In the four years since she retired from international
competition, Michelle Akers, one of the most influential players
in women's soccer history, has made an easy transition from the
playing field to a quiet life on the farm. On her eight-acre
spread in Chuluota, Fla. (pop. 1,921), she cares for her
husband's three children from a previous marriage, looks after
her four impatient horses and spends little time thinking about
the sport in which she became a household name.
Akers, 38, was the catalyst of the U.S. women's national team
that won the World Cup in 1991 and '99 plus the gold medal at the
1996 Olympics. The striker-turned-midfielder remains the leading
scorer in Women's World Cup history with 12 goals.
Her career ended prematurely because of a host of ailments,
including more than 10 surgeries and chronic fatigue syndrome.
When Akers later sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for refusing to
pay for two operations (shoulder and knee procedures in 1999),
she reached a settlement with the help of her future husband,
lawyer Steve Eichenblatt. The couple were married last August,
and Akers welcomed Eichenblatt's children--Jordan, 13, Max, 10,
and Sari, 8--into her life. As for the farm they purchased in
September, Akers is most excited about the tranquility it offers.
"It's quiet and very beautiful," she says. "There are a lot of
places to ride and get lost."
COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK GREEN AKERS The soul of the 1999 World Cup champs is a farm girlat heart.
B/W PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN/GT IMAGES