US set to debut new look and a youthful style in their Gold Cup opener

February 20 – Twila Kilgore, interim head coach of the USA women’s team who kick off their campaign in the inaugural W Gold Cup tonight at the Dignity Health Stadium in Carson, Los Angeles says that the pressure of being favourites is a privilege.

Speaking before their opening game against the Dominican Republic, Kilgore said: “We want to take every moment step-by-step. As far as the group focus goes we are back together and working on our style of play…

“Pressure is a privilege, we welcome it and we feel we perform our best under it.”

The W Gold Cup marks the start of a busy seven months for the US women as they head from Concacaf’s blue riband championship to the SheBelieves Cup and then on to the Olympics in France.

The biggest pressure is to put a disappointing 2023 World Cup performance behind them and transition to a new generation of US women’s players that will continue the winning success of the past. A past that perhaps weighed a little too heavily in 2023.

Kilgore will lead them all the way to Paris where new coach Emma Hayes will take the lead having finished her contract at Chelsea.

Between now and then the scrutiny will be on her transitioning an older group of established players and dominant personalities to a younger group, many of whom are still taking baby steps in international football.

Communications between Kilgore and Hayes are open as they work to achieve this. “We are working together while doing two separate jobs,” said Kilgore. “I’m here handling day to day. We talk a lot and I expect there will be some interaction with the team during the tournament.”

The US do have the luxury of easing into the tournament against the Dominican Republic, the lowest ranked team in their group who qualified via the preliminary play-off round on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Guyana.

What the Dominican Republic lack in big name professional firepower, they make up for with a well drilled team who know their roles and are confident with the ball at their feet. Even so, anything less than an emphatic win for the US would be an upset.

“We know there are plenty of worthy opponents. We have an internal expectation that we will perform at our best,” said Kilgore.

The first match is seen as “setting the tone” for the rest of the tournament, which could be ominous for the Dominicans.

Setting that tone means getting the US team into a cohesive unit and defining their own patterns of play.

“We have some players from the middle of their seasons and some from pre-season. We need to make sure they are ready, fresh and peak for the tournament,” said Kilgore. “This is a group capable of a lot of different tactical flexibility.”

Naomi Girma, who has cemented herself into the US starting line-up after a standout 2023 season with the San Diego Wave, said: “We are focussed on what is happening right now. The energy and the vibe is excellent. This is the most time we have had in training together and looking forward to seeing us play.”

Such is the change that has been brought in throughout the squad, there are few players that would automatically get their names on the starting team sheet.

One last minute change that will bring a little bit of the old back to the new, is the recall of veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn who has a massive 217 caps for her country. She replaces Alana Cook who is out with a knee injury.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1720829535labto1720829535ofdlr1720829535owedi1720829535sni@n1720829535osloh1720829535cin.l1720829535uap1720829535