The U.S. U23 Women’s National Team tasted success at the recent Four Nations Tournament, winning the competition in La Manga, Spain last week.
For head coach Randy Waldrum, the achievement was nice, but getting the opportunity to test his group against tough opposition was the most beneficial aspect of the trip.
“It gave me a chance to really see who’s on track to stay in the pool, who do we need to look to replace, or who do we start to consider potential players to move forward to the senior team,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It was nice to get a good measuring stick of that.”
With a 2-0 win over Sweden, a 2-1 loss to England, and a 5-0 win over Norway in the three games, the U.S. won the four-team competition by topping the table with six points on the week. England and Sweden tied for second with four points.
This was just the second time in 2012 Waldrum had the chance to work with this particular U23 group, and the tournament was the first time the U.S. had a chance to play against opposition other than themselves.
“It was nice to play against other teams other than playing ourselves and compete to see where we actually are,” defender Natasha Anasi told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “That was the number one overall thing that was the best, and other than that just being in a foreign country and experiencing their culture was nice.”
Waldrum, said despite it only being his second camp with the U23s, he was pleased to get a better idea of the player pool layout, and save for one half against England in the 2-1 loss, thought the in-game performances were solid.
In the first half of the game against England, the U.S. went down 2-0 and couldn’t overturn the deficit, despite a much-improved performance after the break.
“We were down two, so we got one back, and were probably a little unlucky not to tie the game up, and we had enough good chances to actually win it,” Waldrum said.
Added Anasi: “[England’s] movement in the midfield and within their midfielders and forwards was at a very high level. I think that we played teams that were of a high level and that was obviously was a good thing for us to do and see how we stack up.”
Results and performance aside, the main purpose of the trip for Waldrum is to use the team as a platform to identify players who might be able to contribute to the full women’s national team one day. There is no U23 competition to prepare for, so in essence, the main purpose is to test players and see who is ready to make that jump.
“I see the mission for this team is to get them ready through international competitions to get them ready for the full team,” Waldrum said. “It’s going to be that age that’s in-between, from the college players who are too old for the U20s, and it’s going to be that venue for those players to continue to develop and get some international games under their belt while they’re still developing.”
Waldrum also indicated that the women’s youth coaches are working on widening the lines of communication between age groups, from Albertin Montoya with the U17s, Steve Swanson with the U20s, to Waldrum, all the way up through to Pia Sundhage and the full team.
From a player’s perspective, any U23 camp is an opportunity to show they belong at that full national team level, something that didn’t escape midfielder Amber Brooks, who captained the side in La Manga.
“Obviously I want to take it one step at a time and I like to set a lot of a short term goals, but ever since I was a little girl I’ve had my sights set on the full team one day,” she told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “I’m hoping sooner rather than later I finally get that invite to full team camp.”
This won’t be the last camp of the year for the U23s, as Waldrum hinted at a similar tournament in the summer somewhere in Scandinavia, giving players another chance to prove themselves at this next level.
U.S. U23 WNT Roster In La Manga:
Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Oklahoma State; Salina, Kan.), Bianca Henninger (unattached; Los Gatos, Calif.)
Defenders: Natasha Anasi (Duke; Arlington, Texas), Lauren Barnes (out of contract; Upland, Calif.), Jazmine Hall (Notre Dame; Highland Village, Texas), Camille Levin (unattached; Newport Coast, Calif.), Toni Pressley (unattached; Melbourne, Fla.), Elli Reed (out of contract; Park City, Utah), Kika Toulouse (Virginia; Arlington, Va.)
Midfielders: Amber Brooks (North Carolina; New Hope, Pa.), Zakiya Bywaters (UCLA; Las Vegas, Nev.), Bianca D’Agostino (out of contract; Longmeadow, Mass.), Sinead Farrelly (out of contract; Havertown, Pa.), Taylor Lytle (Texas Tech; Las Cruces, N.M.)
Forwards: Vicki DiMartino (Boston College; Massapequa, N.Y.), Stephanie Ochs (unattached; San Diego, Calif.), Morgan Marlborough (Santa Clara; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Lindsay Taylor (unattached; Los Altos, Calif.)