Let's hurry past the shoulder problem and knee surgery that hamper her during her first two seasons with the Freedom, and all the losing that miserable first summer, when the sisterhood disperses and leaves her surrounded by strangers again: the new kid who still finds it so hard to fit in. When she's named the Freedom's captain and discovers once more, as she did in her senior year at UNC, that she's not cut out for it. When she barks at players who don't know her well enough to say, "Oh, that's just Mia," the way her USA mates do; when she's too intense for teammates cowed by a captain running sprints with her own stopwatch; when she's just not sure enough that everyone wants to hear what she has to say.
Let's even jump past the turnaround, the second year with the Freedom, when she relinquishes the captaincy and plays mostly the second halves of games as she recovers from her knee injury, and still hushes the whispers that she's past her prime by leading the league in assists, tying for the lead in points and taking her team to the tide game before finally losing. Let's triple-jump past the divorce in 2001—yes, please, croaks Mia—when marriage by e-mail finally collapses. Past all the sleepless and headache-racked nights holed up in her bedroom, haunted by her failure to keep a vow made in front of her family and friends.
Let's run straight to joy—unfettered, uncluttered, unmeasured. Let's fly to Nomar.
On the white dot, of all places. That's where they meet. At a promotional event in 1998 at Harvard, where she and Nomar end up in a shootout, five kicks each, to entertain the fans. He makes three. She makes four.
"Thanks for throwing it," Mia says.
"I had to let you win," Nomar replies.
Nine months later, during the most painful patch of her career. That's when they really talk for the first time, during her eight-game slump in early '99. She's so desperate that she digs up the phone number he gave her and begs his forgiveness for bothering him. "I'm struggling right now," she says. "Do you have any ideas? What do you do when you're in a slump?"
"I pick out something small," he says. "Something I can control, something I can manage. And I just focus on that."
"O.K.," she says.
"Are you winning?" he asks.