Lindsey Horan’s goal as USWNT captain? Making young players ‘as confident as possible’

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Two years ago, Lindsay Horan told Vlatko Andonovski that one of her goals was to captain the U.S. women’s national team at the World Cup.

On the eve of the Americans’ first game against Vietnam on Friday (at 9 p.m. ET on Fox and the Fox Sports app), Andonowski reminded Horan of the moment.

“I didn’t know it would happen this time, but it did,” said Horan, who was named co-captain with Alex Morgan earlier this month.

She was speaking at the pre-match press conference, one of the many duties of a team captain at the World Cup.

[Don’t fret if USWNT doesn’t blow out Vietnam in World Cup opener]

Andonovski gifted that leadership role to Horan and Morgan last month after longtime team captain Becky Sauerbrunn was ruled out of this summer’s tournament with a groin injury.

Horan, a 28-year-old central midfielder, has played many big games. This is his second World Cup, he has participated in the Olympic Games and won the Champions League title with French club Lyon.

But despite a remarkable resume, he’s never had that much responsibility.

USWNT Co-Captain Lindsay Horan Shares Her Thoughts on America’s Adjustment to the World

“My teammates make it a little easier,” Horan said of how she’s adapting to the demands of the job. “I would also say that the kind of player I have been, especially in the last two to three years and the kind of leadership role I have stepped into, hasn’t changed much.

“We have got a lot of new players. We have a lot of young players coming into this World Cup. But it’s about giving them as much faith in their abilities as possible. Everyone is overprepared.

Horan’s name won’t spring to mind as quickly as Morgan or Megan Rapinoe — at least not yet. But he is one of the best attacking midfielders in the world and has been on that path for years.

Horan really set a precedent in 2012 when she became the first female soccer player to go straight out of college to the pros, and set a template for players like Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman and others.

She spent four years with Paris Saint-Germain before returning to the US and playing for the Portland Thorns and recently signed a new contract with Lyon, keeping her at the club until 2026.

When Horan and Morgan were named co-captains, Andonowski said that Horan would wear the armband when both were on the field. However, Horan rarely leaves the field and often plays the full 90 minutes. She plays a more defensive midfielder role for the USWNT these days, meaning she doesn’t get into the box or score goals as often as she used to. But his forte is empowering the players around him and making their lives easier.

Less than 24 hours before kick-off in Auckland, Horan was asked how it was that so many Vietnam players wanted to take selfies with USWNT players at a pre-tournament event last week.

Horan responded with a laugh and said, “I didn’t see that, so I guess they didn’t ask for my selfie.”

USWNT’s Lindsay Horan: No. 15 | Ellie Wagner’s Top 25 Players in 2023 Women’s World Cup

USWNT's Lindsay Horan: No.  15 |  Ellie Wagner's Top 25 Players in 2023 Women's World Cup

Horan also recently shared a story that early in his national team career he was accused of trying to “imitate Alex Morgan” for wearing a pink pre-wrap – the athletic foam tape most players wear as a headband. That’s why it turned red.

Now, as he begins his co-captaincy, Horan said of Morgan, “It’s the closest we’ve ever been.” Their mobility was about sharing the load and bouncing things off each other.

Horan said, “There are things he has more control over and the same applies for me, so I think we have a really good relationship in this co-captainship and it’s been great.” “It will be great to share that role and responsibility with her when she goes into this tournament.”

Horan also continues to receive advice from his old mentor Sauerbrunn, who often referred to Horan as his co-captain before he became official. The two have been in regular contact, but especially recently ahead of the World Cup.

“I chatted with Becky a bit before I left and got a message from her today wishing us well for tomorrow,” Horan said. “And just little things here and there to see how she’s doing, because obviously she was such a big part of this team and it’s a shame she can’t be here.

“But it’s nice to be in touch and to have him cheer me on and cheer me on as much as he can.”

And when the World Cup starts, Horan will do exactly that.

Lecon Littman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for Fox Sports. He previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of Strong Like a Woman, published in the spring of 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow him on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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