United States
USWNT wants to rediscover 'swagger' in friendlies vs. Colombia
United States

USWNT wants to rediscover 'swagger' in friendlies vs. Colombia

Published Oct. 25, 2023 5:11 p.m. ET

SANDY, Utah — The United States women's national team returns to action this week for the first in a pair of friendlies against Colombia during the fall international break. Up first in this West Coast swing for the two teams is a Thursday, Oct. 26 clash at America First Field in Sandy, Utah. 

Here are five things to watch ahead of a battle along the Wasatch Front:

Running it back

The USWNT roster for this window included plenty of holdovers from the same group who took to the field at the Women's World Cup this past summer, but there are a handful of new, yet familiar, faces who will be on the team sheet and ready for some action on Thursday night. 


Chief among them is center back Becky Sauerbrunn, who returns to national team duty for the first time since an April appearance against Ireland. A foot injury derailed the 38-year-old's dreams of appearing in a fourth consecutive World Cup over the summer but the defender with 216 caps to her name was excited to be back in the fold alongside the likes of fellow veterans Crystal Dunn, Emily Sonnett and Naomi Girma.  

"It's going to be really great for us to get back that confidence and that swagger that we are one of the best teams in the world — and that when teams come here to play us, they're going to hate it," said Sauerbrunn. "That's kind of the message I want Colombia to feel tomorrow." 

NWSL Portland Thorns teammate Sophia Smith, who was in Australia/New Zealand with the group but has been dealing with an MCL sprain suffered in August, indicated on Wednesday that she would be in line to play against Colombia but would have a minutes restriction as she works back toward full fitness.

Unique elements

While the second leg of what amounts to a double-header with Colombia will take place near the sunny shores of San Diego on Sunday, Thursday's game in Utah will harken back a bit to the conditions the USWNT experienced during a winter World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere. With a storm moving into the Salt Lake City region prior to the match, kickoff temperatures should hover around 40 degrees and add a bit of chilly ambiance that stands in a sharp contrast to the warmer surroundings for the two recent friendlies against South Africa. Wind gusts exceeding 15 miles per hour are also expected to play a factor with long balls given the stadium's location near the base of the Wasatch mountain range that runs along the region.  

The inclement weather won't put a damper on the outlook by the home side however, with the location recalling plenty of warm memories in the runup among several members of the USWNT who have played key matches at America First Field before.  

"It's so great to be back here," said forward Alex Morgan, who received her first USWNT cap at the venue during a March 2010 match that was punctuated by snow angel celebrations following a win. "I think it's actually where probably four or five players have gotten their first caps and potentially there's two more (coming)." 

New names, new caps

As much as fans will be interested in seeing the likes of Morgan, Sauerbraunn and Smith in action together again, the upcoming matches also offer up the chance to see the latest wave of talent fighting to be included in the squads ticketed to major tournaments in the coming years.

19-year-old San Diego Wave youngster Jaedyn Shaw has a chance to feature in one of the two games for the national team this week and has already been receiving a steady stream of advice during training from her club teammate Morgan on how to prepare for the moment when she first steps onto the pitch.  

Midfielder Olivia Moultrie, who was born in Utah and has been a part of the United States under-20 setup recently, is another highly touted addition who has been praised internally for her ability between lines and in helping spearhead the attack forward.  

"It's fair to think that anytime you're invited into camp, you should be ready to be called upon at any moment," USWNT interim coach Twila Kilgore noted when discussing the newest additions to the roster. "It's definitely something the younger players understand. But it's also important to understand that there's no expectations to do anything but compete every single day to be ready to participate."  

Angel City defender M.A. Vignola and new Chelsea forward Mia Fishel both earned their first caps with the national team in September but will be hoping to add to the total against Colombia amid some fierce competition for minutes. 

"It's going to be really an exciting and fun team to watch. I think they're coming in at a really great time," said Smith, who teamed up with Moultrie to win the NWSL title last season. "This environment is a really healthy environment and all the older players are really welcoming and ready to help in any way they can. It's kind of a changing period (for the national team) but they kind of get to slip in there and change with us." 

[Read more: Ready or not, the next generation of USWNT stars is here]

Colombian encore

Las Cafeteras were one of the biggest surprises at this year's Women's World Cup in Australia/New Zealand and are looking to continue an unprecedented run of success for the federation as they use both matches as a tune up ahead of several big tournaments. Colombia will represent CONMEBOL in the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup in late February and have already qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. 

Not everything is the same within the squad however as they will be guided by interim coach Angelo Marsiglia after longtime former manager Nelson Abadia resigned in August. Marsiglia took charge of the team during the World Cup for a group stage game while Abadia served a touchline ban and will no doubt be using the two friendlies in the United States as further proof he deserves to have the interim tag taken off his title going forward. 

The squad from Bogotá does have a few key absences during this window and will not be quite at full strength compared to the side which won Group H down under. Striker Catalina Usme, the all-time leading scorer on the national team who was responsible for them advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals, is the most noteworthy name not called up after she was injured with club side America de Cali. 

Despite that, Colombia remains one of the stiffest tests the USWNT will face in the coming months after ascending to No. 22 in the latest FIFA World Rankings. Breakout World Cup star Linda Caicedo (named to the Ballon d'Or shortlist last month) is one of the most dangerous young attackers in the game and has the pace and quickness to pose problems for the home side's veteran backline.  

"We hold high expectations for ourselves in these next two games and obviously Colombia did extremely well in the World Cup," added Morgan. "We've played them in many major tournaments previously so I think this is just another step in our journey and we know Colombia has also continued to be successful as they've climbed the FIFA rankings. They're a very physical team so we're not taking it for granted."

Sideline changes

In addition to Marsiglia taking charge on the Colombian sidelines, Thursday's friendly is expected to be the penultimate match in charge for the USWNT's interim boss Twila Kilgore. U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker has insisted publicly on hiring a full-time replacement for former manager Vlatko Andonovski by December and there's growing sentiment that the process will mean there's a new face barking directions to the group by the time the next set of games kickoff against China in two months.  

"I always share with the team when we come back into camps, the best part of coaching is actually being on the pitch being with the players," said Kilgore. "It's a dream anytime to wear this crest." 

Players have been effusive all week in their praise for the work Kilgore has done in such a short period following Andonovski's exit, noting how the relaxed environment has been felt on and off the pitch. 

"It did look like there was just a new energy with the team," said Smith while recounting watching the team's two wins against South Africa last window. "It was refreshing to watch as you saw smiles on everyone's face when they were playing. There was no stress, it was just fun."  

That's a feeling the team hopes to continue heading into Thursday matchup with Colombia.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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