New coach Emma Hayes seeking to restore U.S. women's soccer glory

New coach Emma Hayes seeking to restore U.S. women's soccer glory

New U.S. women's national soccer coach Emma Hayes stopped short of predicting Olympic gold for her squad Thursday, saying the world's commitment to the sport has made it "an equal playing field."

In her first national TV interview since she was hired to run the world's most famed women's soccer program, Hayes diplomatically sidestepped when she was asked whether the USWNT will bring home gold from France this summer.

"My focus is on the performances of the team," she told NBC's "TODAY." "I want to get that right first."

The U.S. women's program has been in disarray since its shocking round-of-16 elimination in last year's World Cup.

The bitterly disappointing loss to Sweden on penalties led USWNT manager Vlatko Andonovski to resign a little more than a week later. Twila Kilgore was interim manager before she handed the reins to Hayes.

U.S. soccer fans were understandably shocked by the early exit.

In seven Olympic tournaments, the USWNT has brought home gold four times (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012). The Americans, though, haven’t made the title match in the last two Olympics.

In nine FIFA World Cup tournaments, America has won it all four times (1991, 1999, 2015, 2019), and it had triumphed in consecutive tourneys before the stunning loss in Australia 10 months ago.

“There’s no denying that historically, the program has been hugely successful, but the rest of the world and their resources has made that an equal playing field,” said Hayes, who arrived in America after having led Chelsea to five consecutive English Women's Super League titles.

Her debut on the sidelines will be June 1 when South Korea visits he Americans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colorado.

It'll be a fast learning curve for Hayes, whose Americans are just two months away from the Olympic stage. Team USA is set to play Zambia in Nice on July 25.

Hayes said she's seeking the right balance between veterans and young, up-and-coming talent for her roster.

"For me it's the combination, the blend; we need the right mix," she said. "You can't go to an Olympics with a complete inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16," when the USWNT plays its last friendly before the Olympics.

Hayes left England as the most accomplished and arguably the most beloved club manager in the sport's history.

She was particularly popular with Chelsea supporters, and the love affair was mutual.

In her last match, a championship-clinching 6-0 victory at Manchester United, Blues supporters cried out, "Emma, what's the score?!"

A smiling Hayes responded by holding up fingers to soak up the gloriously one-sided scoreboard.

Hayes surely got off on the right foot with American fans Thursday, using the word "soccer" and resisting any mention of the sport she managed in England, "football."

“I was lucky to be born in England — but made in America," said Hayes, who has previous head coaching experience at Iona College and with the Chicago Red Stars.

"So going back to England 12 years ago, I brought everything that I learned from the U.S. game from my time here."

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