It has been an exciting year for U.S. WNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher in regards to the teams she had the chance to play against. Since March 1, 2017, she’s faced FIFA-ranked No. 2 Germany, No. 3 France, No. 25 Russia, No. 9 Sweden, No. 11 Norway, and if she starts during the upcoming Tournament of Nations, she will add No. 7 Australia, No. 8 Brazil and No. 6 Japan to her repertoire.
Her five matches played so far this year have resulted in a 4-1-0 record, with the one loss being a 3-0 setback in the SheBelieves Cup finale against France on March 7. On the other hand, the four wins have all been shutouts, upping her career total to 10 in 15 caps.
For Naeher however, it’s always about the process. Whether that means shots saved or goals allowed, it all comes back to learning, improving and feeling more confident in her game.
“The best way for any player, but especially for goalkeepers, to grow and improve is to continue to learn from games,” she said. “There’s a separate piece that you can’t always train and that’s decision-making and distribution. You can look at video, but to play against high-level opponents and find out what works and what doesn’t is important. Unfortunately, sometimes our best learning experience comes from giving up goals or near goals. Sometimes when you’re playing a team that’s not as offensively threatening you might not even face a shot on goal. And that doesn’t present a quality learning opportunity.”
The upcoming Tournament of Nations could present three more challenges for Naeher in Australia, Brazil and Japan. While Naeher earned her first cap back in 2014 in Brasilia, capital of Brazil, she has never faced any of the three teams before.
But it is precisely that type of competition that Naeher relishes, especially at this point in the cycle when there is time to perfect your trade and see what works and what doesn’t, while facing some of the best strikers in the world in Lisa De Vana (Austraila) and Marta (Brazil), or taking on the country that brings so much history in Japan.
“For me and for us as a back line, and for us as a team, it’s important to play these kinds of games because Germany presents a different challenge than Brazil, and they present a different challenge than Australia, and Japan – they all play very different styles,” she said. “To continue to play against these kinds of teams it’s only going to help us improve as a team and be ready for the next World Cup, which at the end of the day is where our sights are set on.”