It’s hard to get a good laugh at allegations that US Soccer athletic director Matt Crocker would use a sophisticated and thorough process to find new coaches for both the men’s and women’s national teams, and for For the former he landed with the guy who already had the job, and for the latter he landed with the best coach in the best league in the world.
How complicated can it be when at the end there is the guy and then the woman wearing several WSL winners’ medals around her neck?
While the jury is still out on what Berhalter v2.0 will be, US Soccer’s signing of Emma Hayes to the USWNT is clearly a home run. U.S. Soccer finally acted like the big bad on the field it always was and will be for the foreseeable future, didn’t get too cute and brought in one of the biggest names in the game to bring the team’s shine back, that she had should always be like that.
Hayes has overseen Chelsea’s transformation into potentially the second greatest club team in the world. And while Roman Abramovich’s millions helped transform it, it wouldn’t get this far without Hayes’ leadership. Chelsea have won the last four WSL titles and five of the last six while playing some of their best football of all time. They appeared in the 2021 Champions League final and last year’s semi-final, losing both times to Barcelona – undoubtedly the best team in the world, who also basically just won the World Cup – and just lost last year’s semi-final overall 2:1 over two legs.
What will have USWNT fans’ eyes widening with excitement is the fact that Hayes is more than used to molding some of the best players in the world into a team and not just letting them do whatever they want, which is part of it The downfall of Vlatkos Andonovsky was. Last year’s Chelsea team included Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Guro Reiten, Lauren James, Eve Perisset and several other international stars, all of whom play a big role for their countries. Hayes will have no problem dealing with some egos or those who have been treated differently by different managers and come with certain expectations.
She is also no stranger to the American game, having coached in the NCAA with Iona and worked with Chicago, New York and Washington in the NWSL’s predecessor, the WPS. She has already coached some of the USWNT stars, such as Crystal Dunn in the past and now Catarina Macario and Mia Fishel.
Perhaps best of all, Hayes doesn’t bring with her a garbage system like Andonovsky did before her, which was all about ramming the ball down the wings in the hope that Sophia Smith could beat someone with speed. Hayes’ Chelsea teams have seamlessly transitioned between a 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1 system in recent years, and the USWNT shouldn’t have any problems with that either. However, for an international team, Hayes is more likely to pick a system and examine it more closely.
Hayes will also get something of a clean slate with the squad. The old guard has officially moved on, especially with their retirement (and Alex Morgan with her performance at the World Cup). Aside from Lindsey Horan and Dunn, the rest of Hayes’ lineup could and should be under 25 (and for heaven’s sake, try Sam Coffey!). There shouldn’t be many established lineup options here, as Hayes wants to take advantage of the wealth of talent on offer.
What Hayes can’t do is transform the way players are developed before they join the national team, at least not on day one. But she is not a shy violet who is afraid to express her opinion on such topics. And with the USWNT more than three years removed from the next World Cup – the only tournament that really matters to them – it has plenty of time to survey the scene and get the U.S. back to the level of Spain or England now standing.
The USWNT manager’s job may still be the biggest in the sport. Yes, the expectations are atmospheric, but that makes it the biggest task in this sport. The team either wins the World Cup or fails. It’s only suitable for a few people. US Soccer went out and picked up one of the few fully qualified for the seat. It behaved like the wolf roaming the landscape. It is time.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky @felsgate.bsky.social
https://deadspin.com/emma-hayes-uswnt-chelsea-womens-world-cup-1850995750 USWNT makes the right choice by hiring Emma Hayes as head coach