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.