Why, for long-term gains, USWNT may be better off losing winter friendlies in Australia

The U.S. women’s national team is doing something it traditionally doesn’t do very often: It’s heading overseas to play a pair of friendlies against a tough opponent on hostile turf. In this case, it’s Australia, a team that’s been steadily on the rise thanks to the talent of players like Samantha Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter.

Fresh off a disappointing Olympics over the summer, these games — on Friday at 11 p.m. ET and then Tuesday at 4: 05 a,m. ET ( stream the second match LIVE on ESPN ) won’t be easy for the USWNT, but that’s the whole point. The Americans want these games in Australia to be tough — and, the players probably won’t admit to this part, if they lose one or both of the games, even better. That’s because losing paves the way for winning, as we have seen over and over again with the USWNT.

Consider this: Coming into the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, head coach Vlatko Andonovski had never lost a game since taking the helm of the USWNT, and the team was riding a 44-game unbeaten streak when it arrived in Japan. That, of course, didn’t work out very well.

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In retrospect, is it any wonder the U.S. players looked frazzled in their opening game of the Olympics, when Sweden clobbered them in a masterful showing ? The U.S. players hadn’t experienced the sting of a loss in too long, and the USWNT’s send-off games before the Olympics were on U.S. soil in front of packed home crowds — something many teams in the Olympics couldn’t enjoy due to the pandemic.

These games in Australia, which are open to fans, will be the USWNT’s first time playing in front of away fans since the World Cup more than two years ago in France, which saw a sizable American contingent travel to see the games anyway. The USWNT’s last time playing an away game against a hostile crowd outside a major tournament was in Europe in January 2019, including a 3-1 loss to France.

Lindsay Horan remembers that trip to France well, of course. When asked by ESPN about what’s different when playing in front of away fans, she can’t help but mention that loss. "It’s different — you’re going into the game and it’s more difficult to ever play in an away stadium," Horan said. "I think the last time I remember doing it was in France before the World Cup and it’s difficult when they have a 12th man."

Jill Ellis, the former U.S. coach, has directly credited losing with enabling the USWNT to overcome a slow start in Canada and win the 2015 World Cup. The Americans went to Brazil in December 2014 and lost, and then to France in February 2015 and lost again. "I wanted them to struggle," Ellis said of their trip to Brazil in an exclusive interview . "It was going […]

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