Lindsey Horan gave Savannah DeMelo a much-needed confidence boost ahead of her first career start for the U.S. women’s national team — which happened to come at the 2023 World Cup.
Speaking on the latest episode of Just Women’s Sports’ “Snacks” podcast, DeMelo described her World Cup call-up itself as a surprise. She had not received any prior call-ups in 2023, and she made her first appearance with the USWNT in the send-off match ahead of the tournament.
The 25-year-old midfielder also detailed nerves she felt upon learning that she would be starting in her first-ever USWNT game in the tournament opener against Vietnam. She played 27 minutes as a substitute during the send-off match against Wales, and she wasn’t a part of the starting team during a scrimmage against the Philippines.
“We had a day off. And then the next training session after that, (then-head coach Vlatko Andonovksi) had come up to me,” she said. “He was like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna put you with the starting group. And I was like, ‘Oh, for what reason?’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I’m gonna start you against Vietnam.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, OK.’”
As soon as she joined the starting team, Horan – who served as a co-captain at the World Cup – helped her settle her nerves.
“I remember as soon as I went on that team, Lindsey came up to me, and she looked at me and was like, ‘You totally deserve this. Don’t think anything of it.’ And that gave me so much confidence,” she said. “Just like, I respect her so much as a player and a person. So her saying that to me really settled my nerves. … Then we had, like, three more training sessions and then it was the game.”
Still, DeMelo doesn’t think “anything could prepare me” for her first USWNT start – let alone at the World Cup. So she took it “day by day.”
“The more I was becoming familiar with our formation and set pieces, it gave me more confidence, like, ‘OK, I’m prepared for this.’ Because I think when I first came to camp, I knew nothing, like the way we pressed, our set pieces are so detail-oriented,” she said. “So I think I was a little shocked. But then once I became more knowledgeable in the system and what we do, I felt a lot more confident mentally too.”