“It was amazing, but it was painful,” said U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team goalkeeper Amanda McGlynn.
It was exactly where she wanted to be -- at the bottom of a dogpile after helping the U.S. U-20 WNT to a dramatic World Cup-clinching victory.
When it comes to high-pressure situations in the game of soccer, nothing quite matches a penalty kick shootout. When there’s a World Cup berth on the line, it can be more suffocating than 19 teammates piled on top of you.
That’s where McGlynn found herself after 90 hard-fought minutes against Haiti in the semifinal of the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship. Once the final whistle blew, the game went straight to PKs. McGlynn rose to the occasion, saving two kicks while Haiti missed another. The result punched the Americans’ ticket to the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France.
“When we won that game, seeing everyone’s faces, it was just amazing,” McGlynn said. Everyone came at me. I was like ‘Don’t fall, don’t fall,’ but I just fell and suddenly everyone was in a big pile. It was so surreal at that moment. It’s a dream come true.”
She’s always believed in herself and her abilities. So has U-20 WNT head coach Jitka Klimkova. Now, McGlynn has the big-game credentials to match. The CONCACAF Championship tournament saw McGlynn anchor the USA in some of its most-crucial moments. She’s gained the full trust of her teammates and boosted her own confidence to new heights.
“She needed the experience of playing in important games, she needed to realize that she can play in these big games,” Klimkova said. “She really feels the support from her teammates. If you are new to the program, everyone is waiting to see what the player can do on the field. Every training session showed us that her performance is consistent and really high-quality.”
Before her trip to Trinidad, McGlynn had started just two games for the USA, against Northern Ireland at the U-18 level and against Brazil with the U-20s at December’s Nike International Friendlies. In Trinidad, McGlynn started four of the USA’s five games, highlighted by the all-important semifinal.
“For her, it’s just confirmation that she’s doing things really well,” Klimkova said. “Here, she’s been able to see how she can perform at the international level. It should raise her confidence. I hope she will just take this experience for her advantage and keep doing everything that she’s doing. She’s training hard, she’s very coachable, she wants to improve. She has the right direction.”
While McGlynn made some highlight-reel saves over the course of the tournament, she truly proved her mettle in the penalty kick shootout against Haiti. But even prior to those crucial moments, the same scenarios played out in training and gave McGlynn the opportunity to test her fortitude. The U-20s frequently practice their penalty kicks, and McGlynn always shined in those sessions.
“Her performance in that shootout wasn’t surprising, that’s how she performed during the training,” Klimkova said. “That’s her strength. We knew having Mandy during that moment against Haiti really could help the team. She’s consistent with it. Every session, she challenged every player who took a PK.”
McGlynn felt well-prepared for a shootout, but a Haitian equalizer in second half stoppage time forced the game to penalty kicks and rattled her confidence. Laurel Ivory, the other goalkeeper on the roster in Trinidad, brought her back up.
“Before I went out there, my emotions were everywhere, but Laurel and I had a really great moment,” McGlynn said. “She said ‘You got this, we believe in you. Forget what happened, this is your time. Her belief in me boosted my confidence.”
The USA kicked first in the decisive shootout and Sophia Smith saw her shot saved. The ball rolled just outside the six-yard-box on the deflection and when McGlynn headed to the goal, she went out of her way to pick it up and place it back on the spot. On her roundabout walk-up, she never broke eye contact with the first Haitian shooter. A few seconds later, her shot went wide left.
“I truly believe one of the reasons she missed was the intimidation factor,” McGlynn said. “I was just really in my zone. I tried to show them that I was ready. When I went out there, I was just thinking ‘don’t let them score, I’m not going to let them score again.’”
Taryn Torres hammered home her PK to give the USA a 1-0 lead and McGlynn once again teed the ball up for Haiti. This time, she read the approach perfectly, diving to her left and reaching an arm up to deflect the attempt. Jaelin Howell put the U.S. up 2-0 and McGlynn followed the conversion with another save.Her efforts set-up Zoe Morse to take the game-winning PK. Morse finished with class to send the USA to the World Cup. Next stop: dogpile.
“At that moment, I just wanted to hug my teammates and celebrate,” McGlynn said. “I knew she needed to make that PK for us to go through. First, I had my head down. I was like ‘I can’t watch.’ But I thought, this is going to be a moment I will have forever, I have to watch. She did her job and put it away. Every emotion just came rushing out of my body.”
With the World Cup on the horizon, McGlynn will now focus on adding to her experience as she prepares for even better opponents and tougher matches. The Jacksonville, Florida native will spend this semester taking online classes and training with the NWSL’s Orlando Pride with an eye towards more dogpiles in the future.
“My confidence has skyrocketed,” McGlynn said. “When you get more playing time, you feel more comfortable with your role on the team. You feel more confident in yourself and what your talents are. It’s a great key to have going forward.”