Tierna Davidson tried her best to keep her cool. The level-headed 19-year-old defender is not one to get overly excited, but now it took all she had to remain calm. U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Jill Ellis had just revealed the starting line-up for the USA’s January 21 friendly against Denmark.
Right there, projected on the screen during the team meeting was the formation, and her name, “Davidson” was right there between WNT veteran Kelley O’Hara and 2017 NWSL Defender of the Year Abby Dahlkemper.
“The day before the game, we had our scouting report meeting. Everyone was reading the lineup quietly and I was just trying to keep it in. Like ‘Oh my god, that’s my last name up there!’” Davidson said. “I tried to let it sink in. ‘You’re going to play, you’re going to be on a field with thousands of fans in the stands. You’re going be on a field with people you’ve looked up to for years and years.”
One of Davidson’s ultimate goals was to earn her first cap. Her dream was set to become a reality under the sunny San Diego skies in the same stadium that featured Mallory Pugh’s debut two years earlier.
January 2018 has seen Davidson rise to the occasion. Her performance with the WNT during the team’s annual January training camp impressed enough to alter her trajectory. What was supposed to be a one-week stay with the WNT before joining the Under-20 Women’s National Team for the CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship turned into a full stay at the senior team camp.
After the first few training sessions in Los Angeles, Ellis pulled Davidson aside. If she continued to play well in practice, Ellis would keep her in camp for a scrimmage the day before the USA headed down to San Diego. If she played well there, she would keep Davidson for the match against Denmark.
“That was the best news that I could hear,” Davidson said. “It was really just an unbelievable feeling. I have this opportunity, and if I take it and run with it, I might be able to stay for the game. At that point, it was just head down, let’s work. Show that you’re deserving of being here.”
And so her flight from January Camp to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago for U-20 World Cup qualifying was pushed back as she proved herself worthy of that first cap. Davidson ended up playing all 90 minutes in the 5-1 win against Denmark, earning her first career WNT assist on Julie Ertz’ game-winning goal. She had a solid, if not excellent, game in the center of the U.S. defense alongside the 24-year-old Dahlkemper, who grew up in the same hometown (Menlo Park, Calif.) and attended the same high school (Sacred Heart Prep), even though the duo had never met before a WNT training camp earlier this year.
The day after her dream debut, she finally made it to Trinidad. Davidson is now sharing the lessons learned with her U-20 teammates as they aim for a fifth-straight CONCACAF Championship.
“Tierna is a huge player for the U-20 team,” U-20 WNT head coach Jitka Klimkova said. “Experience with the WNT is absolutely something special. If you can play and can compete at the level of professionals, and then come to us and inspire everyone to compete the same way, that can be something absolutely special. She can raise the level of everyone around her.”
Davidson was a member of the U.S. team at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Women’s Championship. At just 17, she played all but 14 minutes of the tournament and earned Best XI honors. She unfortunately had to withdraw from consideration for the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup due to academic commitments, but her Youth National Team experience has served her extremely well in her rise through the ranks. She helped Stanford to the NCAA Championship last fall before finally earning her first cap last week.
Several players on the current U-20 roster have earned the opportunity to train with the senior squad, but Davidson is the first to be capped. Despite several spells training with the U.S. team, the nerves were still palpable when she stepped on the field in San Diego.
“I was thinking ‘Can we please just start this game?’” Davidson said. “I was completely nervous for every moment up until the start of the game. Once you start the game, it’s just a game. I’ve played in many games before, this might be at a different level, but this is just a game. I know how to do this. Take a deep breath. Connect your first pass, connect your second pass. It was just winning each moment, doing my role as best I could.”
As she stayed with the senior team, the U-20s battled through their first two group stage matches. Klimkova opted to save a roster spot for Davidson despite her early-tournament absence. She finally arrived in the Caribbean on Jan. 22 and took the field for the USA’s all-important semifinal match against Haiti on Jan. 26, playing a major role in anchoring the back line while helping the USA qualify for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France.
“She’s inspiring to everyone around her,” Klimkova said. “Everyone is impressed with her. It’s natural from her behavior. If she says something, it’s always on point. Everyone is listening to her. Everyone believes what she says. Everyone follows.”
