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Christen Press on USWNT: ‘It’s the program that let every person down’

Vlatko Andonovski gestures to Sophia Smith during the USWNT's World Cup Round of 16 loss to Sweden. (Ding Xu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team program failed the U.S. players at the 2023 World Cup, Christen Press said after the USWNT’s elimination at the hands of Sweden in the Round of 16.

While the team looked much improved against Sweden as compared to the group stage, the performance and the results still did not live up to the high standards for the USWNT, Press told Heath on their World Cup podcast “The RE-CAP Show.”

“Why was there any conversation about being OK with being in the Round of 16?” Press asked.

For Press, the mentality of the USWNT boils down to: “We win or we bust.” She remembers that being drilled into her head through her two World Cup title runs with the team in 2015 and 2019. And while she saw that mentality in the players, she didn’t see it “reflected in the way that we combined on the field.”

Heath pointed out the attention paid to the group-stage exits of Germany and Brazil, seemingly to soften the blow of the USWNT’s early exit.

“The fact that we were celebrating because Germany’s out, Brazil’s out, so maybe it’s OK if we go out because we can say, ‘Well, they went out,’ so we can kind of hide behind the shadow of, ‘The world’s catching up. The game’s changing.’ No, that doesn’t belong in the U.S. women’s national team. That talk, get rid of it,” she said. “Get rid of it, because I wouldn’t want to be a part of a program that settled for the Round of 16. I wasn’t a part of that program.

“I become passionate about this because I dedicated my whole life to that team since I was a kid. It’s awful, because when I see that team, I don’t see myself in that team. And I love those players to death. Those players are closer to me than anything in this world. And when I don’t see my players being set up to succeed, that breaks my heart.”

For Press, the system put in place for the team ahead of the World Cup led to the team’s downfall. And while players attempted to “smile and make it through it,” according to Press, the cracks still showed on the field. Conversations about the world catching up are true. But that doesn’t mean the USWNT can’t still thrive.

Press could see that belief in the players, even until the very end, because “that’s the heart and soul of this team,” according to Press.

“It’s win no matter what, it doesn’t matter if you’re saying something that you don’t believe if you’re faking it to making it,” she said. “I believe that every single player did and said every single thing with the most intention to win. And I think that it was the program that let every person down.”