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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.”

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

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Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

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The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

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