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USWNT head coach Emma Hayes meets with players for first time

Emma Hayes met with USWNT players and staff ahead of the December friendlies against China. (Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Emma Hayes traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to meet with U.S. women’s national team players and staff in person, marking the first time that she’s done so since being announced as the next head coach.

While Hayes will not move fully into her role until the conclusion of Chelsea’s season in May, she will be working closely with interim head coach Twila Kilgore until then.

The USWNT is set to face China on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale and on Dec. 5 in Frisco, Texas, for its matches of 2023. Hayes will not be staying in the U.S. to watch the games, but players feel “really excited” after meeting with the new coach, defender Naomi Girma told The Athletic.

“We feel like we have our direction,” Girma said Tuesday. “We know what we’re building towards now, and it’s all very clear. I think overall we’re just excited to hit the ground running with her.”

Lindsey Horan agreed with that sentiment, even if the team has to wait six months before Hayes becomes the full-time head coach.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”