Though she joined the U-20s late for this tournament, she has served as an important leader for the team during the cycle. With all of the experience now under her belt, she’s become even more confident leading the way.
“Being an older player, I have more responsibility to be a leader,” Davidson said. “I’m more confident as a player. When I was with the last U-20 cycle, I was one of the youngest players there. I was not confident to tell people where to go, tell people to shift. Now, I’m more confident in my communication. Those intangibles are where I’ve really grown.”
After weeks of training at the WNT’s rapid pace of play, she hopes to help bring a similar tempo to Trinidad. She was impressed with the senior team’s speed of communication as well, and now, as a more vocal leader, she hopes to introduce the same urgency of talk on-field.
“I really would like to carry over all the advice that some of the older players gave me,” Davidson said. “That energy that was given to me, I want to bring it here to finish out this tournament. If I can bring that, if everyone’s at their highest level, we’ll definitely be able to outplay teams here.”
A first cap marks a career-defining milestone. The uniqueness of Davidson’s journey comes in that she gets to take her experience at the senior level and immediately share it with her age-group peers. She’s now out to help take home a fifth-straight CONCACAF title with the players she grew up alongside.
“This team is a puzzle that I already know I fit into,” Davidson said. “It’s exciting to go back and play with people that I know. I feel more comfortable with this team. I’ve known the players longer. I know where they’re going to be, I know where they want the ball and I know their personalities a little bit better. I’m trying to bring all of the experiences I’ve had into this camp to try to give this team the best result they can get.”Read more
Photos from the U.S. Women’s National Team's opening match of 2018, featuring a come-from-behind 5-1 win against EURO runner-up Denmark in front of 17,526 fans at SDCCU Stadium on Sunday night. The dominant victory included goals from Alex Morgan, Julie Ertz, Mallory Pugh (2) and Crystal Dunn.Read more
She was born in Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains loom large, but there seems to be something that clicks for U.S. WNT forward Mallory Pugh at sea level in the city of San Diego.
On January 21, Pugh put together a memorable performance against EURO runners-up Denmark, earning an assist in the first half and scoring twice – her first career brace – in the second to help the U.S. kick-start 2018 on a high note with a dominant come-from-behind 5-1 win in front of 17,526 fans at SDCCU Stadium.
Both of her goals came after she picked up off passes inside Denmark’s defensive half and Pugh said the team had been working on its high-pressure defense, so being able to put those lessons into action was rewarding.
“We have been working on our defensive shape and I think that from that defensive shape, I had a lot of attacking opportunities, we all did,” she said. “Our game defensively fit right into what they were trying to do, and fortunately I able to win those balls and then was able to execute in the final third.”
Indeed, when the opportunities presented themselves, Pugh, whose soccer growth has been on display for club and country in the last two years, [almost literally] ran away with them.
The match also marked a return to the familiar confines of SDCCU Stadium (previously Qualcomm Stadium), where the USA has played three times in the last two years, facing the Republic of Ireland on Jan. 23, 2016, and Brazil at the Tournament of Nations on July 30, 2017.
For Pugh, who is still just 19-years-old, the stadium and the city hold a special place in her heart and memory, as this was the venue where she made her National Team debut – and scored her first international goal – in that match against Ireland. She became the 19th U.S. WNT player to score in her first cap and the youngest player to debut for the U.S. in the last 11 years.
She was 17 years, 8 months and 25 days old at the time.
Now, two years later, but still a teenager, Pugh has 30 caps, eight goals, and 12 career assists, the most for a WNT player before the age of 20. She also sits in fourth place all-time for most goals scored before the age of 20 for the WNT, with only Cindy Parlow (15), and Mia Hamm (14) and Christie Welsh (11) ahead of her.
Alex Morgan celebrates with Pugh after the two combined to score the game-tying goal against Denmark.
The best part? There’s still a long way to go for Pugh as she continues to progress within the U.S. WNT and the NWSL.
