U.S. WNT defender Taylor Smith has only three caps under her belt and is currently participating in her third senior team camp. She made her WNT debut against Australia on July 27 in Seattle at the 2017 Tournament of Nations, starting and playing 76 minutes.
She went on to start against Brazil three days later and then came in as a first half substitute against Japan on Aug. 3 in Carson, California. Against Japan, Smith had two assists to set up both Mallory Pugh and Alex Morgan, earning the first points of her international career.
“Coming into my first WNT camp (in January of 2017), I had no expectations,” Smith said. “It was crazy to be playing beside Becky [Sauerbrunn] and so many others. Every day here I try to keep an open mind and learn as much as I can from the players on and off the field. I try to do every little thing that I can, from recovery to working on my mental game to be the best player that I can be.”
While there is still a learning curve for Smith to adapt to the WNT environment, her performance at the club level with the North Carolina Courage has been strong, which of course factored into U.S. head coach Jill Ellis calling her up again for the September New Zealand matches, alongside Courage teammates Samantha Mewis, Lynn Williams and Abby Dahlkemper.
“This year [at North Carolina] we all raised our expectations for ourselves,” Smith said. “We have a lot of chemistry and hold each other accountable every day at training to help each other get better. We’ve created this pretty cool culture that has really helped me grow and become a better player. It’s awesome having Sam, Lynn and Abby here. Having them here makes me feel more comfortable and they tell me to relax and play just like I do at the club.”
Abby Dahlkemper, Taylor Smith and Lynn Williams
With friends by her side, Smith is relishing the opportunity to find rhythm and her role within this the U.S. team. As the two matches against New Zealand approach, she is hoping to prove that she belongs on the 18-player game day roster and that her performance will show that she deserves future call-ups in this highly competitive group.
“When I got my first assist [against Japan], that was something that I feel like I needed to reassure me about being in this environment,” she said. “Now, I take it all day-by-day and I’m just trying to mesh well with this team and adapt to the culture.”
The U.S. WNT resumes its 2017 schedule on Friday, Sept. 15 (8 p.m. MT; ESPN2) when it takes on New Zealand at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado; and again on Sept. 19 (7:30 p.m. ET; FS1) when it plays the second of the two-game series at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio.Read more
Excellent opponents and exciting games, that was the 2017 Tournament of Nations as U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis continued her evaluation of players as she goes through the process of building the team towards 2019.
Some notables from the inaugural tournament:
- Defender Taylor Smith earned her first three caps and two starts.
- She picked up her first two assists against Japan in the finale.
- Megan Rapinoe earned her first 90-minute game since 2015, and her first start since Aug. 9, 2016.
- She also scored her first WNT goals since the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
- Ellis gave minutes to 18 of the 20 field players on the roster.
- Alyssa Naeher played every minute of all three games in goal for the USA.
- Allie Long started at defensive midfielder against Australia, followed by Becky Sauerbrunn playing in that slot against Brazil, and then Julie Ertz against Japan.
- Ellis used all six of her substitutions in all three matches.
- The USA had six different scorers during the tournament: Samantha Mewis, Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh and Julie Ertz.
- The USA scored three goals in nine minutes during a comeback to defeat Brazil 4-3.
- Kelley O’Hara played in her 99th game for the USA and could become the 36th American fe
male player to reach 100 caps.
Megan Rapinoe scored two goals and had two assists during the 2017 Tournament of Nations.
The USA finished the tournament in second place following a loss to Australia, a thrilling 4-3 comeback win against Brazil, and a 3-0 shutout victory against Japan. While Australia played excellent attacking soccer in all three games and lifted the trophy with three victories, including its first against the USA, what the U.S. did achieve was the continuing evolution of the team and the deepening of the player pool. Now, Ellis is ready to take the next steps.
“Now it’s about building connections,” Ellis said after the Japan match. “I know what I’ve put the players through in terms of making it a challenge and playing them in different positions, playing them with different people. I get that. It’s a long run up to 2019 but I want to do that now. Look at Australia, they are a seasoned team because they’ve been together so long that they know each other so well. That’s the next step in our process; establishing our starting lineup and working on our chemistry and connections and our team play.”
The U.S. WNT is set to play six more games this year in the fall against three opponents to wrap up 2017. It will face New Zealand twice in September, another pair of soon-to-be-announced friendlies in October, and will end its 2017 campaign with two matches against Canada, on Nov. 9 in Vancouver, and on Nov. 12 in a U.S. venue which will also be announced soon.Read more
The U.S. Women’s National Team claimed its second consecutive win to clinch second place at the 2017 Tournament of Nations with a dominant 3-0 win against Japan in front of 23,161 fans at StubHub Center.Read more