Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pressure and expectation to perform at the highest possible standard within the USA camp during the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ is staggeringly high. Despite ultimately running out 3-1 winners against a tough and talented Australia in their first match at Canada 2015, the general consensus among the Stars and Stripes’ squad is that they must improve in a number of areas before taking on another tricky test in the form of Sweden on Friday.
The United States have said they have come to Canada with only one goal in mind: to claim their third Women’s World Cup after a heartbreaking loss in the Germany 2011 Final to Japan on penalties. As such, the Americans have said achieving anything less than lifting the Trophy in Vancouver on 5 July will be considered a disappointment.
Jill Ellis handed five players – four starters and one substitute – their Women’s World Cup debut on Monday, and she admitted that decision likely played a factor in the Americans’ sometimes-shaky performance, particularly in the first half against Australia. “We had some newer players on the field in a big, big moment,” Ellis explained in her post-match press conference. “I didn’t think we really played with a rhythm or a sense of calmness.
“We looked a bit nervous. The important thing is that we grow and that second half is something we can build upon.”
It is not just USA’s coach who is expecting improvement against Sweden. Two of those players who made their inaugural appearance at the Women’s World Cup for the Stars and Stripes also expressed their determination to build on their performance against Australia. Christen Press, who scored the crucial second goal for the Americans reflected on what could be better. “It was a slow start for us,” Press told FIFA.com earnestly. “Overall we want to be sharper. We want to be a harder team, more dangerous.
“In the second half we tried to push for it a bit more, but we still didn’t have our engines going as much as we’d like.”
Dreams decades in the making
However, despite the Americans’ desire to improve their form before meeting Sweden in their second match, Press also paused to acknowledge the support she and her team-mates received from the American fans at Winnipeg Stadium. “This whole journey has been so exciting,” she said proudly. “Being a part of this team is such an honour and it is so much fun every day.
“Having the fans and support we have is incredible. It’s unparalleled in women’s soccer and we appreciate it more than anybody knows.”
Fellow World Cup debutant, Meghan Klingenberg, who has also played with Press at Swedish side Tyreso for a season, described how Saturday’s match was a dream come true, even though it was agreed there was room for improvement in her performance. “I was talking to Christen before the game and we were saying that we’ve been waiting 26-and-a-half years for this,” Klingenberg said with a smile.
“It’s really a special experience and I’m glad we were able to get the jitters out. There are a couple of fixes we need to make. We’ll have it figured out for the next game.”
Sydney Leroux, yet another debutant and the one who set-up Press to score with a dazzling run down the left side before finding the No23 unmarked in the middle of the penalty area, mirrored her team-mates' comments: “It’s pretty amazing. We came out here and it felt like we were playing Kansas City or in Seattle. It was like we were at home. It’s really nice having that support.”
Leroux also looked ahead to their clash with the Swedes. “It’s going to be a very good game,” the FC Kansas City star said. “People didn’t label our group the group of death for nothing, so we’re just going to come out and play hard.”