Much like Major League Baseball teams that flock to warm-weather sites for spring training, FK Zorkiy held training camp in a more temperate Turkey at the beginning of the most recent season.

"I was very, very worried," Sandiford said. "I really had to get used to playing in the cold and snow. Once, I got used to it, I was OK."

The language barrier also presented a big challenge. Sandiford was only one of two Americans playing in a league of about 300 players.

Sandiford eventually learned to speak some Russian using Rosetta Stone, a popular language-teaching software.

"English is not a second language there like a lot of other places," Sandiford said. "So it's really hard to communicate with people. But I know how to tell people the things I need to. I can talk to my teammates and tell the defense to come up and back, and who to mark, and things like that."

Sandiford had her doubts about playing professional soccer after she ruptured her Achilles tendon during her senior year at UCLA.

"You literally have to teach yourself to walk again," said Sandiford, who started her college career at Villanova University before transferring.

After sixth months of rehabbing, she was ready to play soccer again. Sandiford signed to play two months last summer for the semipro New Jersey Wildcats of the United Soccer League.

That led her to her current team — just not the one she expected.

"I had been out for so long," Sandiford said of missing nine months. "I needed that level of competition to get my timing back and where I need to be. That was the highest level in America."