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USWNT seeks ‘consistency’ and ‘connection’ ahead of 2024 Olympics

Jaedyn Shaw controls the ball against Savannah DeMelo and Olivia Moultrie during a USWNT training session on Oct. 25. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images for USSF)

The U.S. women’s national team has a short amount of time to prepare for the 2024 Olympics – just nine months – and one thing that players have said they know will help is a connection in the locker room.

Speaking after Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Colombia, veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn has noticed is that the team is at its most successful when everyone is “so connected.”

“You feel like you’ve got options and availability,” she said.

On the flip side, the team struggles when players feel “isolated and alone” on the field.

“When we struggle is when everyone feels isolated and alone and they basically have to pass on the isolation to another player,” she said. “And that player has to do something amazing to break the pressure.”

Instead, she said, players should “be able to use one another to break the pressure.”

Despite the scoreless draw with Colombia, players have been feeling a bit more freedom to find those connections, as witnessed in the previous two matches against South Africa — a 2-0 win and a 3-0 win.

Speaking on the latest episode of “Snacks,” midfielder Savannah DeMelo said the group got comfortable around one another in the September friendlies. But both DeMelo and Lynn Williams agreed that more freedom in play will help grow those connections.

“I just thought in the last two games [against South Africa] — I mean, I only played in the second game — but I just felt like we all played more free, and we had a structure,” DeMelo said. “But then Twila allowed us to do what makes us special within that structure. I even think of you, Lynn — you were able to do what you do that makes you special. And I think it just allowed us to play more freely and confidently.

“So I think moving forward, just allowing us to do that and have consistency, whether it’s who we play with, the training, I think that is going to help us just because of the tight turnaround.”

Williams agreed, noting that there had been more “communication on the field” because players felt like they could go back to doing what makes them great.

“There was so much more communication on the field of like, ‘What can you do to help me?’ ‘How can we solve this problem?’” Williams said. “I don’t know if it was happening at the World Cup as much. I just felt like it was way more free.”

And as the team finds its next head coach and finds some stability, that will hopefully get better and players will continue to find those connections.

“I think at times we feel like we’re on an island,” Sauerbrunn said. “When we’re at our best, there’s people around, we’re bopping, we’re moving. And we can do the isolations when we need because we have amazing outside attacking players and central players. But I really think the connection will bring us back to the success that we’ve had.”