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.”