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Sibling revelry

Playing for Thorns and Timbers U-23, Dani and Zack Foxhoven are best friends, role models and each other's biggest fans


by: COURTESY OF BUNNY FOXHOVEN - Zack Foxhoven (left) and sister Danielle grew up in soccer jerseys and winning awards for their talents, which have landed both in Portland this year.Brian and Bunny Foxhoven’s recent trip from their home in Littleton, Colo., to Portland was filled with excitement as they imagined how it would feel to watch their daughter, Danielle, step onto the pitch with the best female soccer players in the world as part of the National Women’s Soccer League.

As the couple watched their daughter warm up for the Portland Thorns’ first home match, Brian turned to his wife and said: “I can’t believe this is happening.”

With the chants of 16,479 people ringing in their ears, the two began to cry.

“That was the culmination for our daughter of making it to that level,” Brian says. “It was a dream come true.”

A few weeks later, the Foxhovens were back in Portland, this time to watch their son, Zack, play for the Timbers U-23 squad. The Foxhovens were able to hold back their tears, but the moment was just as powerful.

“Surreal,” Brian says.

Danielle — who goes by Dani — and Zack grew up playing soccer together, using a competitive yet loving bond to push each other toward greatness.

Now, the two are in the same city again, spending as much time together as they can and trying to make an impact with their respective clubs.

“It’s so much fun,” Dani says, of being reunited with her brother. “Zack is my best friend. We haven’t played in the same place since our youth club in Colorado. To have him here and playing for the same organization that we both feel strongly about, it’s super exciting.”

Zack says: “We talk to each other every day and try to catch breakfast or lunch. Our schedules get pretty hectic with travel, but whenever we can, we try to catch a meal or something.”

Dani, 23, and Zack, 21, are not living together because Dani already had a roommate by the time Zack got to town. When the siblings are together, though, soccer is a main topic of conversation.

“We’re constantly talking about soccer, and he always has feedback for me, and I always have feedback for him,” Dani says. “That’s why we’re best friends.”

Brian Foxhoven was a college basketball player at the University of Denver from 1982-1986. He admits that he wanted his kids to play basketball, but it soon became obvious that they wanted to be on the pitch.

“We let them play every sport,” Brian says. “They were both very good basketball players, but that wasn’t their love. Their love was soccer. I did want them to play basketball, but then I developed a love of soccer watching them.”

Bunny ran a day care business in Colorado, and Dani and Zack would spend countless afternoons playing soccer with the other kids, including cousin Quinn Krier, who just finished her soccer career at the University of Colorado.

“We played soccer every day,” Dani says. “We did it in the backyard playing pickup, we played with our friends. It was what we both loved to do.”

Who was better?

“Zack was always better than me,” Dani says. “I learned everything from him. He’s much more athletically inclined than I am. Boys can see the game differently, anyway. Maybe I helped him in my own way, but technically and tactically, I learned everything from him. He’s my idol and my favorite player. He taught me

everything.”

“No, I wouldn’t say that at all,” Zack says, when told what his sister said. “We’d always go back and forth, but I have the most respect for her. We grew up always competitive and always wanting to win. She’s a great player and a role model of mine.”

Brian says his children had their own skill set on the pitch.

“She was a smarter player, and he was more talented,” Brian says. “He used his speed more, and she was more calculating. They were always competing.”

When she finished high school, Dani wanted to go to UCLA. Her parents already had bought a ticket to Portland, though, and they convinced her to visit the University of Portland.

Dani instantly fell in love.

After spending just one day on the UP campus, she got on the phone with her mom and said, “This is where I’m going.”

“UP is super unique in so many ways,” Dani says. “It’s a little school, which is more my style. The soccer here was incredible. They have 5,000 people at every game, which is unheard of in the college game, especially for women. I fit in here in Portland more so than anywhere else. It kind of reminds me of Colorado, but it also has its own weird spin, which I love.”

Dani thrived at Portland. The 5-6 striker finished her college career ranked fourth on the Pilots’ all-time scoring list with 139 points on 57 goals and 25 assists. Her goals total also is fourth on Portland’s all-time list.

