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New USWNT manager Emma Hayes begins a tenure focused on the Olympic Games and managing the changing landscape in women’s football



New USWNT manager Emma Hayes begins a tenure focused on the Olympic Games and managing the changing landscape in women's football

NEW YORK — Emma Hayes won her seventh league title with Chelsea FC on May 18 and was on a flight to the United States just three days later for her new job as manager of the US women’s national team. She brings a winning background and extensive coaching experience, in Europe and the United States, so what exactly can American fans expect in the run-up to the Olympics as the Hayes era officially begins? With the Olympics just two months away, Hayes is practicing patience and process when it comes to getting involved with her new squad.

She arrived in Newark on Wednesday afternoon and returned to New York for her reintroduction to U.S. women’s soccer culture. She was reacquainted with Central Park, taking a walk before dinner and then taking another walk through Central Park before taking on a series of media responsibilities on Thursday.

“It’s my home. New York is too. I lived here for seven years,” she said, reflecting on her return. “I know how to get around. In fact, as a parent, I know where the toy stores are now.”

Her reunion in New York will be short-lived, however, as she will eventually call Atlanta, Georgia, her home base, the new location of US Soccer’s national training center and headquarters. US Soccer announced Hayes as its official head coach in December, but with a unique stipulation to the role that she would not accept the job until after her club season in England.

After a six-month wait, there is a buzz surrounding the U.S. Women’s National Team that is different from the headlines they made during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. A disappointing Round of 16 elimination, the worst ever finish in the program’s history, has resulted to change and the belief that better days lie ahead in the ever-changing landscape of women’s football. With the arrival of Hayes there is excitement and optimism, but with the Olympic Games on the horizon there is renewed expectation.

“We have to go step by step. Focus on all the little processes that need to happen so that we can perform at our best level. If we can perform at our best level, then we have a chance to do things, but we have work to do do,” Hayes said of fans’ expectations that the team would always win everything.

“The reality is that the world game is where it is at, and the rest of the world no longer fears the US as they once did. And that’s true. I think it’s valid. There are different world champions, there are different Olympic To play.” There are several European champions, so our job is to understand quite quickly what we need to do to get close to that level again.”

She once wrote an article about the American collegiate and youth systems and how the US could not afford to lose ground in development. She is aware of the bigger picture, but is currently focused on the Olympic Games, with the long-term goal of connecting with other stakeholders.

“It (collegiate and youth conversations) is not my priority, not now. My priority is the camp. But I will work with all stakeholders and talk about what is best. I think the USL competition is a healthy competition. itself could be a missing hole for a lot of players who may only play collegiately but don’t make it… and don’t want to go play overseas. So some of those missing holes may already be filled.

Hayes cites the current increased tactical play in NWSL this season, the arrival of new internationals, not just Europeans, as a key component in the rising level of play. She also believes the upcoming USL Super League could be a path to more playing opportunities with differences in competitive levels.

“I think we need to focus now on the important things that happen day in and day out. We need to compete to be the best. We need our league, the NWSL, to be extremely competitive. We need the USL to do a lot reasons necessary.” I think the development path for players who don’t necessarily make it to the NWSL will have a place to play. I think this in itself will create competition. I think the combination might be healthy playing on teams in Mexico, maybe.

All these things. I think we have to compete with what’s happening in Europe… I think all these things have to happen for the American team to compete at the highest level, and my job is to make sure I work with everyone. those stakeholders, so that together we have the experience of what has been done in Europe, so that we can say, ‘Look, we have the drive to the next space’, and I’m looking forward to it because I’m now in the position where I can influence.”

Hayes has been in Europe almost as long as the National Women’s Soccer League has existed. The league is celebrating its twelfth year and American women’s soccer culture has also changed. For Hayes, growth and evolution are crucial, and she believes there is room to combine the best parts of what the USWNT does so well and that she and the current player pool can maintain and even reshape what U.S. women’s soccer culture can be.

“Well, I can’t define it now because I’m not in it anymore. But what I can say from my time here is that I’ve always loved the attitude to performance and the expectation to give it your all what you have.” she said.

She notes that this has always been part of the USWNT’s DNA, to compete until the end and manage the pressure of performing on big stages, and that staple of the USWNT spirit she will not fight against, but she will embrace.

“I think that managing the badge on this shirt is something that many players have done in a privileged way, not necessarily in an important way… I think going in now I expect some evolutions, because you just I see so many players being exposed to different coaching cross clubs, whether domestically or internationally… I’ll be there. But my job is to be methodical about it. You have to be on it, for example be prepared to get to that point.”

Traveling across the vast country will be part of her job to get up close and personal with players’ performances, but she won’t be able to rack up all the miles on her own. She will have the team within the team, a large support staff including her former Chelsea FC assistant Denise Reddy, and former interim head coach Twila Kilgore, among others.

Hayes credits her collaboration with Kilgore as the direct link that helped her stay informed, prepared and informed as she waited to take the helm.

“I must be very clear in my appreciation for Twila Kilgore. Not only has she kept the helm steady since the World Cup, but her partnership during this period has been essential,” Hayes explained.

“She’s been such a guide to me and she’s taught me a lot. And together we helped to create the right roster little by little, and I think it would have been a lot harder without Twila and thank God for that because I feel like the team is better positioned as a result.”

A key part of their joint efforts was expanding the player pool and gaining more insight into new prospects. Jaedyn Shaw, Mia Fishel, Jenna Nighshwonger and Olivia Moultrie are just a handful of players who earned their first caps under Kilgore in preparation for the coming Hayes era, and the players are still moving in and out of camps. Center back Sam Staab and midfielder Hal Hershfelt earned their first senior camp call-ups.

When an international player moves to NWSL, they are often asked about the differences in play or mentality between the US and previous clubs, but for coaches it can be similar. Hayes is looking forward to entering her first camp and finally being with the players. The moment brought about an emotional change for her too.

“[It feels like] A huge boulder falls from my shoulders. Twelve years, in one place, has shaped a lot of the women’s game in England, it’s liberating for me. “I feel re-energized,” she said. “Hopefully the experiences I’ve learned in the 12 to 14 years I’ve been out of the country will allow me to bring the best version of myself to a job that requires it. So I’m relaxed about it, but I’m also very excited.”