St. Paul, Minnesota — Her jersey read “25,” but she was actually lucky number “29.” Kristen Hamilton made her debut last night in Minnesota, at the new Allianz Field. Hamilton’s call up was certainly overdue, as she has produced one of her best NWSL seasons. With Jess McDonald away for the World Cup, Hamilton stepped up and scored seven goals for the North Carolina Courage.
It was hard to ignore a performance like that — and Jill Ellis didn’t want to.
Even though she’s on her way close to retirement, Ellis brought Hamilton into the Victory Tour camp. She sat on the bench in the first match against Portugal. However, last night, Hamilton’s debut came in the 75th minute. She subbed in for her club teammate, McDonald.
Hamilton’s debut is the 29th first-time debut under Ellis.
Now, it’s up the Ellis’ successor to continue to look at the cultivation of players throughout the National Women’s Soccer League — and abroad. Hamilton is just one of many cases that shows how the NWSL works.
However, last night, Hamilton wasn’t able to find the net. Instead, Carli Lloyd netted the opening two goals. Her first shot came in the 22nd minute. Lloyd initially went for a volley shot, but her attempt was blocked by Portuguese goalkeeper Inês Pereira. McDonald followed it up, but eventually Lloyd smacked it home.
Then, in the 32nd minute, the United States was awarded a penalty kick. Tobin Heath was taken down inside the box by a Portuguese defender. Lloyd stepped up to take the kick, calmly putting it past Pereira.
The game-winning goal didn’t come until the 83rd minute. Colorado native Lindsey Horan scored off a corner kick header, as the ball was delivered in by Christen Press. The cross marked Press’ 11th assist this year.
— Kristen Hamilton (@khamilton17) September 4, 2019
Hamilton: “It’s pretty hard to put into words”
Allianz Field lit up whenever Hamilton entered the pitch. Surrounded by reporters after the match, Hamilton said the feeling was awesome, but also hard to put into words.
“My journey has been pretty unconventional to get here, so to hear the crowd going crazy was really cool,” Hamilton said, via U.S. Soccer. “It’s a special experience. This team has made it really easy to step into the role. It’s been awesome.”
Hamilton admitted that she had to hold back tears when entering the pitch.
“First of all, Jess, my teammate at the courage, came off. Seeing her make eye contact with me, I was telling myself to keep it together. She’s been such a mentor for me, and a role model for me. To step on for her was really cool.”
Hamilton also made a push for fans to turn out for NWSL games like they do for the sold-out Victory Tour matches.
The support for women’s soccer has been great,” Hamilton said. “They’re success in France shows now, and hopefully we can continue to build that around the league, the NWSL. These people can come see these players every week in the NWSL. I think we need to make that aware to them. We need to sell out stadiums in that league, as well.”
- Using the NWSL helps: Hamilton, as mentioned, is a story of how the NWSL works. She’s been long in the shadows of McDonald and even Lynn Williams. However, now, Hamilton is basking in the spotlight and reaping the rewards of her successful play. Will she be part of the next manager’s system? One can only hope.
- Ellis ties the late, great Tony DiCicco: When you think of USWNT managers, Jill Ellis and Tony DiCicco have to be the clear favorites to come into your mind. The late DiCicco won 105 matches as USWNT coach, a role he served in from 1994-99. He led the historic ’99ers to the group’s second World Cup victory. Now, with the win over Portugal, Ellis has tied his record. She has two more matches as head coach, with two October friendlies against South Korea.
- Gearing up for the playoff race: The national team players won’t be back for another month. However, the next month is going to be crucial for most players, as they battle for playoff spots in the NWSL with their club teams. Despite Sky Blue and Orlando sitting at the bottom, you can’t stick a fork in anyone. Every spot is up for grabs.
Chill stat of the night: with today's win, Jill Ellis ties Tony DiCicco for most wins in #USWNT history.
Current record: 105-7-18.
W I L D 🐐 N U M B E R S 🐐 pic.twitter.com/dWaGszEVxp
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) September 4, 2019
The USWNT will have two more Victory Tour matches in October.
On Oct. 3, the team will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, to host South Korea. Then, a mere three days later, the team will head to Chicago, the headquarters of U.S. Soccer, for a Victory Tour finale against South Korea. The Asian team went to its third World Cup this past summer. Now, they’re vying for a chance to host in 2023.