“[Mal] is a player that’s obviously come a long way, but we’re just kind of scratching the surface in terms of her endpoint,” U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis said following the game against Denmark. “I think the confidence is there and she’s obviously got great skill set with her technique and athleticism. I think she’s growing in every area of the game and in her sophistication. When you talk about Mal, she’s not just a finisher, she’s also a distributer and that makes her a double threat. I still think there’s even more to get out of her.”
Despite all her early success, the humble Pugh has kept her feet firmly on the ground. She plays with confidence and a bit of swagger, but is also a great teammate and willing to play whatever role is asked. She continues to listen, to learn and to get better.
Following Sunday’s match, Pugh was asked if her own expectations are higher than those coming from outsiders. After breaking into a wide smile, she concluded the interview session with a resounding “yes,” turned, and walked to the bus. Still many miles to go on what so far has been an exciting start to her career.Read more
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2018) – The U.S. Women’s National Team kicked off its 2018 campaign with a powerful, come-from-behind 5-1 against reigning EURO Women’s runner-up Denmark in front of 17,526 fans at SDCCU Stadium on Sunday night.
Denmark got on the board early with a set-piece goal from Nadia Nadim in the 14th minute, but the USA quickly responded when Mallory Pugh connected with Alex Morgan for the game-tying score in the 17th minute. Julie Ertz then made it 2-1 in the 19th minute, and the USA carried the in to the half time break.
In the second half, Pugh added two goals – her first career brace – after taking advantage of a pair of defensive mishaps from Denmark, and Crystal Dunn wrapped up the scoring to give the U.S. the 5-1 win.
Next, the U.S. WNT will host the third annual SheBelieves Cup, the most elite four-team tournament in the world, that includes third-ranked England, second-ranked Germany and sixth-ranked France, from March 1-7 in Columbus, Ohio, Harrison, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida.
Goal Scoring Rundown:
DEN – Nadia Nadim (Katrine Veje), 14th: Veje’s corner kick sailed to the far post where Nadim jumped high to head to the ball to the back of the net for the opening goal of the match. USA 0, DEN 1
USA – Alex Morgan (Mallory Pugh), 17th minute: Pugh shook off Veje and drove towards the six-yard box where she crossed to the ball to an incoming Morgan, who did well to tap it in before the goalkeeper had a chance to get to it. USA 1, DEN 1 GOAL
USA – Julie Ertz (Tierna Davidson), 19th minute: Abby Dalhkemper’s lofted pass into the 18-yard box was received by Tierna Davidson, who out-jumped every other player in the box to head it into the six-yard box where Ertz finished with a looping, right-footed volley for her first goal of 2018. USA 2, DEN 1 GOAL
USA – Mallory Pugh, 47th: Denmark’s Sofia Pedersen had a defensive mishap in the back which resulted in Pugh taking advantage of the slow-rolling ball to go alone at the goal, beat a defender and crush a shot from about 10 yards out for her first of the night. USA 3, DEN 1 GOAL
USA – Mallory Pugh, 65th: Another mistake for Denmark, this time from goalkeeper Stina Petersen, resulted in a goal for Pugh, who brought down the goal kick with her body and drove forward, excellently splitting two defenders before slotting the ball into the lower right corner for her second of the night. USA 4, DEN 1 GOAL
USA – Crystal Dunn, 81st minute: After Christen Press’ shot got blocked by the goalkeeper, Dunn received the rebound right in the middle of the box to sent it to the back of the net for the final U.S. goal of the game. USA 5, DEN 1 GOAL FINAL
- Alex Morgan scored her 81st international goal in her 135th cap. At age 28 sits in sole possession of seventh place on the USA's all-time goal scoring list. She scored seven goals over her last seven WNT matches of 2017, and continuer her streak today, scoring the game-tying goal in the first half to make it eight goals in her last eight games.
- Mallory Pugh started today at the stadium where she scored in her senior team debut (the 19th U.S. WNT player to score in her first cap) on Jan. 23, 2016, vs. Ireland at 17 years, 8 months and 25 days old, becoming the youngest player to debut for the U.S. in the last 11 years. Tonight, the 19-year-old scored two goals – her first career brace – and had an assist in what was her 30th cap for the WNT. She now has eight career goals and 12 career assists. Pugh owns the lead as the player with the most assists before the age of 20 in U.S. history.
