Weathering the Elements: USWNT Training Camp Recap

Crystal Dunn runs drills with her USWNT teammates.
COMMERCE CITY, CO - OCTOBER 20: Crystal Dunn of the USWNT sprints during a training session at Dick's Sporting Goods Park training fields on October 20, 2020 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Twitter)

At the tail end of October, the USWNT set up camp for the first time in seven months. Leading up to this, the planning stages were crucial and became a focal point. Both the coaching staff and the US Soccer Federation desired to run a safe yet effective camp.

The USWNT followed a COVID-19 manual established by the squad’s medical team. Meanwhile, members of the media were relegated to access only via telephone and Zoom conference calls.

As the team assembled, players took two forms of COVID-19 testing and isolated themselves in their rooms. When team meetings occurred, Zoom was utilized until in-person conferences were allowed.

Adhering to protocols, players and coaching staff wore masks at all times off the pitch. Assigned seating and six-foot social distancing applied during meal time and when the team held in-person meetings. This was all in hopes to separate players and pinpoint any exposures if a case were to occur. The training camp was a success in many ways, especially as there were no reports of COVID-19 exposure.

Taking the Pitch

We had seen in the NWSL Challenge Cup, national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s black journal make multiple appearances. Could the preparation for this camp and the player selection be a page from that? 

“We want to reward players who have done well for their clubs and give them a chance to step up and perform in our environment,” said Andonovski going into the camp. “We have a lot of uncapped players and a few who have had the chance to earn a few caps, but we know that deepening our player pool is important as we head into 2021.”

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Andonovski’s sentiment was exactly on display. With a mix of new faces and the return of various veterans, the camp proved to be a great opportunity for players and coaching staff alike.

The 27-player roster first took the pitch as a small groups style rotation. Coaching staff would spend seven or more hours out on the pitch as each small group would come and go. As the camp progressed, the team moved to a more normal practice style still adhering to the guidelines that had been placed.

Weathering the Elements

The squad not only had to weather the elements of the pandemic but also what mother nature had in store.

With the camp located in a mountainous state, freezing temperatures and light snowfall were aplenty. It was a great initiation for the new faces that joined the squad.

During the course of the camp, multiple players took to social media to comment on the weather. Some even posted polls asking if training sessions would be called off or if mittens would be acceptable to wear out on the pitch.

New Faces

The training camp provided USWNT fans something extra to be excited about as the year winds down.

Andonovski’s selection included 10 uncapped players and 20 NWSL players. For many, it was a welcoming conclusion to a professional year that included both the NWSL Challenge Cup and the NWSL Fall Series.

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Several names on the team sheet grabbed the attention of spectators. Among these were Sophia Smith, Sarah Gorden, Audrey Bledsoe, Shea Groom, Bethany Balcer and Ashley Sanchez. Six college athletes also joined the ranks.

The purpose of the camp was two fold. Not only was it to prepare and develop for the future, but it was also set up to better integrate the vast amount of experience this federation has.

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While the stars that are currently playing abroad were unable to attend, that did not mean there was a lack of talent out on the pitch. Andonovski’s call up of top NWSL players proves that the future of the squad is very bright.

This will comfort everyone’s hopes. After all, the Olympics are just around the corner (again). Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the USWNT is in top form.

Farewell, 2020

With international friendlies on the horizon, one can assume that Andonovski is hard at work narrowing down his list of players. If all goes well, he’ll be naming his 18-player Olympic roster in the coming months.

As this new chapter unfolds, it’s no doubt that the USWNT will be a constant competitor. No matter who takes to the pitch, it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll do justice to the red, white and blue.

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October Camp Roster:

Goalkeepers (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride; 25), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 63)

Defenders (10): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage; 61/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 26/1), Crystal Dunn (NC Courage; 104/24), Naomi Girma (Stanford; 0/0), Sarah Gorden (Chicago Red Stars; 0/0) Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride; 107/1), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals FC; 131/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 1/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 177/0), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars; 32/0)

Midfielders (7): Shea Groom (Houston Dash; 0/0), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 86/19), Morgan Gautrat (Chicago Red Stars; 87/8), Jaelin Howell (Florida State; 0/0), Catarina Macario (Stanford; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0)

Forwards (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Mia Fishel (UCLA; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0), Kealia Watt (Chicago Red Stars; 3/1), Lynn Williams (NC Courage; 28/9)

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