USWNT Wins W Gold Cup With Young Midfielders Who Were Once Overlooked

In the W Gold Cup final on Sunday, the U.S. women’s national team defeated Brazil thanks to a strong header from captain Lindsey Horan.

But the two teenage midfielders who epitomise the program’s post-World Cup metamorphosis were the real stars of the event, the anchors holding together a faltering USWNT.

Before the team left for New Zealand in the summer of last year, 20-year-old Korbin Albert had never even donned a USWNT jersey.

Sam Coffey did, but she was oddly ignored in 2023 and had to watch from home as the United States imploded.

From the time their elders struggled in Australia, both have been warmly embraced into the fold. And with pressure rising following a 2-0 loss to Mexico last month, interim coach Twila Kilgore turned to the youth in the USWNT’s most important moment since the World Cup.

Kilgore, who has been in constant contact with the new coach Emma Hayes, benched the hitherto unstoppable Rose Lavelle for a quarterfinal matchup with Colombia. Albert had been having a blast at PSG in France, so she installed him and never looked back.

After anchoring a 3-0 victory against Colombia, the Albert-Coffey double-pivot skillfully negotiated a clumsy, “unplayable” semifinal versus Canada. However, their most significant performance occurred on the biggest platform—in front of 31,528 spectators at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium. Additionally, Coffey, a Portland Thorns player selected for the NWSL Best XI, helped swing the game just before halfway.

In middle, she lunged into a challenge. After prevailing in a duel, she freed Trinity Rodman to go to the right.

Rodman was a bit off-target with her first stroke, but her patience paid off. Emily Fox received a pass from her out of a double-team and lofted a cross to the far post. Horan got up to face it and scored the game’s lone goal with great force.

For the USWNT, Horan has been a bit of a positional mystery. She is a deep-lying playmaker who is clean with the ball. She can also be a deadly second striker in the box, particularly when she’s in the air. She isn’t mobile enough, though, to affect games in any way.

Former American coaches have occasionally attempted to allow Horan the flexibility to do both. She assumed the role of “No. 8,” playing behind Lavelle and in front of a conventional defensive midfielder. However, it was never truly successful. The American midfielders were disengaged. It became evident that we needed to look into alternative alternatives.

Kilgore decided to move Horan up to the No. 10 spot as his answer. The duo of Coffey and Albert allowed Horan greater flexibility to attack. Horan used that freedom on Sunday, leaving everything behind her to be cleaned up by the relative newbies.

They continued to struggle with possession, as did the USWNT as a whole. Brazil tried more attempts and had more possession of the ball. For the majority of the first half, the Seleção was superior, despite missing a few key players.

But strong pressure from Coffey and Albert drove the greatest American sections of the play. Kilgore said, “What an impact they’ve had,” following the match. In the second half, they also contributed to American stability. Albert played the entire ninety minutes and was especially effective in one-on-one situations. He is the second-youngest USWNT player to start a competitive final.

Behind them also stood the back four, cemented by Tierna Davidson and Naomi Girma, the future and current center-back duo.

Overall, the inaugural regional competition was a huge success, with the United States emerging victorious.

It was essential training for the July Olympic Games.

It was far from ideal for the USWNT. However, it was inspiring and gave me more self-assurance. It was vital evidence that a programme with a track record of consistent success hasn’t entirely lost its course.

“We have, all together, owned our World Cup experience,” Kilgore said. “We’ve regrouped. We’ve set new goals. We’ve set new style of play. We’re working towards something together.”