US sports are used to winning. No team has been more comfortable on the top of the podium in the past 20 years than the USWNT. The USWNT has been ranked as first by FIFA since 2017 and has only lost 6 games in the last 5 years. Yesterday they dominated again, winning 2-0 against the Netherlands. It’s been years, and they haven’t slipped even a little. Here are a few things that have played key factors in their success.
There have been 5 different coaches in the last 10 years. Pia Sundhage was at the helm for 5 years, through both the Beijing and London Olympics. The team took home gold in both games, 5-0-1 in 2008, 6-0-0 in 2012. They also won silver in Germany at the 2011 World Cup. During her time in the US, Sundhage coached 107 games, 91 of those wins, only 6 total losses. The US was her first international head coaching job; I’d call it a success.
Most people will remember Jill Ellis as the most recent, having coached the team from 2014 to 2019, through the Rio Olympics. While the team didn’t medal in 2016, that was the only thing missing from Ellis’ career. She currently holds the team record for most games coached and most games won, 132 and 106 respectively. She directed the team through 2 World Cups, winning both; in Canada 2015, 6-1-0 and in France 2019, 7-0-0.
Vlatko Andonovski is the latest to lead the team. Appointed in October of 2019 and thanks to COVID, he has a much shorter record, but no less impressive. In the year, he’s coached 11 games and boasts a 100% win rate.
*current players, to save time and a very long list
Now, there are a few obvious names I could list because of how spectacular they are (Rapinoe, Morgan, Lloyd). But because anyone who knows anything about women’s soccer knows exactly who and how good they are, I’ll instead highlight a few supporting players who may not get the same level of veneration.
Queen of the Nutmeg, Tobin Heath has been with the National Team since 2008. She’s played as both a midfielder and a winger, excelling wherever she plays. She’s scored 33 international goals, but there’s more to Heath than scoring goals. Tobin is just as good a passer as she is a scorer, with 40 assists. She has a gift for deking and confusing. She’s also a model of an exceptional work ethic.
I have a lot of respect for midfielders. Ertz has been with the team since 2013 and has been a presence ever since. She has 20 goals and 4 assists in 102 international games. What makes her a great player is her tenacity on both sides of the pitch. She clearly can score goals, but she’s always falling back to help her team in a pinch. In 2017 she was awarded US Soccer Female Player of the Year, and then again in 2019, after being nominated in 2018 as well.
In the 10 years that Kelley O’Hara has been with the USWNT, she has the unique achievement of playing every single minute of the 2012 Olympic tournament. As evidenced by that accolade, O’Hara is a true workhorse. She’s played all over the field; at Stanford, she was a forward and 11 years later, she’s on the US roster as defense. She has 2 goals and 19 assists in 131 games. Like Ertz, she can play forward but is just as invaluable as a defender.
Sauerbrunn is perhaps one of the biggest unsung players on the team. She’s been on the international roster for 12 years, notching 177 games. She’s never scored a goal, but as a defender, that’s not necessarily a surprise. Sauerrann is a true defender; she lays back, watches the game, and attacks when she knows she can win. She’s the ultimate team player, a player the country can count on every second of every game.
There are so many intangibles that make up such an incredible team. These few examples are just a small portion of what makes up the USWNT, and that’s the best part. There are so many more players coming up in the ranks, players just breaking into the international scene, and young, fresh faces still coming into their own in the sport. This team is the best the US has to offer, and the best is still to come.
-Heidi Thomas (@DamselOnDrums)
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