The US women’s national team narrowly qualified to the round of 16 after one 3-0 victory over Vietnam and two consecutive draws against the Netherlands and Portugal in the group stage. The lackluster performances inspired heavy debate over the mentality of this American roster, with former player Carli Lloyd citing a decline in the ‘winning’ ideology synonymous with the team.
“I’m just not seeing that passion,” said Lloyd. “I’m just seeing a very lackluster, uninspiring, taking-it-for-granted [mentality], where winning and training and doing all that you can to be the best possible individual player is not happening.”
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski and team captain Lindsey Horan refuted Lloyd’s statements, defending the 23 players for giving it “their all” during every moment of the international tournament so far.
“It’s kind of frustrating for me to hear, especially knowing this team and knowing how much we put into every single game, how much preparation we put into every single game, seeing our training, seeing how hard we work,” Horan said.
“To question the mentality of this team, to question the willingness to win, to compete, I think is insane,” Andonovski added.
But those citing recent results to affirm a belief of doubt over the team’s desire to make history and clinch the third consecutive title may be overlooking the most important aspect of the famed USWNT mentality: resilience.
The women sporting the stars and stripes constantly fight against all odds on and off the pitch to triumph.
Dating back to 2011, the USWNT concluded the group stage in second place behind Sweden before going on to narrowly win against Brazil in penalties to advance. Momentum within the locker room strengthened following each whistle, inspiring the 23 players to reach the final. Despite losing to Japan in penalties, the team showcased that unique American ideology that would go on to carry future generations.
In 2015, the team faced a similar challenge: The American side beat Australia 3-1 before playing Sweden to a 0-0 draw and escaping with a 1-0 win against Nigeria.
“Our backs were against the wall, we fought back,” said former USWNT player Heather O’Reilly.
Players coupled that mentality with talent on the pitch to reach the title, triumphing 5-2 over Japan to make history. The quintessential USWNT way.
And in 2019, the USWNT proved themselves again as players battled for social justice and equal pay while fending off the world’s best defenders to lift the second consecutive title. Every figure on that roster balanced inappropriate questions about a cause few but themselves believed in with the immense pressures of the tournament to prove to those watching what the American team can accomplish.
2023 is no different. The players entered the tournament ready to honor the badge on the spotted red, white and blue jersey.
“All I want to do is win, but also help the people around me win and I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that. And that’s what makes this entire team so impressive, it’s not just me it’s the entire team, we have the same exact mindset,” said Trinity Rodman to 90min before the World Cup.
The two most recent results fail to tell the complete story of this squad. The scoreboards don’t reflect the disappointed expressions on each player that walked through the mixed zone, or the eager ‘this team can do more’ quotes given to the media after a heavy sigh.
The numbers limit fans from seeing the players on the bench approach the field to comfort and inspire the starting line up, or the motivational expressions yelled at by the veterans on the pitch in 45 degree weather.
Those here have seen head coach Vlatko Andonovski and players come out to the match day -1 press conferences ready to be questioned on the mentality of the current squad as external critics ask ‘do they have what it takes?’
They do, and results cannot change that. The team boasts a unique mindset that cannot be taken away with draws, or even a loss against Sweden. Should the team be eliminated in the round of 16, they move on and come back stronger. Resilience above all.
“There are so many players who you look up to who’ve worn this crest, and done so much to develop this team. To be considered for this roster, it’s a tremendous honor that we take really seriously. It’s a humbling moment every time you put on the jersey, and a good reminder and perspective to have on the pitch,” said Andi Sullivan to 90min.
The team has something to prove, and if anything else will showcase resilience throughout. The roster may change during every World Cup cycle, but the American mentality does not fade.