Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and several more veteran players found themselves left off the U.S. women’s national team roster for the last camp of 2023. But don’t count them out for the 2024 Olympics.

USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore talked with each veteran player about the decision to leave them off the roster, she said Monday.

“None of the players that were left off the roster are out of the mix,” Kilgore said. “We want to win and we want to make sure that we bring the best players with us to the Olympics, and this is just one step in making sure that we are making the right decisions moving forward.”

Players who were called into the October camp but not the December camp include Morgan, Dunn, Alyssa Naeher, Sofia Huerta, Becky Sauerbrunn, Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan.

“I did call all the players that were in the previous camp that aren’t on the roster and explain to them why,” Kilgore said. “Those conversations are between coach and player. But I will say that each and every one of them are professionals. They responded as professionals would. They understand that we’re watching everything they do, everything matters.”

The coaching staff knows what all these players “are capable of doing and what their value is,” Kilgore said. The USWNT sees in the upcoming friendlies against China the opportunity to evaluate a wider pool of players.

As the team continues to build toward next year’s Olympics, Kilgore and incoming head coach Emma Hayes wanted to get younger players some looks with the senior national team. But the veterans are still very much in the mix for the Olympics, she said.

“There’s equal opportunity moving forward to make this roster,” she added.

And as for why they called in the players that they did, including newcomers Jenna Nighswonger and Korbin Albert, their strong play at the club level contributed to the decision-making process.

“The leading factor was that these players have been performing really well in their home environments,” she said. “We’ve been consistently watching them and giving an opportunity to both challenge and support in our environment and be able to evaluate them.”

The final U.S. women’s national team roster of 2023 is here, with Rose Lavelle back in the fold for the first time since the World Cup after missing the last couple of camps with a lingering knee injury.

The 28-year-old midfielder missed all but four NWSL regular-season games but returned for the playoffs, helping lead OL Reign to the NWSL championship match. She also scored in the final for the Reign in their 2-1 loss to Gotham FC.

Despite the defeat, Lavelle looked as sharp as ever in the postseason, showcasing precisely what makes her such a huge asset both for the Reign and the USWNT. As the team looks to win its final two friendlies of the year against China, look for Lavelle to make an impact.

The USWNT will host China for two matches, the first on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m. ET, and the second on Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. ET.

Several veteran players are sidelined for the friendlies, including forward Alex Morgan, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Their absences, though, should not raise too many red flags, as resting veteran players for the final camp of the year is a standard practice for the USWNT.

Also absent from the December roster are defenders Crystal Dunn and Sofia Huerta and midfielders Ashley Sanchez and Andi Sullivan.

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will continue to lead the team in the stead of newly announced head coach Emma Hayes. This is the first roster to be dropped since the USWNT named Emma Hayes as its next head coach. But with Hayes continuing with Chelsea through the conclusion of the Women’s Super League season, Kilgore will remain at the helm until Hayes joins the USWNT in May 2024.

Catarina Macario remains sidelined, and the Chelsea midfielder is not expected to return for club or country before the end of the year, according to Hayes. But another Chelsea player in Mia Fishel is back on the roster, as is San Diego Wave forward Jaedyn Shaw. Both scored their first international goals in the USWNT’s most recent match in San Diego, a 3-0 win against Colombia at the end of October.

New faces on the roster include Korbin Albert, a 20-year-old midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, and Jenna Nighswonger, the NWSL Rookie of the Year from Gotham FC.

USWNT schedule: December 2023

  • Saturday, Dec. 2 — 3 p.m. ET (TNT, Universo, Peacock)
    • United States vs. China (DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
  • Tuesday, Dec. 5 — 8 p.m. ET (TruTV, Universo, Peacock)
    • United States vs. China (Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas)

USWNT roster: December 2023

Goalkeepers (3)

  • Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)
  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)

Defenders (7)

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave)
  • Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Emily Fox (North Carolina Courage)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave)
  • Casey Krueger (Chicago Red Stars
  • M.A. Vignola (Angel City FC)

Midfielders (8)

  • Korbin Albert (Paris Saint-Germain)
  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Olivia Moultrie (Portland Thorns)
  • Jenna Nighswonger (Gotham FC)
  • Emily Sonnett (OL Reign)

Forwards (8)

  • Mia Fishel (Chelsea)
  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Midge Purce (Gotham FC)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Angel City FC)
  • Lynn Williams (Gotham FC)

The U.S. women’s national team has been on the hunt for its next head coach.

