Fall friendlies make for a perfect time to try new things before the ramp up to the Olympics next summer– close enough to remember the shortcomings of last summer, and far enough from the urgency of the next.
However, in the last three games since the World cup, we’ve seen a team in stasis. Interim manager Twila Kilgore brought new blood to camp, but matchday rosters and formations have the squad attempting to push forward with one foot in the past.
On Thursday night against a talented Colombian team, we saw another stagnant performance from a squad that relied on herculean individual efforts from Lynn Williams and Trinity Rodman to create chances. We saw Alex Morgan miss another penalty from the spot, and fail to finish from close range.
When a team underperforms, and veterans hit their decline, the word “rebuild” is usually brought up. To rebuild is to sacrifice results in the short term in favor of a successful future. For most professional sports teams, that means deciding which players to trade, or draft for a better future lineup. It means new management, from the bench to the front office, and a critical eye to assess the failures of the past.
The USWNT need a rebuild.
The program declined from their peak in 2019, to a generous third-place world ranking. Their record in international tournaments under Vlatko Andonovski was just three wins, two losses, and five draws. It was no surprise to see both Vlatko and General Manager Kate Markgraf tender their resignations after the tournament.
A new coach and a new GM is only half of the rebuild process.
In the last few years, we’ve seen veteran talent decline, and retire. New talent came to camp, but international tournament rosters favored a heavier veteran presence over debutantes. Difficult personnel choices left unmade gave the USWNT a roster of eager young stars without the international exposure needed to thrive on the world’s stage.
We have been blessed with legends of the game who gave us their best performances when the stakes were highest, and under unbearable pressure. They deserve their flowers and their farewell tours.
I say this part with the utmost love and respect for the USWNT trailblazers of the last decade: It’s time to let the kids cook.
The great news for the USWNT, is that unlike most professional teams in rebuilding mode, they have a wealth of talent at their disposal. The task at hand is to build a tactical system that best uses their talent. This part will take time and adjustments until they get it right. It might not come in time for Olympic Gold, but if the USWNT can commit to this rebuild, it may come just in time for a 2027 World Cup win.