“UP made me the person that I am,” Dani says. “On the field, off the field, emotionally, physically, everything. I’m the person I am because of UP and everything it gave me. I built a relationship within the team, within the community and within the program. I left as much of myself in the program as it’s left in me.”

When he was finished with high school, Zack, 6-1, 170 pounds, chose to commit to the school that his sister had spurned, and he become a Bruin.

“There was an allure of it, and there were so many guys going pro from there,” Zack says. “It was such a good team and such a good program. I wanted to be part of something like that. It was awesome to be there.”

His freshman year at UCLA, Zack played in 20 matches, starting five. He finished the season with two assists. His sophomore year, though, he played in only 11 matches, making five starts and recording two assists.

He decided to transfer to

Louisville.

“There were a lot of reasons,” Zack says. “Mainly, I just wanted a change, a new beginning somewhere else.”

Brian says: “Louisville has a more family- and team-oriented atmosphere. L.A. is a different place. It’s not quite as team oriented.”

Zack, who says he liked the culture in Kentucky, appeared in 20 matches as a junior last season, with three starts, and scored five goals.

“I’ve loved it so far,” he says. “I’m getting to know a new team and bonding with them. With the new coaches and everything, it’s been great.”

Meanwhile, Dani was dealing with a false start of sorts herself. After she left UP, she signed a professional contract to play for Russian side FC Energiya Voronezh. She played well, scoring six goals in nine appearances. But, while she learned a lot living abroad, it was not an experience she would want to repeat.

“Russia is a very unique place,” she says. “There was a big lack of professionalism. It was a very, very valuable experience, but one I probably wouldn’t do again. It was very hard. I had my eyes opened to a lot of things, a lot of harsh realities about different countries and different cultural practices. But I’m a better person, a better teammate for it, and I learned insurmountable amounts about myself.”

After the 2012 season, Dani wanted to play just about anywhere outside of Russia.

“I was looking for a step up,” she says. “Anything would’ve been better.”

Dani signed with the Thorns in February.

“Coming from Russia to here has made me appreciate being here more than I can even say and more than a lot of other people know,” she says. “Coming to this organization is incredible. We’re all treated as adults, as professionals, the way it should be. I can’t even say how appreciative I am.”

Dani was able to reconnect with many of her friends from UP.

“I was gone for seven months, and I came back and everybody was still here,” she says.

Then, when the Timbers U-23 season began, Dani was able to reconnect with her best friend.

Zack says coming to Portland was the perfect situation for him, too.

“I’ve known about the great program they have,” Zack says. “I’ve always loved Portland as a city. And the Timbers U-23s have a great connection with Louisville, so it felt natural.”

Zack has started strong for the U-23s. His second goal of the season gave Portland a 1-0 road victory at Seattle on June 10.

“It’s been good so far,” he says. “I’ve been lucky enough to put away a couple of goals, so that’s nice. The team is starting to come together.”

Dani has been playing well for the Thorns, but her role is different from her brother’s with the U-23s. Playing behind Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair — two of the best strikers in the world — Dani has been asked to be a spark off the bench. She has responded, with three goals (two game-winners) in 10 matches.

“Dani has really done well for us this year,” Morgan says. “She’s scored a couple of very important goals. That’s how important that role is coming off the bench, lifting the energy of the team, making those selfless runs that maybe a 90-minute player can’t make, just working your butt off for the team. She’s worked for the team. She is that super sub.”

While Dani would like to become a regular starter, she says she is happy with her role.

“I’ve brought a mentality that’s unique to this team, and I’ve accepted the role that I fit right now,” she says. “I want to start. I want to do my best to start and be the go-to forward. Having said that, I’m playing behind the two best forwards in the world. I will never have that opportunity again.”

After the U-23 season, Zack will return to Louisville for his senior season. He hopes to play well enough to earn a spot on a MLS pitch.

“That’s one of my goals, one of my dreams,” he says. “I’m working hard at it, and hopefully I can make it come true someday.”

Dani has her sights set on helping the Thorns win the NWSL championship.

“I believe we’re going to win it this year,” she says.

Wherever their soccer careers take Dani and Zack, their parents will be watching.

“It’s very humbling (to watch them play),” Brian says. “It makes you really proud.”