From OL Reign’s Laura Harvey to Australia’s Tony Gustavsson, the rumor mill has been buzzing with names. But after a three-month search, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes seems primed to take the job.

Just Women’s Sports has been keeping track of the conversations surrounding the search for Vlatko Andonovski’s replacement. Check back here for the latest.

Nov. 4: Chelsea’s Emma Hayes in line for USWNT opening

Emma Hayes is set to become the next head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, according to multiple reports.

The 47-year-old from England is stepping down as Chelsea head coach at the end of the Women’s Super League season. While the Women’s Super League season does not end until May 2024, Hayes could join the USWNT during international breaks over the next seven months before stepping into the role full-time at the conclusion of the season, Backheeled reported.

Hayes joined Chelsea as head coach in 2012. In her 11 seasons with the club, not including the 2023-24 season, she has won six league titles, five FA Cups, two FA League Cups and one Community Shield.

Oct. 27: OL Reign’s Harvey, Australia’s Gustavsson and Juventus’ Montemurro top shortlist

U.S. Soccer has whittled down its candidate pool, with three names atop the shortlist, The Athletic reported Friday.

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey, Australia head coach Tony Gustavsson and Juventus women’s head coach Joe Montemurro are the leading contenders, though each comes with pros and cons.

Oct. 23: Becky Sauerbrunn: USWNT is ‘getting closer’ to hire

The 38-year-old defender spoke with reporters about the coaching search ahead of the USWNT’s October friendlies.

“I have been involved a little bit, but just kind of updated periodically about where they are in the process,” Sauerbrunn said. “I don’t know names of candidates or anything like that, but I was aware of when candidates were being flown in for interviews and that sort of thing.

“We’re getting close and I think that they’ve got a few candidates that they’re very excited about. But for the most part, it’s just been process and knowing where we are in the process.”

Sept. 29: Lorne Donaldson parts ways with Jamaica

Donaldson, who led Jamaica to the knockout round for the first time at the 2023 World Cup, is parting ways with the team, the Jamaica Football Federation announced Friday.

“After an extended discussion, both parties came to an agreement that the contract would not be renewed,” the JFF wrote on social media. Donaldson’s contract is set to expire on Sept. 30.

While Donaldson has not been linked to the USWNT opening, his name has popped up as an intriguing candidate. He coached USWNT star forwards Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson during their youth careers in Colorado.

Sept. 24: U.S. Soccer has ‘unbelievably diverse pool’ of candidates

U.S. Soccer has gathered “an unbelievably diversity pool exciting candidates” for the USWNT head coaching position, sporting director Matt Crocker said. He also reaffirmed that the federation is “on track — comfortably on track — to be in a position to have the head coach in place and ready to support the team from that early December camp.”

The diversity in the candidate pool extends to gender, ethnicity and experience levels, which puts the USWNT in position to find the best person for the job, Crocker said.

“I feel really excited about the coaches that we have that are interested in the role, which I think is a great indication of how highly this role is considered across the world game,” he said. “My job has been from the start: Go and find us the best candidate in the world.”

Crocker also is having discussions with USWNT players about what they want to see in the next head coach. He has talked to roughly half of the team so far, and he plans to speak with “every single player,” he said.

Sept. 12: U.S. Soccer lays out timeline for hire

U.S. Soccer is hoping to hire the next head coach of the USWNT by December, sporting director Matt Crocker told TNT.

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will remain in her position for the team’s September friendlies against South Africa and its October friendlies against Colombia.

“Twila will pick up the September and the October camps with the staff,” he said. “And you know, in an ideal world, we’d like to be in a position for the December camp to have the new head coach in place.”

For Crocker, the ability to make tactical changes on the fly is an important attribute for the next coach. He also wants the USWNT head coach to be a hands-on presence within U.S. Soccer, including at its Chicago headquarters.

Sept. 6: Mia Hamm offers decisive ‘no’ on USWNT job

The USWNT legend shut down any discussion of her name in connection with the opening, saying she does not have the “bandwidth” or “patience” for the job.

“I’m not the coaching type,” she told when asked if she would want to lead the team. Hamm joins several other players in turning the conversation toward more experienced coaching candidates.

Aug. 21: Carli Lloyd calls herself ‘definite no’ for USWNT opening

Several former USWNT players weighed in on their own credentials for the USWNT head coaching job.

