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New coach Emma Hayes conducts 1st practice with US women's soccer team, preparing for Paris Games

New coach Emma Hayes, center, leads the U.S. women's soccer team in practice Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Boulder, Colo. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The directions called out by U.S. women's soccer coach Emma Hayes carried throughout the field as her team went through drills Tuesday in their first practice together.

It's a new voice. A new way. But same lofty standards.

Hayes and the squad are trying to quickly get up to speed ahead of the Paris Games later this summer as they try to earn a fifth Olympic gold medal. After a couple of quick meetings, it was right to work Tuesday on the field at the University of Colorado, where the team gained a glimpse into the way their new coach prefers to play.

“It does take time, but I think everyone’s focused and ready and excited for this new opportunity,” said forward and Colorado native Mallory Swanson, whose team kicks off the Hayes' tenure on Saturday with a friendly against South Korea in Commerce City, Colorado. “With that comes everyone getting on the same page and learning together and growing together.”

Named the U.S. coach in November, Hayes joined the squad in Colorado after finishing up her final season as coach of Chelsea.

No need for introductions. Her reputation precedes her.

“Anyone in the soccer world knows Emma Hayes,” said forward Sophia Smith, who's from Colorado. “She’s a legend and her resume speaks for itself. We all just trust her. Obviously trust is something you build. What she’s done for the game and for the sport, we all trust her and are excited about her. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot in the next week. We already have learned a lot in the first few days.”

One thing Hayes may soon learn about her squad is they carry a chip on their shoulder. Perhaps even more so after a disappointing finish in the Women's World Cup last year. The early exit led to coach Vlatko Andonovski resigning from the U.S. team. Twila Kilgore took over in the interim while Hayes finished the season with Chelsea, and will now serve as an assistant coach under Hayes.

“If a team going into the Olympics doesn’t have a chip on their shoulder, there’s a problem there," Smith said. “This team for so many years has set the standard, has been the best in the world, and that’s what we want to continue on. We want to honor what this team has done before us but we also want to set new standards and just be a different version of this team and be the best in the world."

After their match Saturday, the women's team will play another against South Korea on June 4 in St. Paul, Minnesota. These matches give Hayes an up-close look at players before she names the roster for the Olympics.

The U.S. women’s team has captured four Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008, 2012), one silver (2000) and one bronze (Tokyo in 2021).

“The goal is to win a gold medal but right now we have a new coach, we have a new system," Smith explained. "The main goal and priority is the process and just learning and adapting and growing and taking each day as a chance to get better and grow with this group.

“We aren’t really results-focused right now. It’s more process-focused. I think with that results will come. But right now it’s just about getting the group together, getting the chemistry going and, yeah, preparing us for the Olympics, but for the future after that, too.”

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

A crew member with the U.S. women's soccer team deflects a sprinkler so water dose not spray players after the water came on during practice Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Boulder, Colo. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)
The U.S. women's soccer team practices Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Boulder, Colo. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)