- Julie Ertz earned her 58th cap tonight. Ertz scored her 15th career goal for the WNT tonight, with 13 of them coming directly from or originating from set pieces. Ertz, who began playing as a defensive midfielder for the WNT during the 2017 Tournament of Nations, quickly excelled at the role and was later named the 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. She finished 2017 with six goals, second-most on the team. Today, both she and her husband – Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz – were playing almost concurrently, with both earning big wins for their teams. Julie helped the U.S. kick-start the year on a positive note, while Zach helped the Eagles earn a berth to Super Bowl LII.
- Tierna Davidson earned her first cap for the USA today, becoming the 21st player to make a WNT debut under Jill Ellis. Davidson earned her first career assist tonight. On Monday, the 19-year-old Stanford sophomore, who was named to the roster for the 2018 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship, will depart for Trinidad & Tobago to join the U-20 WNT as the USA competes to earn a berth to the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Davidson helped lead Stanford to the NCAA Championship this past season. She is the third teenager since 2013 to earn a first cap for the U.S. WNT. Mallory Pugh (17 in 2016) and Lindsey Horan (19 in 2013) are the most recent teenagers to debut for the WNT.
- Ellis made all six substitutions tonight: Carli Lloyd came in for Abby Dahlkemper, Emily Sonnett for Taylor Smith, Savannah McCaskill for Andi Sullivan, Lynn Williams for Mallory Pugh, Christen Press for Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn for Megan Rapinoe.
- Crystal Dunn scored her 23rd career goal tonight. On January 16, it was announced Dunn will return to the NWSL and play for the North Carolina Courage during the 2017 season. The Courage acquired her rights from the Washington Spirit for Taylor Smith and Ashley Hatch.
- Savannah McCaskill, who was taken second overall in the 2018 NWSL College Draft by the Boston Breakers, earned her first cap tonight, becoming the 22nd woman to earn a first cap under Jill Ellis. This was her first extended training time with the WNT. She led South Carolina to the NCAA College Cup with eight goals and nine assists on the year.
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Denmark
Date: Jan. 21, 2018
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: SDCCU Stadium; San Diego, California
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. PT
Weather: 61 degrees; clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 3 5
DEN 1 0 1
DEN – Nadia Nadim (Katrine Veje) 14th minute
USA – Alex Morgan (Mallory Pugh) 17
USA – Julie Ertz (Tierna Davidson) 19
USA – Mallory Pugh 47
USA – Mallory Pugh 65
USA – Crystal Dunn 81
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith (16-Emily Sonnett, 54), 14-Abby Dahlkemper (10-Carli Lloyd, 54), 17-Tierna Davidson, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 8-Julie Ertz, 9-Lindsey Horan, 6-Andi Sullivan (26-Savannah McCaskill, 70); 11-Mallory Pugh (12-Lynn Williams, 70), 13-Alex Morgan (capt.) (23-Christen Press, 70), 15-Megan Rapinoe (19-Crystal Dunn, 70)
Substitutes not used: 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Jill Ellis
DEN: 1-Stina Lykke Petersen; 8-Theresa Nielsen, 12-Stine Larsen, 3-Janni Arnth, 11-Katrine Veje; 13-Sofie Junge Pedersen (14-Nicoline Sørensen, 75), 4-Maja Kildemoes (6-Nanna Christiansen, 46), 15-Frederikke Thøgersen (18-Mie Leth Jans, 84), 7-Sanne Troelsgaard; 10-Pernille Harder, 9-Nadia Nadim Substitutes not used: 22-Line Johansen, 17-Signe Bruun, 19-Cecilie Sandvej, 20-Stine Ballisager Pedersen, 21-Sarah Dyrehauge, 23-Caroline Moeller
Head coach: Lars Søndergaard
Stats Summary: USA / DEN
Shots: 19 / 6
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 0 / 3
Corner Kicks: 9 / 3
Fouls: 7 / 12
Offside: 2 / 1
DEN – Pernille Harder (caution) 21st minute
USA – Julie Ertz (caution) 74
Referee: Karen Abt (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Jennifer Garner (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Brooke Mayo (USA)
4th Official: Christina Unkel (USA)
Budweiser Woman of the Match: Alex MorganRead more
USA vs. Denmark
Date: Jan. 21, 2018
Venue: SDCCU Stadium; San Diego
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT
Tonight’s Starting XI vs. Denmark: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 22-Taylor Smith, 17-Tierna Davidson, 7-Abby Dahlkemper, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 8-Julie Ertz, 9-Lindsey Horan, 6-Andi Sullivan; 11-Mallory Pugh, 13-Alex Morgan (capt.), 15-Megan Rapinoe
Subs: 10-Carli Lloyd, 12-Lynn Williams, 16-Emily Sonnett, 19-Crystal Dunn, 23-Christen Press, 24-Ashlyn Harris, 26-Savannah McCaskill
- Alyssa Naeher will earn her 24th cap tonight. She has 12 career shutouts. She is the ninth goalkeeper in U.S. history to earn 20 or more caps.