Lloyd called herself “a definite no” given her lack of coaching licenses and experience. Brandi Chastain also said she is “not ready” this time around, but she said she would “love to lead this national team some time in the future.”

Former goalkeeper Briana Scurry did not throw her hat into the ring as a head coaching candidate. But when asked if she would be up for a position with U.S. Soccer, Scurry did not say no. “I would definitely consider it,” she told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

All of the above players also offered their take on what they want to see in the next head coach, as have current USWNT players, including Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Andi Sullivan.

“You need somebody, a leader, with a keen understanding of the system that is going to be played, how to implement the system, and which players are best for the system,” Heath said. “That doesn’t mean: Who are the best players? Who’s scoring the most goals? Who’s everyone talking about? It’s not that at all.”

Aug. 19: Casey Stoney remains ‘very happy’ with San Diego Wave

The San Diego Wave head coach joked about being floated as a candidate because of her gender amid a debate over whether the next USWNT head coach should be a woman. But she didn’t offer much beyond that, only saying that she is happy in her current role with the Wave.

“I think there’s people that will go into that role and do very well,” she said. “I’m very happy where I am. I’m at a club that’s building something very special. I’m invested in my players and I will stay invested in my players.”

Aug. 19: Australia’s Tony Gustavsson downplays rumors

A former USWNT assistant under Jill Ellis, Gustavsson led the Matildas to the 2023 World Cup semifinal in their home country. And in the immediate aftermath of the tournament, he seemed committed to the future of the Australia program, though that could change if the USWNT comes calling.

“I don’t see this as an end of a journey. I see it as the beginning of a journey,” he said after Australia’s loss to Sweden in the third-place match. “But I also want to be very clear that I want to see investment now. I really do. I want to see investment and I mean like real investment that we’re serious about what we do.”

Gustavsson is under contract with Football Australia until the end of Australia’s 2024 Olympics run, but Ellis tabbed him as a “strong candidate” for the USWNT opening.

Aug. 18: Sarina Wiegman has ‘no plans to leave’ England

The 53-year-old Netherlands native led England to the World Cup final, where the Lionesses lost 1-0 to Spain. When asked about the USWNT job, she reiterated the details of her current contract.

“I have a contract until 2025,” Wiegman said. “I’m really enjoying my job, and I have the impression that people still like me doing that job. I have no plans to leave.”

The English Football Association plans to reject any approaches from rival countries interested in the manager, CEO Mark Bullingham said.

Aug. 16: Lluís Cortés linked to USWNT opening

The former head coach of FC Barcelona Femení, he is stepping down as coach of the Ukrainian women’s national team at the end of August upon the expiration of his contract. He had been in conversations with some NWSL clubs, per The Athletic, but Relevo has reported that he also had been contacted by U.S. Soccer.

Aug. 7: Laura Harvey: USWNT head coach is ‘top job in the world’

Even before Andonovski’s resignation, the OL Reign head coach was asked about a potential USWNT opening. She was on the shortlist for the job in 2019 before Andonovski was selected as Ellis’ successor, and she worked as a head coach at the developmental levels while also serving as an assistant coach to the senior team in 2020 and 2021.

And while she called the OL Reign her priority, she also labeled the USWNT head coaching position as “probably the top job in the world.”

“I enjoyed my time at U.S. Soccer. That’s no doubt,” she said. “The U.S. women’s national team is probably the top job in the world, if not a top three job in the world. That’s just reality. And if my name is anywhere near it, then that’s an honor.”

The U.S. women’s national team kicked off their October friendly series on Thursday with a choppy 0-0 draw with 2023 World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia. The two-game series will likely serve as the final international break before U.S. Soccer names a permanent coach after the departure of Vlatko Andonovski in August.

If the USWNT’s September games against South Africa were the closing of one chapter in the team’s history, Thursday’s game suggested a reluctance to begin writing a new era. The balance between steady cohesion and progress from a disappointing 2023 World Cup could be tipping too far in one direction, which is both understandable and worrying with limited time to regroup for the 2024 Olympics.

Fans looking for greater freedom of movement from the team’s veterans were disappointed this week. And while the U.S. ably contained Colombia superstar Linda Caicedo, their emphasis on defense over exciting attacking interplay made them look like a team that’s treading water before their real boss arrives in December.

The U.S. walked away with a result on Thursday night in Utah, but they still don’t look like the world-beaters they’d like to become once again. So, where do the biggest issues lie?

