Rose Lavelle isn't the first U.S. women's national team star produced by the Greater Cincinnati region, nor are her's the first USWNT sides to visit and play in Cincinnati venues.
But given how bright Lavelle's star has shone in her career, it's hard not to link the Mount Notre Dame and Cincinnati United Premier product's successes to the meteoric rise of soccer in Greater Cincinnati.
Lavelle's career arch has so far run parallel to Cincinnati's soccer boom and often times made the boom larger. Her feature role in the USWNT, and especially its 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup triumph in France, has given the area a kind of soccer bona fides that few if any local products can claim to have contributed.
Not surprisingly, Lavelle's return to the region following her last national team accomplishment – a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games – is garnering great attention.
Speaking Saturday ahead of the USWNT's Tuesday match at FC Cincinnati's TQL Stadium in the second of back-to-back games against Paraguay, Lavelle said she's never considered herself as playing a starring role in the growth of local soccer.
"I've always said I think that Cincinnati is such an underrated soccer city and I'm so glad that now, having a team here, people are seeing it and I feel like the city is getting to showcase that," Lavelle said. "I think it's such a great city with a lot of young talent and hopefully girls, boys from Cincinnati can see themselves in me and see that it's possible for a Midwest person to get to this level.
"Yeah, I think it's cool. When I was growing up, I had Heather Mitts to look up to. She went to (Saint) Ursula and I was obsessed with her and I think it just made it so much more real to me that somebody from where I was from was in a place that I wanted to get to, so, yeah, I hope I can serve as that same kind of inspiration to people in this area."
Lavelle's made multiple visits to Cincinnati since her professional career took off when she was drafted No. 1 overall in the NWSL College Draft by the now-defunct Boston Breakers.
Those stops have included a September 2017 USWNT friendly against New Zealand at the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium, as well as a number of ceremonies honoring her contribution to the World Cup victory in summer 2019.
U.S. Soccer in Cincinnati during the FC Cincinnati era
• Sept. 19, 2017 - Friendly: USWNT 5, New Zealand 0 (Nippert Stadium, turf surface)
• June 9, 2019 - Friendly: USMNT 0, Venezuela 3 (Nippert Stadium, temporary grass surface)
• Sept. 21 (7:30 p.m.) - Friendly: USWNT vs. Paraguay (TQL Stadium, hybrid grass surface)*
• Nov. 12 - Concacaf World Cup qualifier: USMNT vs. Mexico (TQL Stadium, hybrid grass surface)
*Tuesday's match is the fifth all-time USWNT visit to play in Cincinnati.
Now, Lavelle will help push the local game further again with Tuesday's Paraguay match, which is the first-ever U.S. Soccer event staged at the $250 million TQL Stadium.
"I don't know if I think of myself as having a starring role, but I am very, very excited to be able to come and play in Cincinnati," Lavelle said. "I'm so happy any time I'm able to come home but to get to come home and kind of show off the city to all my teammates, I'm so excited about it and I know that TQL is gonna be just bumping and have the best atmosphere... I'm just gonna be glowing the whole night out of happiness."
Of playing at TQL Stadium, Lavelle added: "I think it's so cool that soccer has a home here and it's here to stay."
(Of playing in Nippert Stadium previously, Lavelle said: "I think that that stadium's so cool because it's so big but it's so close to the field, too. It feels such an intimate setting. You can hear all the fans that much louder because the stands go right onto the field basically. That was so fun the last time we played there.")
A U.S. Soccer media officer confirmed Saturday that ticketing for the Paraguay match had reached 21,000. The match will be staged following the USWNT's 9-0 rout of Paraguay at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Of course, there's more to the Paraguay match than Lavelle.
The biggest storyline to accompany the USWNT to Cincinnati is Carli Lloyd, who is using the Paraguay matches and two further friendly matches in October to draw the curtain on her historic national team career.
In Thursday's Paraguay victory, Lloyd scored five times to burst into third place on the USWNT all-time scoring list, surpassing Kristine Lilly.
Lloyd's impending departure from the national team program is widely seen as the front end of a generational transition for the USWNT, with head coach Vlatko Andonovski overseeing the turnover.
"Coming off the Olympics, we – obviously grateful to get a medal but obviously that wasn't the medal we set out to get – I think we're kind of out to get ready to get back out and re-prove ourselves," Lavelle said. "I think hopefully we'll be seeing new faces in camp because it's always good to bring in some, like, good players who can push everyone here and push for spots. I think that's what's made this team so great and successful, and what makes this environment so hard. There's always somebody knocking on the door, ready to take your spot. I think there's a lot of really, really good players performing in the (NWSL) that hopefully will get brought in and continue to raise the level."