Jitka Klimkova started to believe in Amanda McGlynn the first time she saw her. The goalkeeper made an immediate impression on the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team head coach from her first Youth National Team call-ups with the U-18 WNT at the launch of a new cycle in Sept. 2014.
Many players start their YNT careers in younger age groups, but even as a relative latecomer, McGlynn made her mark and has continued to find her way back into the fold. Now, she’s one of two goalkeepers on the USA’s World Cup qualifying roster at the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in Trinidad & Tobago.
“Her positivity and her belief pushed her,” Klimkova said. “I saw her with the U-18s. She was always happy, even though she didn’t play. I’m 100 percent sure in her mind, with her positivity, she thought ‘One day I will make it. One day I will do it.’ I started to believe in her, just seeing the way she believed in herself.”
That attitude has driven McGlynn to persist undeterred in the face of any challenge. At a position where confidence carries greater weight than any other on the field, her mindset has guided her to become one of the nation’s top Under-20 goalkeepers. In the fall of 2016, she left high school a year early to enroll at Virginia Tech and immediately stepped in to anchor the Hokies. After a spell trying to break into the U-20 pool’s top-two goalkeeper spots, she’s now in Trinidad with a World Cup berth on the line.
McGlynn’s first YNT appearance came towards the twilight of her youth club career. The call-up prepared her for another important call a few months later, this time from Virginia Tech head coach Charles “Chuggar” Adair. The team’s starting goalie had decided to transfer. Though she was just a high school junior, Adair asked if McGlynn wanted to join the Hokies the upcoming fall.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” McGlynn said. “He said ‘We need a goalkeeper.’ I had all my credits done, so it was perfect timing. I knew it was best for my development.”
The ACC stands out as one of college’ soccer’s top conferences. Heavyweights like North Carolina, Virginia and Notre Dame perennially contend for NCAA titles. The challenge of a grueling schedule against the nation’s best drew in McGlynn. Though it took a few knocks to get accustomed to the pace and physicality of ACC play, she took the starting goalkeeper reigns as an early-admit freshman and never looked back.
“It’s really hard to lead a team when you’re a year younger than the freshman class,” McGlynn said. “It was intimidating at first, but I was the backbone at my youth club too, I was used to that role. I was there for a purpose. I wanted to win, I wanted to help my team out in every possible way. I knew my job and they knew what I could do.”
The speed of National Team camps helped prep McGlynn for the rapid pace of top-flight college soccer. The relentless attacking talent of her ACC opponents gives plenty of opportunities to stop shots and she’s become confident in her ability to perform when called upon.
In her two years at Tech, McGlynn has started all but three matches, which she missed for a U-18 WNT tournament in Northern Ireland. Though colleges usually don’t release players during the season, Tech obliged and the international tournament proved invaluable to her development. McGlynn earned her first National Team start in the tournament’s final game, a 3-0 victory over the host.
With her junior season on the horizon, McGlynn hopes to guide the Hokies back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. As Tech continues to bring in new freshman classes, she’s tried to instill the same can-do spirit and work ethic in her teammates.
McGlynn’s attitude has also been infectious for the U-20s. Klimkova emphasizes the importance of a positive environment. She wants to see the players enjoy all they do with the team. McGlynn carries the banner on that front.
“She’s an absolutely happy person. I am a big believer in positive mentality and I saw it in her the first time,” Klimkova said. “These kind of players, for us as a team, are very important. They believe in themselves and they believe in our goals.”
The FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup will serve as the culmination of the U-20 cycle. McGlynn wants to help the USA get there. At her first camp, McGlynn set a goal to compete at qualifying and in the World Cup. Now, she has the opportunity in Trinidad to help the red, white and blue take that first step.
“It’s happening and it’s such a dream come true,” McGlynn said. “Coming into this cycle, with the U-18s and now the U-20s, getting here was a goal of mine. It’s so humbling to be a part of this team and I wouldn’t want to do anything else right now.”Read more
A year ago, Walker Zimmerman was just completing the initial week of his first U.S. Men’s National Team camp. A month of hard work eventually led to the rising center back earning his first MNT cap, going the full 90 minutes and looking comfortable in a 1-0 win against Jamaica.
“I think just realizing that you belong at this level is the main [takeaway],” he said after that game. “Training with all these amazing players in camp, performing well in camp and in the game, all you can do is put your best foot forward and put the effort in and the rest is up to the coaching staff.”
One metric for success in January Camp – perhaps the only one for first timers - is whether or not a player is included on future rosters. It’s not always easy to break into a well-established group of players, and in the case of last year especially one trying to qualify for the World Cup. But Zimmerman was one of a few players to earn another call, joining the MNT for its crucial set of World Cup Qualifying matches during the March window, and though he didn’t play in either game, his presence was instructive that perhaps we’d see him again in the future.
Arriving back in January Camp this year, Zimmerman is part of a group pushing the MNT forward after the team’s narrow miss on qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At 24, he’s at the exact median of age for the roster, but is no longer the fresh face in camp. Though he only has one cap, it’s one more than 15 of the 29 players on the roster.
“It’s definitely a different dynamic, not only for myself, but for the group,” Zimmerman told ussoccer.com. “There’s a lot of young guys here and I think it presents an opportunity for me to step up and become more of a leader and in a sense a veteran presence. My mentality has been pretty similar to last year. Come in, stay humble, work hard and embrace the grind of January Camp for all that it is.”
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The camp will also allow him to get an early adjustment to his new home, with FC Dallas trading the center back to MLS expansion side LAFC last month. Zimmerman said he was excited to get to work with former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley and be part of a new team with a fresh slate.
“I got to meet Bob last month and obviously he has a ton of experience and insight from being all over the world. He’s a manager I definitely respect and I know I can learn a lot from him and his staff. I’m sure the things I learn with my club can help me on the international level as well. There’s a lot of appeal right now with LAFC, and I definitely think there will be some carry-over and positive effects that can translate from LAFC to the National Team.”
Along with approaching January Camp the right way, the new LAFC center back has goals, beginning with trying to make the starting XI for the MNT’s end-of-camp friendly on January 28 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
From there, he wants consistency for himself on the international level.
“I don’t want to set any goal too low. I want to make it attainable, but something that I’m chasing on an individual level would be getting called in each and every camp. It’s about not only being in and out, but trying to become a staple here. I’m trying to take every opportunity seriously and knowing how much that can do for your career.”
And aside from the personal goals, Zimmerman wants to be part of the group that pushes the program past the disappointment of missing the World Cup and towards qualification for 2022.
“There’s a lot of motivation from a lot of players – myself included – to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We can become a team that sticks together and we can approach 2022 from this day right here. We don’t want to start getting serious come qualifying time. We want to set the tone now, set the tone for the group for years to come and hopefully just continue to create the culture and pride that we know we have in this country. I’m proud to play for this team each and every time.”Read more
During an afternoon off from January Camp training, WNT photographer Brad Smith and defenders Abby Dahlkemper and Taylor Smith, took a trip down to Manhattan Beach Pier to capture some cool shots against the stunning backdrop of a Southern California sunset.Read more