Keeping the band together

The USWNT’s starting XI against Colombia was completely made up of players from the 2023 World Cup roster, with only two changes from the team’s Round of 16 match to replace the departed Julie Ertz and the recovering Sophia Smith. Despite bringing in new faces in September and October, interim manager Twila Kilgore seemed more interested in continuing to build chemistry with the veterans than taking the risk of implementing new personnel.

Eighteen-year-old midfielder Olivia Moultrie did not dress for the match, and teenage compatriot Jaedyn Shaw was only given three minutes in regulation in her USWNT debut. The team’s first substitute was 38-year-old Becky Sauerbrunn at halftime, followed by longtime bubble defender Casey Krueger.

Savannah DeMelo replaced Andi Sullivan in the second half, which gave the U.S. more of an attacking outlook for the rest of the match, but once again they took a pragmatic approach to player development. Defensive midfielder Sam Coffey again sat out the entirety of the match, and Ashley Sanchez has struggled to see the field after Andonovski dropped her down the depth chart at the World Cup.

There’s something to be said about letting this group of USWNT veterans find their way without Rapinoe and Ertz, and they have work to do before any prospective coach can even begin to blow up the current project. There were also positives: Lynn Williams and Trinity Rodman brought defensive tenacity and danger on the dribble from the wings, and the team’s defense-by-committee approach rendered Colombia’s attack largely inert in the second half.

But for a team that increasingly feels like it has nothing to lose by trying out a few new faces in the well-worn system, the U.S. played to get a result instead of allowing Colombia to force the next generation of players to sink or swim. The USWNT has acknowledged it will take bravery to keep up with the rest of the world, and the pragmatic approach left something to be desired.

Andonovski-esque tactics

For the fourth game in a row, the USWNT lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders and Lindsey Horan in the most attacking midfield role. Sullivan and Emily Sonnett again sat in a double-pivot, maintaining the strategy that helped the team look their best in their World Cup exit.

The double-pivot started as an antidote to many of the team’s problems at the end of the Andonovski era, but there’s mounting evidence that it is now their poison. The U.S. didn’t have many creative playmakers on the field at any given time, sitting off the ball in the first half to contain Colombia’s explosive attack and move in quick transition after forcing turnovers.

The approach almost paid off in the first half, when a quick turnover forced by Williams turned into a scoring chance for Alex Morgan, who sent it right to the goalkeeper. But it also meant that the USWNT spent much of the first half chasing the game. Disconnected passing through the midfield yielded poor turnovers. And while the defense recovered well to snuff out the Colombia attack, the U.S. was not fully in control of the game, outside of a period of momentum in the second half after the attacking-minded DeMelo came on for Sullivan.

In short, the USWNT’s performance felt reminiscent of the way they played under Andonovski. Kilgore has espoused the importance of building off the team’s performance against Sweden in the World Cup Round of 16, but that performance similarly resulted in a 0-0 draw. A number of the team’s creative players have been relegated to the bench, with an overemphasis on progressing the ball up the wings to send it into the penalty area.

Not unlike during the World Cup, better finishing would have papered over other issues, but U.S. players have not shaken off their inconsistency in front of goal. Morgan’s scoreless stretch for the USWNT has now reached a 10th game, punctuated by a penalty miss in the first half. A number of other players settled for shots into traffic from distance late in the game rather than remaining patient in possession.

There are logical reasons for many of the USWNT’s struggles: They haven’t had much of a break since the World Cup, they don’t have a permanent coach, and many of them are in the middle of playoffs with their club teams. But with the Gold Cup and the Olympics looming, a match without new ideas against a quality opponent feels like a wasted opportunity.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Alex Morgan missed her second penalty kick of the year for the U.S. women’s national team in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with Colombia.

The 34-year-old striker is now 4-for-7 all time from the spot for the U.S. women’s national team. Only one player has more missed penalty kicks for the USWNT: Carli Lloyd, who missed four of her 16 career attempts.

Even still, interim head coach Twila Kilgore said Thursday that she still trusts Morgan to be the one to step up to the spot.

“I trust Alex Morgan to take penalties and she’s not going to be satisfied with that,” she said. “We’re not satisfied with that. But I trust quite a few of our players in these moments. And when they’re called upon, they will do their best. And sometimes you make them and sometimes you miss them. The expectation is that they do execute, but I trust Alex.”

