Because Emma Hayes will not take the full-time coaching reins of the U.S. women’s national soccer team until May, decisions involving the roster, match preparations and the general direction of the program are becoming a collaborative effort.
The first joint task, unveiled Monday, was assembling a 26-player squad for friendlies against China on Dec. 2 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dec. 5 in Frisco, Tex. Several regulars, including Alex Morgan, were left off the list.
Hayes’s hiring was announced last week, but with the Englishwoman primarily focused on London club Chelsea until the end of the season, interim coach Twila Kilgore will continue to oversee training camps and games.
Kilgore, however, will consult regularly with Hayes, and both coaches will work closely with Sporting Director Matt Crocker on long-term plans following the program’s disappointing performances at the 2023 World Cup and Tokyo Olympics. Kilgore will join Hayes’s staff upon the latter’s arrival.
Hayes is probably going to attend a portion of the nine-day camp — Chelsea does not have any matches scheduled — but will leave the game-day work to Kilgore.
The latest roster featured a number of notable changes: Eight players from the World Cup squad passed over; veteran defender Abby Dahlkemper will return from a 19-month absence; and NWSL rookie of the year Jenna Nighswonger and Paris Saint-Germain’s Korbin Albert were invited to their first camp.
Forwards Jaedyn Shaw, 19, and Mia Fishel, 22, and midfielder Olivia Moultrie, 18, were recalled after making the roster last month for friendlies against Colombia.
Kilgore played down the absences, saying the final camp of 2023 was an optimal opportunity to evaluate the broader talent pool.
“We need more opportunities to see players from our pool in our unique environment, in both training and games,” Kilgore said in a statement. “We value these players who have recently been in camps or played in [the] World Cup and were not chosen for this roster, and they are of course still a part of our pool, but we know what they bring on and off the field.”
Aside from Morgan, World Cup goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defenders Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara and Sofia Huerta, and midfielders Andi Sullivan, Ashley Sanchez and Kristie Mewis were left off the roster. (Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz have retired.)
Defender Becky Sauerbrunn, who returned to the team last month after missing the World Cup with a foot injury, was also omitted.
Having recovered from a knee injury, midfielder Rose Lavelle will return for the first time since the World Cup last summer.
Three members of NWSL champion Gotham FC were invited: Nighswonger, Lynn Williams and Midge Purce, the MVP of the Nov. 11 final in San Diego.
The Washington Spirit placed three players: goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury, Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch.
Goalkeepers: Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage).
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Fox (North Carolina), Naomi Girma (San Diego), Casey Krueger (Chicago), M.A. Vignola (Angel City).
Midfielders: Korbin Albert (Paris Saint-Germain), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyonnais), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Olivia Moultrie (Portland Thorns), Jenna Nighswonger (Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (OL Reign).
Forwards: Mia Fishel (Chelsea), Ashley Hatch (Washington), Midge Purce (Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington), Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego), Sophia Smith (Portland), Alyssa Thompson (Angel City), Lynn Williams (Gotham FC).