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How Emma Hayes and the USWNT can “beat the f&*$ing Spanish”

The new U.S. head coach is thinking about how to contain the best teams in the world, not run over them.

6 min read

It’s finally upon us, people. 

Emma Hayes is officially the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team, charming the hardcore and the uninitiated alike in her first media blitz in New York City last week. Hayes has a large task ahead of her, as the most decorated senior women’s international program in history seeks to put an Olympic bronze medal and a Round of 16 crashout at last year’s World Cup in the rearview once and for all. 

There are still plenty of unknowns about Hayes. 

While her Chelsea teams earned seven WSL titles, five FA Cups, and made an appearance in the 2021 UEFA Women’s Champions League final, Hayes has absolutely no experience in the international coaching world. All of her background has been at club level. Club success doesn’t automatically translate to international success, as the USWNT saw most recently with Vlatko Andonovski’s underwhelming tenure as U.S. manager.

Hayes’ colorful sign-off in her final Chelsea press conference – “I’ve got to f––ing beat the Spanish at some point” – just after her club had won their fifth consecutive WSL title was rather telling.

It portended what lay in wait at the Olympics. Sure, Zambia’s lack of quality beyond its forward line could force that squad to play low and tight during the group stage. But few of the rest of the USWNT’s potential opponents are guaranteed to offer low-block defensive structures waiting to stymie the U.S.’s high-flying attack. 

Those teams, featuring Germany and Australia in the group stage and potentially Japan, Brazil, and yes, Spain later on, know how to play football. They won’t be playing with fear. 

So, instead of speaking like an apex predator frustrated that their prey won’t roll over and show their bellies, Hayes has pulled back the curtain on where the U.S. stands right now: they may be underdogs at times during the tournament.

No longer is their tactical objective to play freely when faced with a brick wall. Now, they may have to figure out how to contain some of the best attacking units in the world. (And that absolutely includes Zambia, by the way.)

What the USWNT will look like under Emma Hayes
We’ve been up late watching hours and hours of Hayes’ Chelsea team.

Looking to Hayes' Chelsea team for insight into the USWNT's new challenge, the English giants put together a dry run of sorts in April when they played Barcelona across two legs in the Champions League semis. Barcelona had seven players called up to Spain’s UEFA Women’s Euros qualifiers this week, and the club’s stylistic DNA ran deep through the side that hoisted the World Cup trophy in Sydney last summer.

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