College Football & Soccer Analyst
There was a lot of buzz surrounding the amount of young players who cracked the United States women’s national team roster for this October training camp.
There were 18-year-old phenoms like Jaedyn Shaw and Olivia Moultrie, who were on the precipice of earning their first caps. There was Alyssa Thompson, also 18, who was the youngest player on the squad at this summer’s World Cup. There was Mia Fishel, 22, who plays for Chelsea and made her senior team debut last month.
But in the USWNT’s lackluster performance on Thursday, which resulted in a 0-0 draw vs. Colombia in Utah, rising stars didn’t get much action. Will there be changes made when the two nations meet again at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego on Sunday for the second game in this pair of friendlies?
“I do believe the time is coming for some of those players to get more minutes, which is exciting,” U.S. interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Saturday. “I feel that way because I’m confident that they’re prepared.”
Shaw, a forward for the San Diego Wave, came on in the 87th minute and “had a really good first minutes,” Kilgore said before adding that “I think we’ll be seeing more of her.” But she was the only one of those aforementioned players to see the field.
[USWNT not satisfied with 0-0 draw vs. Colombia: ‘We need to score more’]
The USWNT is close to hiring its next manager. In the meantime, the team is trying to move on from its disappointing World Cup performance and prepare for the Paris Olympics, which begin in less than nine months. In calling up so many fresh faces, it was widely assumed those players would earn minutes to help move the program forward.
Kilgore said, however, that there is a specific model and process for onboarding players. It starts by inviting them into camp and not playing them, then having them suit up for a game, and then giving them playing time.
“It’s just a little bit of a slower progression with those players that when they come in, they are prepared and it’s happening slowly over time and they’re not learning everything at once,” Kilgore said.
“We want to put players in a position where they understand everything that is going to be asked of them tactically,” she continued. “That they’ve had some sort of opportunity, when possible, to practice that. That they know their role and what their individual role is within the context of the team.”
Since Kilgore took over the USWNT on a temporary basis in mid-August, a lot has happened. Legends Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz retired. The squad convened for the first time since the World Cup and finally had a proper chance to debrief – after losing to Sweden in the round of 16, everyone dispersed and there wasn’t time to talk things out together. New players have come in and are trying to find their footing in this ultra-competitive environment.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Soccer Federation and sporting director Matt Crocker are in the final stages of selecting a new head coach. Crocker said last month that his goal was to have a permanent boss in charge by the next camp in December, which means Sunday’s game against Colombia could be Kilgore’s last at the helm.
[Becky Sauerbrunn hopes new USWNT coach can ‘get the best out of this group’]
So, in her possible final act as USWNT manager, will Kilgore go with a lineup that reflects the past – or the future?
“Well, we’re still competing here, so I don’t feel the need to give anything away to our opponents,” Kilgore said. “I know the greater community is excited about seeing some younger players, and I think we’re in a place where if the game calls for it, and they’re the right fit, that we feel confident that they will play.”
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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