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Star in the making: Only 22, Tierna Davidson among young players ready to lead U.S. women’s national team

When coach Vlatko Andonovski announced the 23-player training-camp roster this year for the team’s final match against the Netherlands, the imminent changing of the guard was more apparent than ever.

Tierna Davidson left school early to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft and compete for — and win — a World Cup title.
Tierna Davidson left school early to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft and compete for — and win — a World Cup title.
Daniel Bartel/ISIPhotos.com

Tierna Davidson is considered to be a cornerstone of the U.S. women’s national team’s future, but right now she’s more focused on acing economics.

Upon arriving in Colorado last month for the USWNT’s first event since March, Davidson had to complete an economics test. In the midst of what has been an unprecedented year on and off the field, Davidson decided to enroll in online courses at Stanford in pursuit of her undergraduate degree.

She left school early to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NWSL Draft and compete for — and win — a World Cup title. Looking back, it’s not a decision she regrets, but school is still a significant priority for the 22-year-old.

“Stanford went fully online this quarter, which they don’t normally do at all,” Davidson said. “It’s been nice to feel like I’ve been using the downtime to progress towards something.”

Davidson is expected to compete for a spot on the USWNT for the next decade, along with other young stars, such as Rose Lavelle.

When coach Vlatko Andonovski announced the 23-player training-camp roster this year for the team’s final match against the Netherlands, the imminent changing of the guard was more apparent than ever.

Missing from the squad headed to Breda, Netherlands, for the Nov. 27 match were two of the team’s captains, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.

Andonovski said Lloyd is recovering from surgery while Rapinoe has not been able train in a team environment. From a physical perspective, she won’t be ready to compete with the national team. Both are expected to be at camp in January in preparation for the Olympics.

Several other players from the 2019 World Cup team also were left off the roster, including Red Stars midfielder Morgan Gautrat.

“The process of selecting the team never stops,” Andonovski said. “Some players are injured or aren’t physically ready to perform at this moment. But at the same time, if you look at the other side, this is an opportunity for us to see some of the younger players.”

Some of the younger players include Catarina Macario, Sophia Smith and Ashley Hatch.

Midfielder Jaelin Howell, who replaced Lindsay Horan on the roster after Horan tested positive for COVID-19, brings more youth to the fresh-faced squad.

In total, this roster has four players with zero caps with the USWNT, eight players with less than five and nine with less than 20.

Andonovski said it’s a fine line to balance when it comes to continuity. He wants to keep the majority of the roster intact so that it can solidify its chemistry, adding that about 70% of it will be the same when training begins for the Olympics.

For Davidson, it’s an opportunity for her to shift from a new star to a vocal leader. She said she’s focused on soaking up as much as she can from the veterans.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that we do have a lot of players that are coming into their closing years of playing,” Davidson said. “Whether it be after the Olympics or in the next couple of years. Our responsibility as the younger players is to carry on the legacy that these players built, to build upon it and place our own legacy there.”