Davidson ready for USWNT breakthrough at the SheBelieves Cup
After impressing at the USWNT January camp, young central defender Tierna Davidson is poised to continue her breakthrough year at the SheBelieves Cup which gets underway this week. ASN's John Halloran caught up with the Stanford standout recently.
BY John Halloran PostedEVEN BEFORE SHE knew for sure, Tierna Davidson had started to notice the trend with the United States women's national team's training sessions.
February 27, 2018
February 27, 2018
In camp for the squad's January camp, the 19-year-old realized that every time the team split up for drills, the coaching staff put her with the group of regular starters.
Then, during the team meeting the night before the match against Denmark, her suspicion was confirmed—she'd be in the starting lineup for the game.
"They pulled up the slide with the starting 11 and my last name was on the roster and I was like, 'Wow.' I had to keep my cool inside of me and stay calm and act like this happens every day, but it was a great experience," Davidson explained to American Soccer Now.
"I think I started sweating immediately, but it was pretty fun to see my name up on the slide with some other pretty big names."
Slotted in at center back with Kelley O'Hara on her left and Julie Ertz in front of her, Davidson played 90 minutes in the contest and helped the team to a 5-1 win against the 12th-ranked Danes.
Now, the Stanford sophomore is in camp again with the Americans, this time ahead of the SheBelieves Cup and matches against No. 2 Germany, No. 6 France, and No. 3 England. The tournament kicks off on Thursday against the Germans in Columbus (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
Head coach Jill Ellis called in 26 players for the camp and announced her final 23-player roster on Friday. Davidson made the cut and argued she's starting to feel more comfortable in this, her fourth senior team camp. Even so, she admitted she's adjusting to the new environment.
"It's pretty surreal to just think that a year ago I was watching [the SheBelieves Cup] on TV as a fan," she said. "It's kind of weird to think about."
The defender insisted that people who know her say she does well to hold her emotions in check. But against Denmark ahead of her first cap, she found that was easier said than done.
"I definitely was a little bit antsy, a little eager, especially during the anthem. I was like, 'Alright, let's get this done, let's get on the road.' I know, for me, that the nerves start to fade away within the first minute or two of the game," said Davidson.
"As soon as I connect two or three passes, I can calm down and now I'm just playing a soccer game—nothing else matters."
During the contest, the center back matched up against Pernille Harder and Nadia Nadim, two of the best forwards in the world. Despite the challenge, Davidson gave a good account of herself both defensively and in possession, helping to build play out of the back for the U.S.
She credited her teammates for encouraging her throughout the contest and even though she added an assist for the Americans in the game, she said the moment she remembers most is when the final whistle sounded.
"[My teammates] all came up and hugged me and said, 'Great job. You did great. That was awesome.' It was really kind of a heartwarming experience to have these players that you know have been in the league for a long time, have been through this process a lot, still really able to give that genuine feeling and emotion to a young player who's just come on and had their first cap," Davidson remembered.
"That was really special for me to just feel like I belonged and that they wanted me there and that I did well."
In particular, the youngster credits several veterans for helping her adjust to the senior team. She noted that Kelley O'Hara has been "integral" to that process and added that she has also received help from Alyssa Naeher and Megan Rapinoe.
"[Kelley] is always talking which makes me feel comfortable to have that voice in my ear next to me," said Davidson. "Alyssa has also been super helpful from behind because goalkeepers can see everything. She's been really helpful in giving me tips on where I need to be, when I need to be there, what she'd like, [and] what she'd like me to do."
"[Megan] has reached out to me and made me feel welcome and a part of the team and I'm very grateful for that," said Davidson.
"If you feel like you belong off the field, it's a little bit easier to have less nerves on the field."
After her first senior team cap against Denmark, Davidson immediately headed to Trinidad where her U-20 teammates were competing in World Cup qualifying. Once there, she helped the team earn a trip to this summer's tournament in France.
Davidson admits the team didn't play exceptionally well in qualifying, but is proud of their perseverance and grit. She also argued the recent improvement of CONCACAF on the youth side is ultimately good for the United States.
"It seems as if the rest of CONCACAF seems, finally, to be promoting women's soccer more in their respective countries which is fantastic," she explained. "[It's] great for us to get more competition from this side of the world. I'm really excited about it."
During the last U-20 cycle, Davidson ultimately decided to skip the 2016 World Cup in Papua New Guinea. FIFA held the tournament in November and December and college players had to choose whether to play for their schools, or take a redshirt year.
"I decided that it would be important to get my first college season under my belt and pass up the U-20 World Cup and wait for the next one," she said. "I'm happy with my decision. I do not regret what I did because I've had a great experience at Stanford."
In 2018, the U-20 tournament is being held in August, meaning that college players can compete in both the World Cup and for their school later in the fall. Still, Davidson isn't sure if she'll play for the U.S. in France because of her senior national team and collegiate commitments.
"The game plan is still up in the air," she said. "I'm balancing between the full team camps and the U-20 camps. The coaches, Jitka [Klimkova] and Jill, talk and decide where I need to be sent, at what time, what's best for me, and what's best for my health and school and trying to get as much balance as possible. Right now it's actually not decided what I will be doing.
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.