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 only lost once in their last 62 games, a streak that goes back to July 2017.
– Since 2015, they have been number 1 in the world by FIFA except for two months.
– In the last 18 games that started with the 2019 World Cup final, the USA have beaten their opponents 61-4.
– The Americans have given up a goal in the last eleven games – and haven’t even allowed a shot on goal in the last two games.
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 working to become 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 round-up with the team, the players agreed,” said Andonovski, who plans to add a new group of players in Friday’s rematch against Colombia in Orlando in 26th place Line up, Fla. “We all know we can get better and we all agree and are ready to do whatever we can to get better.
“It just speaks about the mentality of the team. We don’t look at our opponents and we leave with the mindset, just doing enough to win the game. We just look at ourselves and go with the attitude [of] “What does it take to be the best version of ourselves?” And that is our main motivation. “
Andonovski helped with this motivation. Although the Americans under Jill Ellis, the most successful coach in US history, won two world championships in 5 1/2 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 who is unlikely to play on Friday is former UCLA striker Mallory Pugh, who missed a lot 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. “As 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 the standard we have to meet in every single game, no matter who the opponent is. And we try to be great and elitist every time we step on the field. We don’t take that for granted.”
(c) 2021 the Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Copyright 2021 Tribune Content Agency.