The United States women close out their 2023 schedule this week in Frisco, Texas, where they will hope to take another step toward forging a new identity and establishing better tactics, interim head coach Twila Kilgore said on Monday.
Kilgore, speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday's friendly with China, had a clear message for her squad as it gets set to turn the page on a year that included a disappointing World Cup and the retirement of mainstays Megan Rapinoe and Julie Ertz.
"It's showing who we are but also who we're becoming," said Kilgore. "There's some really good stuff here. We have a very strong history.
"This is a program that means so much to so many people and really has been an example to the world in some ways about what women's football can be and we don't want to lose any of that.
"And yet we are layering in new ideas, we are layering in new tactics, we are layering in just a little bit of a shift in mentality and I think it's both."
Kilgore replaced Vlatko Andonovski on an interim basis in August when the latter stepped down after the national team produced their worst-ever performance at a Women's World Cup, exiting in the round of 16.
Long-time Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has since been named head coach, but will not officially start her new role until the end of her current club's season in May. However, her fresh perspective is welcomed, say some of the team's current players.
"I think we'll learn a lot from her and she'll learn a lot from us," defender Emily Fox said.
Hayes consulted with Kilgore and U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker on the team's roster for the final two games of the year. The U.S. left veterans Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alyssa Naeher off the squad in favor of taking a look at younger players.
"This camp is -- honestly, we've been saying it's kind of starting fresh because of the World Cup and everything. Emma, being able to meet her, and obviously having new faces in camp, younger faces," forward Trinity Rodman said after Saturday's game. "I think it's just building an understanding, creating an identity and executing a game plan."
Defender Naomi Girma echoed the sentiment that Hayes' arrival is something of a fresh start.
"We feel like we have our direction. We know what we're building towards now, and it's all very clear. I think overall we're just excited to hit the ground running with her," Girma said.
Kilgore, who will stay on as an assistant coach on Hayes' staff, said having fresh faces requires players to get a faster hold on what the team's identity is within the group but added that the ultimate goal remains the same.
"We have to acclimate them quicker and do so maybe not just amongst a group of veterans but do so with a group that is new which is a little bit different," said Kilgore.
"But I think it's the same thing it's always been. We want to be on the front foot offensively and defensively, we want to be dominant where we can be, we want to get better in possession and we want to show that we believe that we can win under all circumstances."
The U.S. plays China for a second time on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas, after beating the Asian side 3-0 in a friendly on Saturday.
Following the matches against China, the U.S. players will get a break before the first women's Concacaf Gold Cup in March. Then it's on to the Olympics in July. The United States has qualified for both tournaments and has a desire to put 2023 in the past.
"There's so much talent in the team and I don't think the world has seen enough of it yet, because we need to go out and show it, we need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have and what we're all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together and be more of a team and be a powerhouse again," captain Lindsey Horan said. "So it's gonna be exciting for us to have [Hayes] and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us improve moving forward."