United States
Alyssa Naeher's 'nerves of steel' have helped the USWNT get back to its winning ways
United States

Alyssa Naeher's 'nerves of steel' have helped the USWNT get back to its winning ways

Published Apr. 10, 2024 1:50 a.m. ET

COLUMBUS, OhioDo you love PKs?

That was the first question Alyssa Naeher was asked when walking off the field, where she was once again the hero in a United States women's national team penalty shootout.

"When you come out on top," Naeher said, laughing, "it's great."

Naeher had three massive saves and also converted from the spot in the USWNT's triumph over Canada in the SheBelieves Cup final on Tuesday night. This is now, remarkably, the second time in 35 days that she's done this and is the first goalkeeper in program history to do so. 


"I mean, incredible," interim head coach Twila Kilgore said with a chuckle. "Is it not incredible? I mean, nerves of steel."

Remember eight months ago, when Naeher described losing in the World Cup "by a millimeter?" She was in utter disbelief after the USWNT's heartbreaking loss to Sweden in a penalty shootout that eliminated them in the round of 16, the team's earliest exit in history. Naeher insisted at the time that she saved Lina Hurtig's PK, but the ball bounced over the line before she could bat it away, and VAR confirmed as much.

If that's haunted the veteran goalkeeper, she's certainly done wonders to rid the demons. First in the Concacaf W Gold Cup semifinal last month, and again to win the team's record seventh SheBelieves Cup trophy on Tuesday. Both times were against rival Canada.

"It's something that we just put a lot of preparation into," Naeher said. "And the more you do it, the more confident that [you are]. We've got 23 players that can step up and be comfortable taking a shot at any moment. And that's what it takes, every single person being ready."

Naeher is known for her fierce stoicism. Not once did she give as much as a fist pump after saving or scoring a PK. After saving Jade Rose's shot in the third round, Naeher took the ball, walked to the spot as the USWNT's designated third shooter, and calmly drilled her PK into the back of the net. Then she returned to goal and saved Chloe Lasse's shot in the fourth round. Meanwhile, the 19,049 rowdy fans in attendance were losing their minds because they've seen this before.

"Alyssa is just so even-keeled," Alex Morgan said. "She's someone that shows no emotion. And we always talk about celebrating our goals, penalties and all. And she's just Steady Eddy. 

"And I know that there's nerves under [there] somewhere, but she's never going to show them and she's someone that continues to show up in big moments and I love playing with her and having her on my team."

The only time it sounded like Naeher might have lightened the mood a little was when she said she and Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan joked about having just done this five weeks ago. While there are always mind games involved in PKs, they're especially prevalent among teams that know each other as well as the U.S. and Canada do. Not only have they played so many times in high-stakes international matches, but players on both sides either play together or against each other regularly in the NWSL and abroad.

But Naeher wasn't thinking about the most recent shootout, or the one from the World Cup.

"I approach each one of them individually and separately," Naeher said. "You want to win. You want to come out on top. And I think my approach has always been to stay in the moment, in one tournament, one opportunity at a time. Tonight's shootout was just about tonight's shootout."

In the end, Emily Fox, taking her first ever PK in a shootout as a professional, converted the decisive blow. But it was Naeher's stone-cold clutchness that clinched another trophy for the U.S.

"I wasn't nervous," Kilgore said. "I also knew how I was going to feel about the game and it wasn't going to come down to one moment. And I had a pretty good feeling that she was going to deliver. But it's just incredible to watch and be here live and know how prepared she is. She is prepared for every PK that she could possibly face."

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

FOLLOW Follow your favorites to personalize your FOX Sports experience
Alyssa Naeher
United States
SheBelieves Cup

Get more from United States Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more