US midfielder Kristie Mewis (right) celebrates with defender Margaret Purce (left) after scoring a goal in a win against Colombia in an international friendly on Monday. (John Raoux / Associated Press)
Although the women’s national team will face Colombia for the second time in five days on Friday, the US won’t actually play the Colombians.
Americans are so good and so deep that most days only they can beat them. And this internal competition couldn’t be tougher.
“We keep our own standards. Every single game and every single training session, ”said defender Ali Krieger. “It’s really important that we focus on ourselves and set this high standard for one another.”
How high? Look at the numbers:
The two-time reigning world champion has lost only once in the last 62 games, a streak that goes back to July 2017.
In the last 18 games that started with the 2019 World Cup final, the USA have beaten their opponents 61-4.
Only the Harlem Globetrotters win more consistently. But with this dominance comes a different pressure, because winning is no longer enough.
“When you’ve been number 1 in the world for a while and you’ve been winning championships, it’s difficult to stay at the top,” said veteran striker Carli Lloyd. “It’s pretty easy to get there. But staying at the top every year – and not just staying at the top but constantly striving to be better than us – is incredibly difficult every year.
“I’ve been part of this team for 16 years now and it’s just a mindset.”
Whether the team is successful in a particular game often takes place in other places than on the scoreboard. To the casual observer, Monday’s 4-0 win against Colombia looked like a loss. For Vlatko Andonovski, however, it was an imperfect effort.
“I don’t think that was our best performance. And in our summary with the team, the players agreed, “said Andonovski, who wants to turn a new group of players through his line-up in Friday’s rematch against Colombia in Orlando, Florida in 26th place.” We all know we do can get better and we are all united and ready to do whatever we can to get better.
The story goes on
“It’s all about the mentality of the team. We don’t look at the opponent and act with the mindset that we are doing enough to win the game. We just look at each other and go with the mindset [of] “What does it take to be the best version of ourselves?” And that is our main motivation. “
Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda (below) saves when US defender Margaret Purce jumps over her in the US women’s national team win on Monday. (John Raoux / Associated Press)
Andonovski helped with this motivation. Although the Americans under Jill Ellis, the most successful coach in US history, won two world championships in 5½ years, Krieger said having a new voice was “a breath of fresh air”. And, if anything, Andonovski was arguably better, winning his first 12 games, the best start for a US coach.
“I’ve learned a lot at my age and with my experience,” said the 36-year-old warrior, who is starting her 13th year in the national team. “It was exciting to go out in these sessions and play and do exercises that are new and fresh.
“I also have this feeling of trust from him. He strengthens every single player and trusts every single player. “
One player likely not to play on Friday is former UCLA striker Mallory Pugh, who missed much of last year with a hip injury and was injured again at this month’s training camp. Regardless of who enters the field, Krieger said the approach won’t change.
“We were talking about cleaning up a few things from the last game,” she said. “One of the top five teams, they will punish you for some of these mistakes. That is why we hold each other accountable.
“We know what standard we have to meet in every single game, no matter who the opponent is. And we try to strive to be great and elitist every time we step on the field. We don’t take that for granted. “
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.