The phone call was not an easy one, for the coach or the player.
It was late August of 2016, and then U.S. U-17 WNT head coach B.J. Snow was calling to inform Taryn Torres that she would not be a part of the U-17 Women’s World Cup Team for the upcoming tournament in Jordan. She was one of the last players cut.
Playing in the midfield, Torres had been a consistent member of the player pool in the run-up to that historic World Cup, the first one staged in the Middle East, and a member of the roster at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament where she played in one match. She had earned 14 caps with the U-17s and scored one goal, against the Switzerland U-19s.
“It was definitely a huge disappointment, but it wasn’t necessarily shocking because I was told at World Cup qualifying that my fitness had to be better,” said Torres 15 months later. “He told me he had no doubt I had it in me and that he wished he could have put me on the roster, but I wasn’t in the right place for him to take me to the World Cup. He was disappointed as well. I knew if I wanted to contribute, I had to be able to be a 90-minute player. When it came to the camp before the World Cup, I still wasn’t where I needed to be fitness-wise. It was on me.”
A young player could go in several directions after an experience like that, among them wallowing in self-pity and being hesitant to put herself back on the line emotionally and physically. Another direction would be to take a step back, embrace the lessons learned and give it another shot.
Torres chose the latter.
“My immediate reaction was that this was a reality check and it actually happened, I just got cut from a World Cup Team,” she said. “I had put in a lot of work, but not enough, and it was very hard on me. I decided I needed to do whatever it took to get back into the National Team. I went back into my club environment and I was more motivated. I started training harder and I was training with a purpose, not just going through the motions. That’s what I didn’t have before.”
Torres and U.S. U-20 WNT head coach Jitka Klimkova both agree that her matriculation at the University of Virginia, where she would play for former U-20 WNT head coach Steve Swanson, played a key role in keeping that momentum going.
“Going to UVA definitely helped with the whole process,” said Torres. “I’m in a very good environment surrounded by great players and a great coach, and I have all the resources available to me. As time went by at college, I started seeing move improvement, and that gave me even more motivation to train harder.”
Torres played in 23 games for the Cavaliers, starting 17 and scoring eight goals with one assist, a hefty stat line for a freshman at one of the top women’s soccer programs in the country. She was named Third-Team All-ACC and to the ACC All-Freshman Team.
Photo credit: Richard Palaikis
“For Taryn, it was realizing that it’s not just about talent, it’s about hard work in National Team camps, between the camps, with her club or with her college team,” said Klimkova. “It’s about how you are performing during the training sessions and the games. I think she realized that and had a great college season. I give big credit to her college teammates and to Steve. They really helped push her and she went in the right direction. That’s doesn’t always happen.”
Other lessons Torres learned were that confidence breeds more of the same and that conversely self-doubt can send you on a downward spiral. Following her U-17 WNT experience, she was determined not to let that happen again.
“Around World Cup qualifying time, I wasn’t starting or really playing that much, and I wasn’t really sure of myself,” said Torres. “That’s what happens when you’re not fit. It’s a trickle-down effect, you lose confidence, your play goes down and it’s hard to get it back.”
A call-up to a training camp with the U.S. U-19 WNT early this year, as well as a trip to Australia with the U-18s where she played against Canada’s U-20s and Australia’s U-19s, helped Torres get her foot back in the door and her legs on stable ground. It also gave Klimkova a chance to see a rededicated Torres on the field in a WNT environment.
“It’s not about what she achieved before but about what she needed to do for the future,” said Klimkova. “It’s about hard work, and it’s great that she realized that. She’s still so young she can achieve a lot.
“Sometimes when a player goes to college it can be a game-changer because she’s no longer a big fish in a small pond. You see a lot of good players around you, better players than you, and it’s really positive when players have the mentality to respond in that situation and work to improve themselves. In the past, she just relied on talent, but when you get older, and the competition gets tougher and tougher, she realized she couldn’t stay the same.”
Now with a chance to earn her second international cap at the U-20 level (she earned one in 2015 when she was called into the U-20s during the U-17 cycle) Torres has a different perspective as the USA heads into the Women’s Nike Friendlies and challenging matches against England, Brazil and Finland.
“When I got the invite to the Nike Friendlies, I was so excited, and it’s a great opportunity,” said Torres, who was called in as a forward. “I feel like I’m in a great place to come into camp. Playing a lot at Virginia, I’m just not feeling that much pressure this time around. I’ve been through being cut and so I’m in a different position, not working to try to hang onto a roster spot but going after a spot with everything I can. I just want to go out there and play to my strengths and give it my best shot. I’m just really excited to be back in this competitive environment.”