It’s been over a week since the United States Women’s National Team defeated Canada to claim their 10th CONCACAF W Championship and a 7th trip to the Olympics.
But the work is just beginning.
The USWNT entered the tournament with a high focus on young talented players mixed with world champion veterans. It was necessary and calculated for head coach Vlatko Andonovski to make this decision with injuries stinging players from the last World Cup team.
The CONCACAF W Championship was a proving ground for many first-time players in a meaningful international competition. At times, the youth showed but overall, they achieved the ultimate goals: qualify for the 2023 World Cup, qualify for the 2024 Olympics, and win the tournament trophy.
Becky Sauerbrunn gave the trip an A+ because of the commandery, even with the gap in experience.
“On the field, I had a moment with Mal Pugh,” Sauerbrunn said after the 1-0 victory over Canada in the championship game. “Maybe she is more experienced than some, but we had that connection on the field where we’re like, ‘we’re going to win this game!’ and to have that with someone so much younger than me, it such a great moment for us.”
Mallory Pugh was one of the shining stars for the USWNT in Mexico. She finished the tournament with a goal in the semi-finals against Costa Rica and two assists. Another star, Sophia Smith, had a great start against Jamaica, scoring two goals within the first minute. Even though she has had moments where she’s missed opportunities, her runs have been beautiful.
Reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman even contributed to the CONCACAF success, scoring her second international goal of her short international career. Taylor Kornieck scored her first international goal during a friendly match against Columbia just a week before the trip to Mexico. Midge Purce looked strong on the wings with great runs on both sides of the field.
“I’m thrilled for the youth of this group,” Sauerbrunn said. “The future of this team is so bright, and as a veteran, I’m going to try to hold on for as long as I can because I like being a part of the team.”
Much credit has to go to Andonovski for creating this plan of mixing the new with some experience. After their 1-0 scare against Mexico, Sauerbrunn spoke about how Andonovski constantly mixes the lineup, matching different personalities on the field. That game was also her first time playing with Naomi Girma, 16 years younger than Sauerbrunn.
Andonovski was not afraid to address the minor details that need to be addressed in training heading into 2023.
“If you ask me if we’re ready for the World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not,” he said after the final group match against rival Mexico. “But are we going to be ready in a year? Absolutely.”
Many agree this will not be the same roster to head to Australia next year, but the overall performance of the younger talent leaves questions over some older talent. Andovnovski will have a tough job of evaluating and deciding the 23-person roster for the World Cup, and it’s all because the youth movement is ready to compete.