Overall, Kilgore wasn’t satisfied with the number of shots the USWNT created. The penalty kick represented one of the USWNT’s few strong chances throughout the match, and the team finished with just two shots on target.

“The issue was more that we weren’t moving the ball with enough pace in order to find the free player fast enough for [Colombia] not to recover,” Kilgore said, noting that she didn’t think changing the midfield trio of Lindsey Horan, Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett would help.

“I think that has to do with the pace of the ball coming in, information around, those sort of things,” she continued. “I think we just need to trust some of the things that we’re trying to do and play a little bit quicker. This team is a team that’s being challenged to make quicker decisions. And when we don’t hesitate and we do those things and we execute a little bit faster, we find more success.”

What went wrong for the U.S. women’s national team at the 2023 World Cup?

The shootout loss to Sweden in the Round of 16 marked the earliest ever World Cup exit for the USWNT. And the trouble started in the group stage, as the attack floundered against the Netherlands and Portugal.

Here’s what players have said about the USWNT’s struggles in the month since the World Cup elimination.

Lindsey Horan

The 29-year-old co-captain called out the lack of preparation for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. While Horan did not mention head coach Vlatko Andonovski by name, she did share what she wants to ask his successor. (Andonovski resigned after the Round of 16 exit.)

“(How do you plan on) getting the best out of your team without overcomplicating everything? Because I could talk about the last four-year cycle, and we don’t need to get into every single thing, but that’s not what we did,” she said. “We did not get the best out of every single individual. I don’t think everyone was fully prepared.”

The starting midfielder pointed to the game against Sweden, which proved to be the best of the tournament for the USWNT despite the shootout loss. The improvements seen on the pitch in that contest came from the players themselves, according to Horan.

“The game against Sweden, I don’t think we were necessarily set up to play the way that we played,” she said. “That was just us, finally coming together and being like, this is what we’re gonna do. And then it worked. Then it’s like, ‘OK, keep doing it.’ Could that have happened earlier? Maybe. It’s a really tough one.”

Andi Sullivan

Like Horan, Sullivan started every single World Cup match. And she saw a “disconnect” between the preparation and the execution, she said after the tournament.

“I like Vlatko. He’s a good coach. And I felt we were prepared for the games, but there was clearly a disconnect between our preparation and then what actually was executed in the game,” Sullivan said. “That’s not good enough for the U.S. women’s national team. So you have got to make changes, and hopefully we can get things right before the Olympics.”

Ashley Sanchez

Several USWNT players, including Sanchez, pointed to a disconnect not in the overall strategy but in the communication of their roles on the team.

For example, Sanchez discussed her usage with Andonovski ahead of the tournament. The 24-year-old midfielder had played in all eight USWNT matches in 2023 leading into the World Cup, averaging 50 minutes per match. But she did not receive any playing time across the USWNT’s four matches in Australia and New Zealand.

“Let’s just say the role (I was told I would fill) was not what I played,” she told the Washington Post.

Lynn Williams

Williams entered the World Cup ready to channel her “inner Christen Press” and be a “super seven” sub, based on how Andonovski had described her role. But she did not play in the first two matches against Vietnam or the Netherlands.

“On some level, it’s devastating,” she said. “Because you’re like, everybody’s getting into the game, and I’m not getting into the game.”

The 30-year-old forward adjusted her expectations, and she did end up playing in the next two matches. She played 83 minutes as a starter in the group-stage finale against Portugal, then subbed on for the final 55 minutes against Sweden.

“I just had to remind myself again, like, it’s not about you, it’s about the team,” Williams said. “So whatever the decisions were made, just support that decision and make your teammates the best teammates you can possibly be.”

Still, the World Cup elimination stings.

“I just think we were too talented to have the outcome that we did,” she said on Just Women’s Sports‘ “Snacks” podcast.

Megan Rapinoe

As the 38-year-old forward prepares for her final USWNT appearance on Sept. 24, she took a broader view of how the USWNT needs to adjust in an interview with The Atlantic.

“From an overall federation perspective, it is worth at least a deep-dive look at our structure. We haven’t done that well in youth tournaments,” she said. “I think a more consistent style and a more consistent philosophy from the younger teams all the way up through the senior teams is necessary.”

Sophia Smith

One of many players who posted reflections on Instagram after tournament, the 23-year-old forward called herself “heartbroken” after the World Cup loss.

