Hayes: U.S. ‘ready to move on’ from ’23 WWC



  • Jeff Kassouf

Jun 3, 2024, 06:49 PM ET

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — New United States women’s coach Emma Hayes continues to stress the need for external patience in her first weeks on the job, but on Monday at Allianz Field, she was definitive about one benchmark reached in that process: the failure of the 2023 World Cup is a thing of the past.

“I think the group is ready to move on,” Hayes said. “That’s what it feels like to me.”

Hayes watched from afar last summer as the USWNT exited the World Cup in the Round of 16, marking the program’s worst major-tournament finish in program history. In her role as an analyst, she was critical of a squad “massively short of creative talent.”

Now, after accepting the job of USWNT head coach in November and coaching her first camp beginning last week, Hayes oversees righting the ship.

“There’s been a lot of learnings since [the] last World Cup,” she said. “We always like to look at it externally, like these really fatal moments. From my perspective, I don’t believe they can grow without that. You need those setbacks. Sometimes, on the biggest stages, it’s not ideal, but the team wasn’t ready.

“But the expectation in this country is win every game, every week, every tournament, every trophy. It just isn’t going to work like that, I’m afraid. We have to adapt a little bit to that. For them, their learnings have been profound.”

The Americans prevailed 4-0 over South Korea on Saturday in Hayes’ first match in charge. She said after the match and reiterated on Monday that the performance was better than she expected considering the transition period the team is in, but that there is work to be done.

The learning process, she added, is ongoing for players and staff. Hayes will finish her final individual meetings with the 23 players in camp on Monday night.

“All of us are really thirsty for knowledge,” USWNT midfielder Rose Lavelle said on Monday. “I think we’ve covered a lot in the past week, but it’s been exciting. I think we’re all really excited about this new era and what this team can do. I think we’ve all been really open to learning and growing. It’s been a lot of information, but it’s been great, and we’re excited about it.”

Lavelle, long one of the team’s most creative players, came off the bench on Saturday to assist the USWNT’s final goal. And Hayes said to “expect multiple changes” to Tuesday’s lineup, including in net.

Goalkeeper Jane Campbell started on Saturday in the absence of regular starter Alyssa Naeher, who missed this training camp with a thigh injury. Every player on the roster has been processing an “overload” of information, as she described it on Friday, and more of them deserve an opportunity to make it translate in a game setting.

“I think it’s important to manage expectations because while we are building off of our first game as a whole group, some people are going to get their first to that [Tuesday],” Hayes said. “The connections might be different, so those reference points might start again first before we can build to the next place.

“But I believe it’s essential because we need a squad to select first for the Olympics, so I need to know where everybody’s at within that, then their application.”

Tuesday’s match is the final opportunity for players to perform in the shirt before Hayes must select her 18-player Olympic roster, and she said that “the core of her work” this week has been to teach the team as much as possible, and to get to know the players personally.

Her next objective, she said, is to make sure everyone involved in and around the team understands the objectives at a deeper level.

“It feels like I’m a heart surgeon in the middle of emergency surgery,” Hayes said. “Not because anything is wrong, but the reality is it’s really, really hard for me to be on the wards or on the clinics and teaching everyone and do surgery at the same time in such a limited amount of time.

“Between now and the next camp, it’s about bringing everybody up to that level where everybody can do the surgery, if you know what I mean.”


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