New national team coach Emma Hayes ready for sideline debut as US women look ahead to the Olympics

Emma Hayes said the groundwork has been completed ahead of her debut with the U.S. women's national team. Now it's all about the details.

Hayes will be on the sidelines with her team for the first time Saturday when the United States plays a friendly match against South Korea in Commerce City, Colorado.

Hayes was named U.S. coach in November but she finished out the Women's Super League season with Chelsea before joining her new team in-person. Assistant Twila Kilgore coached the U.S. in the interim, but Hayes was involved from afar.

“I think there’s been a better tactical understanding than I anticipated. But for me, the most important thing has been their ability to grasp information really, really quickly. Sponges, unbelievable sponges,” Hayes said of her experience with the players this week in training camp. “No matter what we’ve thrown at them this week, they’re taking it on, they’re absorbing it.

“This team is desperate to improve, and it’s focused on the performances and the processes to do just that.”

Hayes replaced Vlatko Andonovski, who stepped down last year after the United States got knocked out of the Women's World Cup in the round of 16, the team's earliest exit ever.

Hayes, 47, arrived in the United States last week after winning a fifth straight WSL title with Chelsea. After a whirlwind of media appearances and interviews, she headed to Colorado for her first training camp with the team as it prepares for the Olympics this summer.

Asked Friday what she's learned about the players since her arrival, Hayes quipped: “Well, their names, for starters.”

“What you get on the field, it’s awesome. You get some some jokes here and there, but just demanding a lot out of us and and keeping the standard,” captain Lindsey Horan said in describing Hayes. “Also the positive encouragement and feedback and giving voices to us, as well.”

Forward Alex Morgan has been through coaching transitions before.

“I think it's something where you just expect the unexpected. You know that change is coming, now change is here," Morgan said. “Just having that willingness and openness to learn at any stage of your career is extremely important. And we've been learning a lot.”

Hayes said Kilgore put in the “building blocks” for the last six months.

“My job this week is to fill the detail. Is there going to be a transition away from that? No, it's being built upon that,” Hayes said. “I think there are lots of different things, but the differences are the details as opposed to major structural changes.”

Following Saturday's game against South Korea and a rematch Tuesday in St. Paul, Minnesota, Hayes will be tasked with selecting a tight 18-player roster for the Olympics.

She is expected to name the roster before the team plays a pair of send-off friendlies, the first against Mexico at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on July 13, and the second against Costa Rica at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on July 16.

The United States opens the Olympics with Zambia on July 25 in Nice.


AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Commerce City, Colorado, contributed to this report.


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