Sarah Gorden and Kealia Watt look to leave a strong impression at USWNT camp

The 27 players selected by coach Vlatko Andonovski to participate in the training camp running Oct. 18-28 include Alyssa Naeher, Morgan Gautrat, Tierna Davidson, Casey Short, Kealia Watt and Sarah Gorden.

SHARE Sarah Gorden and Kealia Watt look to leave a strong impression at USWNT camp
The Red Stars’ Sarah Gorden, front, is among the players training with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

The Red Stars’ Sarah Gorden, front, is among the players training with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Rick Bowmer/AP

Last week, the NWSL Fall Series concluded for the Red Stars but six will continue their training with the U.S. Women’s National Team.

The 27 players selected by coach Vlatko Andonovski to participate in the training camp, which runs Oct. 18-28, include Alyssa Naeher, Morgan Gautrat, Tierna Davidson, Casey Short, Kealia Watt and Sarah Gorden.

The Red Stars had the most players called up out of any NWSL team, and it’s not a surprise.

“The Red Stars created such an incredible culture of competing,” Kealia Watt said. “You have to compete every single practice and really earn your spot and earn your respect here.”

All 27 players invited to the 10-day camp in Commerce City, Colorado, have some previous experience playing with the USWNT, except for Gorden.

She is the only player on the roster who never attended a U.S. youth national camp and is one of 10 uncapped players on the roster and the only uncapped Red Star.

Traditionally speaking, Gorden’s road to the national team is anything but traditional. Under Andonovki’s leadership, the USWNT is paying closer attention to players in the NWSL, and Gorden’s call-up reflects that.

“A lot of NWSL players look at it like this, that basically everyone’s journey is different,” Gorden said. “Not everyone comes out of college, gets drafted and gets selected for these camps right away.”

Her inexperience with the national team isn’t a deterring factor for the defender. In fact, it’s more motivation than anything. Gorden is looking forward to the opportunity to continue showing her growth on and off the field.

Gorden has been very vocal about the fact that when she began prioritizing her mental health, her performance on the fieldimproved dramatically. While she’s at camp, her priority will be staying focused, maintaining a clear headspace and staying trueto her goals.

She’s also leaned on teammates for advice on what to expect during the 10-day camp.

“The biggest advice is to be yourself, specifically on the field,” Gorden said. “You know your strengths, you know what you’re good at, just be yourself out there.”

When Watt requested to be traded to the Red Stars last offseason, she also had a goal of returning to the USWNT.

Watt was a member of the U-20 World Cup team in 2012, along with Gautrat. She made her debut with the senior squad in 2016, earning three USWNT caps. Watt brokethe record for the fastest goal in a debut, scoring 48 seconds after entering her first USWNT match.

She was added to the team’s training camp for the Tournament of Nations in 2018. This reassured Watt that requesting to be traded was the best thing for her career.

“I really felt like if I wanted to get back with the national team, I needed to change my environment,” Watt said. “For me, it felt so good because it was so hard for me to leave Houston. Getting that email and finding out I was invited to camp was an amazing feeling.”

When the USWNT released its roster, some noticeable names were left off, including Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Christen Press, all of whom are currently playing in Europe.

Morgan told Business Insider in a recent interview that it made sense for Andonovski to leave them off the roster given the obstacles the pandemic presents regarding travel.

Either way, their absence presented an opportunity that both Gorden and Watt are focused on making long-term.

“Right now, I feel so confident in myself,” Watt said. “I’m genuinely excited to go and show Vlatko what I can do.”

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