“Thank you to those who believed and supported us throughout the tournament, and most importantly to those who still do and never stopped,” Smith wrote. “It wouldn’t be life without moments like this, and I know without a doubt we will be back and hungrier than ever.”

Midge Purce

Purce missed out on the World Cup with a quad injury, but she followed her friends from afar. And while she understands their disappointment, and offered some criticism of the team’s World Cup tactics, she also expressed her optimism for the future of the USWNT.

“I think it’s so interesting the way we look at World Cups and big tournaments as if that tournament is the end of the movie, there’s nothing else to be seen,” Purce said on Just Women’s Sports‘ “The 91st” podcast. “This is a long journey. It’s a long story. These kids (are) probably gonna have three or four World Cups under their belt. And it’s the next one that I think everyone should be terrified for.

“They have a chip on their shoulder. They have broken hearts, they’re hurting. It’s hard and they’re good. They’re better than what they got. They’ve put out better performances individually than what they’ve received. … So I just think that there’s so much more to be excited for on the landscape of U.S women’s soccer. It’s going to be incredible.”

The U.S. women’s national team faces an uncertain future as the program hunts for its next head coach, starting midfielder Andi Sullivan said Thursday.

Sullivan played every minute of the USWNT’s four matches at the 2023 World Cup, which ended in a disappointing Round of 16 exit for the defending champions. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski resigned after the elimination, starting the timer on the search for his successor with the 2024 Olympics just 11 months away.

“You need to get someone quickly in order to have as much time to prepare, but you also don’t want to rush and make a decision that may not be the best option, especially for the long term,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of work to do from now to the Olympics. And there’s a lot of work to do for years and years and years to come.

“So it depends on what strategy they’re going to take with that, and it’s all interesting stuff. So the future is uncertain, for all of us.”

Under Andonovski, Sullivan cemented herself as the starting defensive midfielder. But a new head coach could bring a new formation, a new style of play and new personnel preferences.

Still, the change at the head coaching position was an expected one after the USWNT underperformed in Australia and New Zealand. While the team felt prepared for its matches, that didn’t translate onto the pitch, backup goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury said.

“I like Vlatko. He’s a good coach. And I felt we were prepared for the games, but there was clearly a disconnect between our preparation and then what actually was executed in the game,” she said. “That’s not good enough for the U.S. women’s national team. So you have got to make changes, and hopefully we can get things right before the Olympics.”

Sullivan and Kingsbury are not the only players who haven spoken about the team’s World Cup loss and its plans for the future.

Their Washington Spirit teammate Ashley Sanchez, who made the World Cup roster but did not receive any playing time, has said that her role did not match what Andonovski had told her heading into the tournament.

“I felt for her because I know her skill level and ability and that she can really be a game changer,” Kingsbury said. “She handled it as well as she could have.”

Back in the NWSL, Sanchez showed off her game-changing ability, as she scored just 40 seconds into her return for Washington.

“Revenge mode was coming,” Spirit coach Mark Parsons said. “It came really quick, and I think that helps. Being involved, she’s now feeling good.”

Lindsey Horan, who served as the USWNT co-captain for the World Cup, has said not all players were not set up to succeed Down Under.

“We did not get the best out of every single individual,” she said. “I don’t think everyone was fully prepared. … Could I have done more to help those players? Because I don’t think we got the absolute best out of some of them because of the way that we were set up.”

In the aftermath of the U.S. women’s national team’s exit from the 2023 World Cup, players are sharing their reflections on their journeys.

And the same message comes through, over and over again, though captain Lindsey Horan spelled it out in the simplest terms: “We will grow. We will be back.”

From veterans Megan Rapinoe to Alex Morgan to newcomers Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman to every player in between, this is what the stars of the USWNT have to say in the aftermath of their World Cup elimination.

Megan Rapinoe

The 38-year-old forward leaves her fourth and final World Cup without a title, but she still expressed immense pride in her team in her first Instagram captain after the USWNT’s loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.

“This team is in special hands as I walk away, just like it always was, and always will be,” she wrote. “Because that is what this team is all about. We lay it all out on the line every single time.”

Alex Morgan

“This wound will not only heal but will serve as a defining moment in the history of USWNT — one we will grow and be stronger for,” the 34-year-old striker wrote.

While Morgan did not commit to her future with the national team in the immediate aftermath of the World Cup loss, she later told ESPN that she plans to stick around — at least for the near future.

Sophia Smith

A heartbroken Sophia Smith missed a would-be winning penalty kick in the fifth round of the shootout loss to Sweden.