- Tierna Davidson will earn her first cap for the USA today, becoming the 21st woman to make a WNT debut under Jill Ellis. On Monday, the 19-year-old Stanford sophomore, who was named to the roster for the 2018 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship, will depart to Trinidad & Tobago to join the U-20 WNT as the USA competes to earn a berth to the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Davidson helped lead Stanford to the NCAA Championship this past season. She is the third teenager since 2013 to earn a first cap for the U.S. WNT. Mallory Pugh (17 in 2016) and Lindsey Horan (19 in 2013) are the most recent teenagers to debut for the WNT.
- Taylor Smith will earn her eighth international cap tonight. She made her debut last July against Australia during the Tournament of Nations.
- Abby Dahlkemper will make her 14th career appearance today for the WNT in what will be her 10th career start. The 2017 NWSL Defender of the Year made her debut for the U.S. on Oct. 19, 2016, against Switzerland in Utah, and earned her first start against Norway on June 11, 2017 where she played all 90 minutes to help the U.S. defense claim a shutout in Sandefjord. Dahlkemper is a former captain of the U-17 Women's National Team.
- Kelley O'Hara earned her 100th cap with the USA on Sept. 15, 2017, becoming the 36th player in U.S. WNT history to play 100 or more times for her country. One of the most experienced players on the squad, O’Hara is set to make her 105th appearance today.
- Julie Ertz will earn her 58th cap tonight. Ertz, who began playing as defensive midfielder for the WNT during the Tournament of Nations, quickly excelled at the role and was later named the 2017 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. She finished 2017 six goals, second-most on the team. Ertz has 14 career goals for the WNT, with 13 of them coming directly from or originating from set pieces. Today, both she and her husband – Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz – will be playing almost concurrently, as Julie hopes to kick-start the USA’s year on a positive note, while Zach competes against the Minnesota Vikings for a berth to Super Bowl LII.
- Lindsey Horan enjoyed a fine 2017, helping the Portland Thorns win the NWSL title by scoring the game-winning goal in the championship. For the WNT, she finished strong, establishing herself in the lineup. She will earn her 44th WNT cap today.
- Andi Sullivan comes into the match after leading Stanford to the NCAA title as a senior and winning the MAC Hermann Trophy as the top player in college soccer in 2017. She will earn her eighth WNT cap.
- Mallory Pugh will start today at the stadium where she scored in her senior team debut (the 19th U.S. WNT player to score in her first cap) on Jan. 23, 2016, vs. Ireland at 17 years, 8 months and 25 days old, becoming the youngest player to debut for the U.S. in the last 11 years. It will be the 19-year-old’s 30th cap for the WNT.
- Alex Morgan comes into the match with 80 goals in 134 caps and at age 28 sits in sole possession of seventh place on the USA's all-time goal scoring list. She scored seven goals over her last seven WNT matches of 2017.
- Megan Rapinoe makes her 130th international appearance today. She has 34 career goals, pulling her to within one goal of tying April Heinrichs and Sydney Leroux for 15th on the all-time goals list.
- Tonight’s bench: M Carli Lloyd, F Lynn Williams, D Emily Sonnett, F Crystal Dunn, F Christen Press, GK Ashlyn Harris, F Savannah McCaskill.