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USWNT’s Horan sets high bar for Paris Olympics: ‘We want a gold medal’

‘This is a team that strives for excellence,’ the USWNT captain said

U.S. women's national team captain Lindsey Horan smiles as she addresses the media ahead of the team's Olympic camp.
Photo Copyright Vincent Carchietta for USA TODAY Sports

The countdown is on to the 2024 Paris Olympics and training has officially begun for the U.S. women’s national team, which gathered this week in New Jersey to start camp. With nine first-time Olympians on the squad and a fresh face leading them from the sidelines, there will be plenty of new on and off the pitch for Team USA — but the women’s team is still setting the bar as high as ever for success. Success, specifically, comes wrapped in gold.

“This is a team that strives for excellence,” USWNT captain Lindsey Horan said Monday when speaking to the media in New York City. “We always want to be at the top of the podium at the end of the day. After the World Cup, we really regrouped and we’ve been working extremely hard over this past year and especially these last few months. With Emma [Hayes] coming in and everything that she’s done and contributed, it’s a very exciting time. You look at the young players coming in, the leaders on this team, the big mesh of what we have, what you’re going to see and what’s in store for us is incredible.”

The USWNT brought home a bronze medal from the most recent summer Games in Tokyo and subsequently recorded its earliest-ever exit from the 2023 Women’s World Cup. What’s in store this time around on the international stage, Horan hopes, will be distinctly different. She’s aiming for the team’s first Olympic crown since 2012. 

“We want a gold medal at the end of the day and that’s what we’re striving to do,” Horan said Monday.

Horan is one of just eight players from the team’s 2020 Olympic roster to make the cut this time around and one of only four heading to Paris with more than 100 caps from the USWNT under her belt. Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle and Alyssa Naeher are the others. With players like Dunn—whom new head coach Emma Hayes described Monday as “invaluable,”—finding themselves in new slots in the lineup, others with far fewer caps than the veterans among the 18-player roster and Hayes herself just a little over a month into her new role atop the team, this week’s camp is crucial preparation time together for all.

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Hayes officially took over in May in the lead up to the USWNT’s recent friendlies against South Korea. She immediately had to name rosters for the two international matches and then, very soon thereafter, for the Olympics. The tight timeline hasn’t appeared to phase the former Chelsea boss.

“We had the camp opportunity at the end of May which was really helpful,” Hayes said Monday. “The staff, off the pitch, have been working together to create a program from now throughout the Olympics, so I feel we’re very prepared to go into this tournament regardless of the short lead-in time because, like Lindsey said, a lot of that work has been done under the last year reflecting from the World Cup and putting the roster together bit-by-bit.”

Her biggest concern is getting things started in camp this week; boots on the ground, after all, is always best.

“I’m just really looking at the processes we need to maintain so the team can perform at its best level all of the time,” Hayes added. “We also know that you have to build towards that, so getting everybody in camp, getting everybody playing together — for me, they’re the most important things at this moment in time. We’ll start to see how our team shapes up game by game, day by day.”

That slow and steady march starts with a pair of preparatory friendlies, where Hayes’ Olympic game plan will get its first tests in real-game settings. First, the USWNT will face Mexico on July 13 at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey before its official send-off against Costa Rica at Audi Field on July 16 in Washington D.C. The new coach began laying the foundation for what she hopes will bring success during the team’s May camp, where a bigger cohort of players were present, and this week will look to springboard off what she started in that short span when it comes to tactical objectives with her official Olympic roster.

The team will then begin Olympic play on July 25, one day before the Games’ opening ceremonies in Paris. Team USA will take on Zambia, then powerhouse Germany and finally Australia in Group B in Nice and Marseille, wrapping up July 31. Outside of the USWNT’s group, the other eight qualifying countries include reigning Olympic champion Canada, Brazil, host France, Colombia, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria and Spain.

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