natural attacker and goal scorer and someone who every defense fears.

“Madison will open up and tear apart even the best of defenses with her ability.”

Her coach at Bowling Green, Matt Fannon, is not the least bit surprised she is eviscerating opposition defenses in Great Britian.

“Knowing the type of player Maddie is and knowing the style of soccer and the type of soccer on the women's side in the UK, I knew Maddie was always going to be really, really successful, mainly because Maddie is just so dedicated and so single-minded and so competitive that she was always going to make it work,” said Fannon, a native of York, England, who coached Schupbach during her senior year. “She has got so many things that the average British female player just doesn't have just because of her American upbringing, to be honest with you, with the opportunity here in the women's game she's had.”

Schupbach’s transition speaks to a larger hurdle women face who have ambitions in soccer beyond college. The nine-team National Women’s Professional League, whose salaries for unallocated players range $16,538 to $46,200, is the only professional option stateside.

For players like Schupbach, the only avenues are to play in the less competitive second division UWS or forge a path professionally in Europe.

Fannon is lobbying on Schupbach’s behalf to professional women’s teams in the UK, but the hang-up there is her American citizenship and onerous European work restrictions, he said.

The notion of a college coach willing to go the transcontinental mile for a former player speaks to the impression Schupbach left on the Bowling Green program.

Schupbach registered 10 goals and 14 assists in four years at Bowling Green, where she was All Mid-American Conference First Team in her senior season and was named All MAC All Academic three consecutive years 2015-17.

“We were successful this past season when Maddie had graduated, but I think it would be remiss if we didn't realize if one of the big things that helped us was just people like Maddie from the previous senior year that rubbed off on the returning players to make them as gritty and determined and desperate to win as she always was, and I think that's where she's really made a difference,” said Fannon, whose team finished 14-5-3, (10-1 MAC) this past season.

“My first day with the team, Maddie walked in and said, 'Hey I was named the captain last semester. I want to keep that position and I want to be able prove to you that I should be.' That was basically the first conversation I had with her.”

At first, Schupbach had to prove to herself she made the right choice by going to Wales last July. She missed her family and friends, especially her mother and father Dawn and Todd.

“It’s been a long journey,” she said. “When I first came over, I wasn’t sure I made the right decision. I struggled at first, but being able to experience something new and even getting my education in some place completely different and being able to travel has opened my eyes.

“It’s been a good experience to get out of my comfort zone.”

She’s had to cope with a longer campaign. Between the regular season and cup matches, Schupbach will have endured 40-some matches. Unlike the U.S. college game where there is unlimited substitution, she’s found herself going the full 90 minutes, which has meant “more bumps and bruises.”

Schupbach shares an apartment with two other players in Cardiff. When not studying for her master’s or training, she tends bar at Miller & Carter Steakhouse 10 to 15 hours a week for extra cash.

She’s joined by defender Jessica Westhoff and forward Olivia Thompson as one of three Americans on the Cardiff Met squad.

The Welsh and smattering of English teammates have been quite welcoming.

“Everyone is nice,” Schupbach said. “You have to get past the fact they joke a lot. You have to realize if they’re not making fun of you, they probably don’t like you.”

Twitter: @larry1961