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Tobin Heath and Christen Press tell SB Nation what’s wrong with the USWNT and what they want to see

The hosts of “The RE-CAP Show” break down the game vs. Netherlands, and how the USWNT can get back on track.

The resumes of Tobin Heath and Christen Press speak for themselves. World Cup winners in 2015 and 2019, former teammates on both the USWNT and Manchester United, the pair are missing the 2023 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand due to injury — but in the wake of that disappointment, they’ve discovered a new calling.

Heath and Press host “The RE-CAP Show,” a podcast during this World Cup focusing on each performance of the UWSNT, previewing upcoming games, and bringing along some of their friends to discuss every element of the sport. Download the podcast here, and watch every episode on YouTube here. SB sat down with Heath and Press to discuss their podcast, what they’re seeing out of the USWNT following the draw with Netherlands, and learned exactly what “gal culture” is along the way.

With Vietnam more or less a warmup for the USWNT, Heath saw the second game vs. Netherlands as an opportunity to learn the identity of this U.S. team, and leaving it there are still more questions. “They’re still figuring it out,” Heath says, “we referenced 2015 a lot, that was a tournament that while we were playing the tournament we were figuring a lot of things out.”

A big reason for this feeling out stage is the blend of the first-time players in the World Cup with the established stars of the USWNT, and that’s a puzzle that’s still being worked on. “This is two lineups in a row that aren’t used to playing with one another,” Heath says, “they played a [Netherlands] lineup that was more cohesive and had a better understanding of what they were trying to do.”

USA vs Netherlands, 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Set Number: X164387 TK1

Heath notes that a major factor in the first half was how thoroughly outplayed the USWNT was by Netherlands. “It looked like a lot of people, and I referenced this on our show, didn’t really know what they were doing.” A major element of this isn’t lack of effort by the UWNT in Heath’s mind, but rather that women’s global football has changed in such a way that the USA can’t rest on its laurels anymore. “There’s no longer this idea that if you run faster and jump higher that you will win. At this point we have to become more sophisticated in the ways we are approaching a football game.”

One of the lingering questions following the Netherlands game is why more changes weren’t made from a coaching perspective, including using the USWNT’s deep bench to spark more scoring opportunities. “Was [the coaching staff] afraid of making a change?” Press ponders, “there’s no way in the world that you’re wondering if Megan Rapinoe can come in for 15 minutes and deliver a great cross. You’re confident in that, there’s no lack of confidence.”

The lack of USWNT dominance is a problem of the team’s own making. At this point there is an expectation from fans that this team will come out and obliterate competition like Netherlands, and when that doesn’t happen there’s a propensity to want to hit the panic button. However, as unrealistic as these fan expectations might be, Heath has no problem with supporters wanting to see dominance:

“To have any other expectation other than dominance will be a sad day for the U.S. women’s national team. So I think that is the highest level of respect that we have for the team, and that we have the highest level of criticism for them — because that’s the level we expect the team to be at. If that ever fades the results of the U.S. women’s national team will also fade.”

The prevailing belief of both Heath and Press is that the biggest challenge to the USWNT is the USWNT themselves. “When Lindsey Horan’s equalizer happened, in that moment you go crazy,” Heath says, “you throw in your Ballon d’Or winner, you throw in a Lynn Williams, you push Julie Ertz up into the six — you literally grab their throat and win that game. That is the U.S. women’s national team, and there was this paralysis.”

It can be really difficult as a player to be forced to sit back and maintain a conservative gameplan when you want to push the tempo. “It’s incredibly tough for the onus to fall on the individual,” Press says, “in a World Cup tournament it’s beyond the individual [...] not just making sure the pieces are on the field, but those pieces are at their best. Having played many roles on the U.S. Women’s National Team all you can do is being prepared for anything.”

It’s fascinating for Heath and Press to pivot from playing in the World Cup to analyzing it back home, and they joke that nobody on the USWNT cares about what they have to say right now. “They’re in win mode,” Press says, “and there’s no team better in the world to handle this kind of noise than our team.”

“Nobody cares,” Heath adds, “it’s so funny because we’re all here giving our opinions and think we matter [Press laughs]. Honestly, it’s the biggest BS that anybody notices because all these players are fully focused on getting the job done.”

“That’s true for praise as much as it is criticism,” notes Press. “For myself as a player I find that the positive press just as toxic, if not more toxic than the negative press — because you kinda become a little addicted to it. It’s external validation. [...] You have to ignore the praise as much as you ignore the criticism.”

As we now approach the USWNT’s third game against Portugal there’s one very simple thing that Press wants this team to do: Score goals.

“I would love to see a bunch of goals. I would love to see a clarity in how the team wants to score, like a goal-scoring identity. I think the best teams in the world you can predict how they’re going to score. It’s almost like ‘well, everyone knows how they’re going to score, so you should be able to stop them,’ and then they just keep doing it. I find that the most beautiful thing about football.”

The RE-CAP Show is about football, and breaking down the World Cup — but it’s also about establishing an identity for a sports podcast led by women, by women, and for everyone. That starts with something Heath and Press call “Gal Culture,” and how it differs from the “Bro Culture” which takes up much of the oxygen when it comes to sports coverage.

“Gal Culture is what you witness talking to us. It’s being unashamed by your greatness, being unashamed of the culture that is women’s sports — which isn’t so much about women’s sports. It’s progressive. It’s inclusive. It’s very forward-thinking and it’s around the storytelling of a lot of different buckets. We talk about women’s health, we talk about queer culture, we talk about sports like when we’re in our locker room talking about our game.”

Press adds, “Before the show started I was like ‘We are unapologetic and confident and we don’t care what anyone thinks,’ but I’m finding that we’re wise and vulnerable and that we’re a lot of things at the same time. There’s this rage against the definition that is Gal Culture, and it’s inclusive — it’s not really just gals. We welcome everybody.”

Heath and Press are hosting more episodes of The RE-CAP Show throughout the World Cup on YouTube, with new episodes before and after each game. It’s a must-watch for anyone wanting to better understand the game or become a smarter soccer fan.