Tobin Heath and Christen Press became the latest to praise the U.S. women’s national team for its impending hire of Emma Hayes.
While Hayes’ role as the next USWNT coach is not yet official, her departure from Chelsea is, with the Women’s Super League club announcing that she will exit at the end of the 2023-24 season. U.S. Soccer’s board of directors also has reportedly approved the hire, with contract details still being worked out.
On Friday, Hayes said in a news conference that the “time is right” to leave Chelsea. She is in her 12th season, and she has led the club to six league titles.
“I’ve been in the post for 12 years, and I’ve dedicated my life to this place,” Hayes said. “I drive four hours to this place six days a week for 12 years. I have a 5-year-old that needs more of his mummy, for sure. That’s important. Family matters. I think I’ve dedicated as much as I possibly can to this football club. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
But she wouldn’t comment on the reports linking her to the USWNT.
“I’ve got a team to focus on,” she said. “I’ve got games to win.”
On the latest episode of “The RE-CAP Show,” though, USWNT forwards Press and Heath had no qualms about discussing the expected hire. Heath called the USWNT’s choice of the Chelsea manager a “no-brainer.”
“When I saw this announcement I thought to myself, ‘Great choice. No-brainer,’” she said. “Did I think she was available? No. So then I instantly kind of became a little confused as to the timing of when she would come. But when I think about Emma Hayes and the impact she’s had on the women’s game, and the success that she’s had at Chelsea, she’s a winner.”
In her 12 years at Chelsea, Hayes developed a “winning culture,” according to Heath, bringing in players that fit her system. Her tenure includes six Women’s Super League titles, including the most recent one in May of this year, which capped off a run of four straight. She also has led the team to five FA Cup titles, including a third straight in 2023.
Heath, who has played in the WSL for Manchester United and Arsenal, has heard from other players that Hayes is “a real coach that advocates for her players, advocates for the game.”
“She is unashamed to want to be the best coach in the world. Coach the best team in the world,” Heath continued. “She thinks she’s up for the job. She’s not afraid of the task. We know what the task is of the U.S. women’s national team. We know what the expectation is. And I think having a coach that’s coming in that already you get the sense has the confidence to take this team where it is and put it back where the team belongs.”
Press also pointed out that Hayes is “used to that pressure,” which is important given the immense pressure placed upon the USWNT head coach. But the co-hosts also questioned whether the hire will affect the USWNT’s Olympic aspirations, as Hayes will remain with Chelsea through May 2024.
“I think, ultimately, we’re going to be sacrificing an Olympics,” Heath said. “Let’s just assume it’s a wash, no Olympics for this team, and we’re going to be setting our sights on the next World Cup.
“And that’s really hard, I think, for any U.S. women’s national team fan or even player to grapple with, is this idea that this is a long-term play. Because that’s what it looks like. She doesn’t have the time to go into an Olympics and win.
“Could the U.S. women’s national team still win an Olympics with absolutely no coaching? Yeah, Of course. And also the Olympics isn’t as big of a deal as the World Cup. It’s not as strong of a competition for a lot of reasons. But ultimately, it’s not a good signal for the short-term development of course correcting what I think is a team that is really lost right now.”
Press agreed with Heath’s assessment, even as she struggled to wrap her head around it.
“I can’t wrap my mind around us going into an Olympics not to win,” Press said. “And to just say that’s a wash, like, I have a really hard time with that. I think it goes against the culture of the U.S. women’s national team. And I think it’s very confusing as a player to imagine a world where U.S. Soccer is thinking [that].”