“It wouldn’t be life without moments like this, and I know without a doubt we will be back and hungrier than ever,” the 23-year-old forward wrote.

Trinity Rodman

While the 21-year-old forward said she had “no words” to describe her World Cup experience, she did give her thanks “to everyone who helped me grow as a person, soccer player, and teammate during this journey of the unknown.”

Lynn Williams

The 30-year-old forward took the time to praise her team — and also to push back against bad-faith critics who questioned their dedication to their sport and their country.

“For our dedication and reasoning for wearing the crest to be questioned is unfathomable,” she wrote.

Alyssa Thompson

The 18-year-old forward did not play many minutes in her first World Cup, but the experience will stick with her forever.

“While the result was not what we had wanted, I learned so much about myself, this game, and life,” she wrote.

Lindsey Horan

Horan, along with Morgan, took on the mantle of the USWNT captaincy during the tournament. And despite the pressure and the disappointment of the 2023 tournament, the 29-year-old midfielder still expressed her unwavering love for the game.

“This is why we play right? To live in the biggest pressure moments. To play on the greatest stage. Playing for something you’ve dreamt of your entire life. Playing to inspire. Playing to bring joy. Playing in front of all of you,” she wrote. “This is why I love this game so much.”

Andi Sullivan

The 27-year-old midfielder shared a poem from Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which celebrates “the adventure of being alive.”

Savannah DeMelo

“It’s hard to put into words all the emotions that have been felt within the past few months, but I’m grateful for them all, the highs and even the lows,” the 25-year-old midfielder wrote.

Crystal Dunn

Although the game can be “so cruel,” the 31-year-old defender said, she remains “so proud of this group” for its fight and its unbreakable bond.

Kelley O’Hara

The 35-year-old defender, who won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles with the USWNT and also competed in the 2011 tournament, apologized for her role in the shootout loss to Sweden in her first Instagram post after the 2023 tournament. O’Hara missed her kick in the seventh round of the shootout, and then Lina Hurtig buried hers to seal the win for Sweden.

“I was asked to do one job at the final critical moment and I did not execute,” O’Hara wrote. “For that, I am beyond sorry.”

Sofia Huerta

To have the dream of a lifetime end “just like that” hurts, Huerta wrote. But 30-year-old defender plans “to stay focused on the good and to turn the losses into lessons.”

“What no one sees from the outside is how each player had to dig deep,” she wrote. “And while the end result was not what we had hoped for, what happened on the field in our last game was nothing short of inspiring.”

Alyssa Naeher

“I think a piece of my heart is still on that field in Melbourne,” Naeher wrote. The 35-year-old goalkeeper had the closest possible view of Sweden’s game-winning penalty kick, which Naeher batted and then grabbed from the air but not before it crossed the goal line by millimeters.

Aubrey Kingsbury

“Our World Cup ended just as we were getting started,” the 31-year-old backup goalkeeper wrote. The USWNT played its best game of the tournament in the shootout loss to Sweden in the Round of 16.

Casey Murphy

“I’m optimistic we will come back stronger,” the 27-year-old backup goalkeeper wrote. “But also defeated, sorry, and sad it’s over.”

The U.S. women’s national team advanced to the Round of 16 in auspicious fashion on Tuesday, finishing second in Group E following a 0-0 draw with tournament debutantes Portugal. The USWNT made it through the group stage undefeated, but scored only four goals in three games and compiled their lowest World Cup points total in team history after two consecutive draws.

The message after the match from head coach Vlatko Andonvoski and his players was about the importance of surviving and advancing, but the reigning World Champions now have a more difficult path to the World Cup final. They’ll likely face longtime rivals Sweden in their first knockout-round match, with more than a few adjustments needing to be made.

The good news for the U.S. is that they have yet to lose a match while underperforming, but they’re running out of time to fix glaring issues. Here are a few main takeaways from a sloppy, scoreless draw that nonetheless set the stage for the rest of the tournament.

Formational regression hangs players out to dry

No individual players for the USWNT looked sharp against Portugal, but they also were not aided by formational issues that have plagued the U.S. since the start of 2022. Since the Tokyo Olympics, Vlatko Andonovski has been trying to figure out the best combination of formation and personnel to round out the team’s midfield, especially during Julie Ertz’s prolonged absence.

