With new coach watching from afar, USWNT gets a lift from win over China

with new coach watching from afar, uswnt gets a lift from win over china

With new coach watching from afar, USWNT gets a lift from win over China

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Five time zones and an ocean away in the cold of London, where her priorities remain until May, Emma Hayes planned to watch a live feed of her future disciples on the U.S. women’s national soccer team play in steamy South Florida on Saturday. It was their first match since Hayes, the longtime Chelsea coach, was appointed the next leader of the sport’s most decorated women’s program.

Much of what she saw in a 3-0 victory over China probably pleased her, though the list of tasks remains substantial leading up to the Paris Olympics next summer.

Washington Spirit star Trinity Rodman, among the key figures in U.S. efforts to rebound from last summer’s World Cup disappointment, posted a goal and two assists — then met one of her idols, retired tennis star Serena Williams.

Sophia Smith and Lindsey Horan also scored as the United States extended its unbeaten streak since the World Cup to five games (with no goals conceded).

“I hope she’s sleeping at this moment,” interim coach Twila Kilgore said of Hayes. “One hundred percent, she was watching. She was definitely watching live. I will look forward to talking to her when she’s ready and has time to do that and kind of get her viewpoint, and we’ll go from there.”

Until she steps into her new role, Hayes will monitor the transitioning program from afar, collaborating with Kilgore on rosters, lineups and tactics. Hayes met with Kilgore and the players during training camp earlier in the week before returning home Thursday.

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Although there were not glaring changes to the approach Kilgore used in September and October camps, the players said they noticed greater energy and direction — and greater freedom to express themselves on the field.

“Being able to meet Emma was the start of the foundation,” Rodman said. “I definitely feel like we’re starting to create that new identity. … I don’t know if ‘relief’ is the word, but security of knowing who’s coaching us was a weight lifted off all of our shoulders.”

Horan, the captain, said the team is making progress.

“There were places and opportunities we could have been better. We could have capitalized more,” she said. “But it has been really nice having Emma for a few days, bringing that energy and presence.”

Midfielders Jenna Nighswonger and Olivia Moultrie made their debuts, and center back Abby Dahlkemper returned from a 20-month absence following back surgery.

In the second half, the lineup included Moultrie, 18; Rodman, 21; Jaedyn Shaw, 19; and Mia Fishel, 22.

“It’s so fun to see people out there I have played [with] together for a long time,” Moultrie said. “The things we would talk about at [under-20 camp], ‘Oh, I hope we’re on the full team together someday.’ That’s super cool, just seeing the turnover and what’s coming.”

Added Fishel: “I think we all felt that connection and how we want to play in the future.”

with new coach watching from afar, uswnt gets a lift from win over china

U.S. interim coach Twila Kilgore applauds from the sideline Saturday.

The United States went ahead in the eighth minute following sustained possession. Naomi Girma’s long ball out of midfield liberated Rodman gaining separation on the left flank. In stride, Rodman sent a bending cross into the six-yard box, where a sliding Smith beat goalkeeper Xu Huan to the ball.

Typically a wing on the national team, Smith started at center forward. The team’s longtime starter, Alex Morgan, was not selected to this roster amid a dip in her international form. Several other veterans also were passed over.

Smith, the NWSL’s top scorer this season, enjoyed three additional chances before halftime.

“We had some really, really good moments,” Kilgore said, “but we just need to be more clinical in our finishing.”

Changes came in the second half. Fishel and Shaw displayed chemistry in the attack. Rose Lavelle, who started on the right side, shifted centrally. Moultrie and Shaw, whose U.S. career began in October, became the first teenagers since 2005 to debut in the same year.

The lead grew in the 52nd minute on Horan’s accidental goal. After accepting Rodman’s pass, she chipped a long ball toward Shaw deep in the box. Shaw’s leap froze Xu momentarily. Shaw did not make contact, and the ball took a big hop into the right corner of the net.

In the 77th minute, Shaw’s deflected cross fell to Rodman for a tap-in. After the game, Rodman enjoyed a bigger thrill.

“I gave one of my jerseys away to a fan, and then I walked across the field, and somebody said, ‘Serena wants to meet you,’ ” Rodman said. “I was like, ‘Serena who?’ They were like, ‘Serena Williams.’ I walked over there, and she’s like, ‘Can I have your jersey?’ I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I dug in the dirty bag from the beginning of the half to find mine and gave it to her.”

with new coach watching from afar, uswnt gets a lift from win over china

Sophia Smith opened the scoring Saturday. (Chris Arjoon/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

Notes: The third-ranked Americans will finish their 2023 schedule with a rematch against No. 15 China on Tuesday in Frisco, Tex. …

With the U.S. team in transition, Saturday’s match drew an announced 8,768 — the smallest home audience since February 2022. …

Ali Krieger, a two-time World Cup champion who retired last month after captaining Gotham FC to the NWSL title, will be honored before Tuesday’s match. The Dumfries, Va., native made 108 international appearances, the last in January 2021.

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