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Hey hey hey all! Greetings from the West Coast, where it is so foggy right now in Los Angeles that I cannot see across the street. STILL, I am good, because I am away from Michigan, which is white and cold with fresh fallen snow. I am not a snow bunny, so 52 degrees and fog is sold with me. (But I still want to see the sun, let's make that clear SoCal...) I see BTS tomorrow evening in their sold-out stadium show, and yeah, I am excited. Friday's Open Court will be the run-down on all things from the experience.
As promised, the amazing Molly Yanity is back, taking about the USWNT (or as you can call them, the U.S. women's national soccer team), and what is going on. We've got some change underfoot, as the generations move on and new talent is emerging. The challenge remains the same, since the mid-90's - how does the USWNT keep their edge as one of the most powerful soccer teams on the planet? We know the edge has been lost, and then comes back with power. I have been covering the USWNT show since the Mia Hamm/Michele Akers days, and there is always something going down. So let's get to the next chapter...
By Molly Yanity, PhD
ESPN’s Caitlin Murray knows more about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team than anyone. Having written the definitive history of the program in “The National Team” and covered the team through World Cups and Olympics since 2015, Murray is the expert.
On Nov. 25, she penned a smart story suggesting the side might be better off losing the winter friendlies in Australia. Murray’s trepidation made perfect sense.
After a disappointing performance in the 2020 Olympics, played in 2021, of course, that earned a hard-fought bronze medal, the team needs a reset. With Carli Lloyd retiring this fall and several well-known and recognizable players inching into their 40s, coach Vlatko Andonovski needs a retool.
Murray’s piece felt like a soft mattress -- a good place for American fans to land once they saw a squad they barely recognize, a nice landing for high expectations to crash.
Turns out, the young side jumped off the high dive Down Under and didn’t need a plush spot to flop at all.
Rather, the USWNT dominated in the fashion to which soccer fans have become accustomed, beating the No. 11 team in the world 3-0 on Friday, then let a 1-0 win slip to a tie early Tuesday morning.
The team that traveled to Australia included five players making their first USWNT appearance. A dozen of the players had 10 or fewer caps. The average age of the roster is 26. If you aren’t a fan of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the names will be unknown to you.
Andonovski left red-white-and-blue mainstays Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Tobin Heath and Christen Press -- average age, nearly 33 -- at home.
A good tail-whipping might’ve been just what the youthful, inexperienced team needed -- a chance to learn from mistakes, to build some chemistry, to understand just what defending that four-starred shield means.
Despite that, the kids were alright.
Ashley Hatch, who earned the NWSL's Golden Boot honor this season, scored her first international goal just 24 seconds into Game 1.
In earning her first senior USWNT cap, goalkeeper Casey Murphy shined, stopping eight shots, some in acrobatic fashion.
Midge Purse delivered a beautiful cross to Rose Lavelle for USWNT’s second goal Friday.
The lineup is new, fresh, partially inexperienced and we have absolutely no idea what to expect from it.
And, oh boy, folks… this is going to be fun.
What happens when this infusion of young talent meets the old guard in the next U.S. camp?
Rapinoe, 36, is considering retirement. But, just four months ago, the pink-haired firebrand was the team’s best player in Tokyo.
Dunn is pregnant. Sam Mewis (knee) is recovering. Press is taking a break. Heath, Morgan, Kelley O’Hara and goalkeeper Adriana Franch are just off the roster so the coaches can assess talent. They’ll all be back, but when? How? In what capacity?
There are two other wild cards in this amalgamation of talent, too -- Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman.
Andonovski invited both stars to the roster for the winter friendlies. Both -- presumably, but unofficially, because they have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 -- turned down the invitation.
Still, both are ridiculously good.
Pugh, 23, earned her first of 67 caps in 2016. She played in the 2016 Olympics and has 18 international goals. She shined this NWSL season for the Chicago Red Stars.
The real anticipation, though, hangs over Rodman, the 5-foot-10, 19-year-old wunderkind.
The Washington Spirit drafted her second overall in the NWSL draft and, last month, she earned Rookie of the Year honors and was named to the Team of the Year. She provided a critical assist to lead the Spirit to the championship. She will fit into the mix sooner rather than later.
Fox Sports commentator and former USWNT player Aly Wagner called the team “young and hungry” in Friday’s broadcast.
“Was it as clean as it could be?” she asked of the 3-0 win over the Matildas. “No. Were there glimpses of brilliance? Yes.”
Who needs a soft landing when you can see greatness?