In the middle stages of that key development year, the U.S. tried to slot Andi Sullivan into Ertz’s role in a 4-3-3 formation that prioritized pushing two midfielders forward to aid the attack. Against Concacaf competition in World Cup qualifying, there was logic behind this approach, as the U.S. was tasked with breaking down low-block defenses. Ultimately, the approach worked, even if the USWNT didn’t look like their best selves for much of that tournament.

But the lesson the USWNT should have learned from their tough slate of friendlies against England, Spain and Germany in the latter half of 2022 is that Sullivan needs a defensive partner against similarly balanced midfields. The U.S. adjusted into a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Lindsey Horan and sometimes Rose Lavelle helping occupy defensive space and distribute the ball through the spine of the midfield.

Strangely, in the World Cup group stage, the USWNT lined up in the former setup rather than the latter, despite in-game data showing that two of their opponents were unlikely to sit and wait for the U.S. to attack. The approach might have made some sense against Vietnam, but the Netherlands were clearly coming into the second match with a packed midfield as part of their three-back system. Portugal, likewise, had defensive players step forward to neutralize the U.S. midfield with relative ease.

Scouting abnormalities can be forgiven; it’s the other team’s job to surprise and create problems that the USWNT isn’t anticipating. But Andonovski’s reluctance to adjust to losing the numbers and possession battle in the midfield has placed more strain on individual players than necessary. Against the Netherlands, the U.S. found a second gear to make the system work for them. But against Portugal, the mental fatigue of holding an uneasy shape began to show as players tired.

The shape does not suit Sullivan, who has continued to start in the defensive midfield despite the team’s struggle to move the ball. On Tuesday, the USWNT was relegated to moving the ball in a horseshoe motion from the backline out to the wings, where defensive overloads quickly shifted possession back in Portugal’s favor. Players were so locked into the system that they couldn’t find their open teammates.

Andonovski might be saving a surprise shift to a 4-2-3-1 for the knockout rounds, but more deft adjustments in the group stage might have given the USWNT a better chance at finishing on top. He might also slot Ertz back into the defensive midfield, but with Alana Cook failing to see the field in the team’s first three games, the team’s cohesion is at risk.

Lynn Williams started in place of Trinity Rodman against Portugal, but the USWNT still lacked finishing ability. (Robin Alam/USSF/Getty Images)

Continued lack of trust in the bench

After calling for only one substitute against the Netherlands, Andonovski made two changes to his starting XI against Portugal, starting Lynn Williams in the frontline and Lavelle in the midfield. Williams made an immediate impact, but her relative freshness compared to Sophia Smith and Alex Morgan’s fatigue actually added to the lack of cohesion on the frontline, rather than alleviating it.

Lavelle similarly provided a spark but also paid for trying to bring an edge to the midfield, picking up her second yellow card of the tournament that will require her to sit out the USWNT’s Round of 16 match. The rest of the squad appeared to suffer for lack of rest, with both physical and mental fatigue playing a role in the team’s tepid approach to ball progression and chance creation.

When Andonovski compiled this World Cup roster, he had a clear idea of his starters, his depth players and his specialists. After three games, it seems clear his trust mostly lies with his set starters, as those on the bench continue to fight for minutes. Megan Rapinoe made a substitution appearance against Portugal, but her defensive limitations at this stage in her career makes it difficult to start her and relieve some of the pressure on Smith. Sofia Huerta has not gotten much time on the field either, despite being called in to unlock tight, low-scoring games with her service — something the U.S. has struggled with in all three matches.

Instead, Andonovski brought on Emily Sonnett in a 5-4-1 formational shift that saw the U.S. concede more chances in second-half stoppage time than in the rest of the match. He has now locked the USWNT into a process of their own making, with starters who are tiring and substitutes who have not gotten enough World Cup minutes to step in and feel comfortable. It’s the same dilemma that led to Savannah DeMelo getting two quick World Cup starts after just her first cap with the team.

The approach may have been forgiven if the team had gotten all three points against the Netherlands, allowing for heavy rotation in their third match. But in a tournament decided by the finest of margins, the U.S. has now perhaps pushed too hard for results that never came, making the climb ahead of them even steeper.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

The U.S. women’s national team has named its 23-player roster for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer. From 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe — a two-time World Cup champion with the USWNT — to 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, the players vary in age and international soccer experience.

They also hail from different regions of the country. A team-leading eight players are natives of California, while two players each come from New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, Georgia and Colorado.

Find out which state every U.S. player calls home with our interactive map below.