YORKTOWN, N.Y. – All eyes were on Team USA this summer, but Yorktown’s Tori Patterson was also at the Women’s World Cup making history of her own.
Patterson, a 2012 Yorktown High School graduate, helped lead Jamaica to its first-ever World Cup appearance in soccer.
Though Jamaica dropped all three of its matches, failing to advance out of the group stage, Patterson said the experience was one she’ll never forget.
“It was like something you dream about when you were a little kid,” she said. “I honestly never thought I’d be playing in a World Cup.”
But playing at the highest level in the world can take a mental and physical toll. In addition to suffering injuries, Patterson has lived the life of a nomad, travelling internationally while playing for clubs based in Lithuania and Norway.
Now, after living the dream, the 25-year-old is retiring from playing the game she loves. Back home in Yorktown, Patterson said she’ll pursue steadier job opportunities and also coach with the Yorktown Youth Soccer Club.
“It’s just been a lot. A lot of travel,” she said. “I hate using the word sacrifice, but I gave up a lot. I’m just kind of ready to move on.”
After playing for Yorktown High School, Patterson started her college career at the University of Georgia but transferred after three semesters to the University of Connecticut.
A defender, she got her club soccer start in 2016 as a practice reserve with the now-defunct FC Kansas City, of the National Women’s Soccer League. There, she became teammates with one of her soccer idols, Becky Saurbrunn, a veteran defender for USA national team.
“I got to practice with her every day and I kind of just watched everything she did,” Patterson said. “And when she gave me advice, I ate that up.”
Her next professional experience was with Gintra Universitetas, a Lithuanian club team. Her club was the only one from Lithuania to qualify for the Champion’s League, which brings together the best clubs from Europe.
“I technically played on the best team in Lithuania,” Patterson said.
Playing three matches in the Republic of Georgia, Gintra Universitetas went undefeated in group play to advance to the single-elimination portion of the tournament. Her club then defeated FC Zurich (Switzerland) in the Round of 32 but lost to FC Barcelona (Spain) in the Round of 16.
In March 2018, Patterson tried out for a club in Norway, which was playing its preseason matches in Spain. Patterson, though, suffered a hip injury and spent the next several months rehabbing.
Once healthy, she played for a semi-pro team in Houston before getting the call to play for the Jamaican national team.
Patterson, whose parents are both Jamaican, had played on the Jamaican U20 team since 2012, the year she obtained dual citizenship. She was called up to the main team in July 2018 just in time to help Jamaica qualify for the 2019 World Cup.
After winning the Caribbean tournament, Jamaica moved on to the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, where Patterson and company went up against the best teams from North America and Central America.
The Top 3 finishers from the tournament would qualify for the World Cup. Jamaica had never finished higher than fourth.
After advancing out of the group stage, Jamaica found itself in a semi-final matchup against the United States, the defending CONCACAF and World Cup champions.
After losing 6-0, Jamaica was given a chance to redeem itself in the third-place game against Panama, held in Frisco, Texas.
The first 90 minutes ended in a 1-1 draw. So, the teams went to overtime. Jamaica struck first, going up 2-1. But Panama countered, tying the game with just 5 minutes left.
After 120 minutes, the match was tied 2-2. A spot in the World Cup would be decided by penalty kicks.
Jamaica was flawless, scoring on all four of its attempts to claim the victory. Patterson was headed to France.
“The women’s team had never qualified for the World Cup,” Patterson said. “This was the first time in history.”
Playing for both an Italian club and the Jamaican national team, Patterson spent the next several months before the World Cup traveling around the world, playing in countries like South Africa and Scotland.
When the United States won its second consecutive World Cup in July, the ensuing discussion was less about the results on the field and more about equal pay for the women soccer players.
“It’s about time, honestly,” said Patterson, who said she appreciates the U.S. women’s team using its platform to advocate for equality.
The lack of money in women’s soccer is one of the reasons Patterson has decided to end her playing career at a young age.
Back in Yorktown
Coming off perhaps the highlight of her soccer career, Patterson has decided to retire and live with her family in Yorktown.
“I want to settle down,” Patterson said. “I’m ready to kind of just move on, have some roots, make more money.”
Patterson graduated UConn with a degree in risk analysis and risk management, which she wants to put to use, perhaps working for an insurance company.
She’s also lending her expertise to the Yorktown Youth Soccer Club as a coach. Patterson would like to coach at the high school level, but she decided to retire just weeks before the fall season was set to begin.