Cece Hampton ’24
This past summer, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) traveled to New Zealand and Australia to compete in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Among the veterans on the squad were striker Alex Morgan, winger Megan Rapinoe and defender Kelly O’Hara, all returning for their fourth world cup, as well as goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who came back for her third World Cup. Naeher has experience backing up for former goalkeeper star Hope Solo, as well being a two-time Olympian. In the 2019 World Cup, she played every minute, giving up just three goals and having four shutouts. Her teammates describe her as being very focused, serious and stoic, even joking that she barely stops for a drink of water. Previous head women’s soccer coach Vlatko Andonovski described Naeher as being “world-class.”
Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Naeher grew up in Stratford, attended school her whole life in Trumbull and eventually moved with her family to Seymour. In her early days of playing soccer, Naeher played all over the state, forging ties within the soccer community across Connecticut. Each time the World Cup rolls around, Christian Heritage School, which Naeher attended for 16 years and where her dad has worked for 40 years, does something special to continue to support Naeher and share their pride for her achievements. After the Christian Heritage School, Naeher attended Penn State, where she was a multi-year All American and once earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. She played at Penn State from 2006- 2009, then turned pro.
Since her first time as a backup goalkeeper in the 2015 World Cup, 35-yearold Naeher has emerged as a veteran and leader of the USWNT. In an interview, she shared how her experience with two World Cups under her belt has naturally made her into a leader on the team, helping to guide the 14 players who made their World Cup debut this past summer on the USWNT. She says that the key to making a cohesive team dynamic is by balancing the freshness of the new players with the experience and knowledge of the returning players, some of them with almost a decade of experience in the league, to create the perfect culture on the team. In addition to playing for the women’s national team, Naeher also plays for the National Women’s Soccer League club Chicago Red Stars.
In 2020, Naeher was in the rankings for The Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year, ultimately being one of three finalists. As of now, she ranks third all-time in U.S. goalkeeper history for caps, wins, and shoutouts. In the early 2023 season, her 11th year in the league, she became the all-time leader for both saves and appearance by a goalkeeper in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). One of Naeher’s personal strategies for success in competition is having zero distractions. During the World Cup, she deletes all social media from her phone, and leaves it on airplane mode for most of the tournament. She has explained that it helps her to lock in and be more present.
This past World Cup, the USWNT was eliminated from the tournament very early on, falling to Sweden in a penalty shootout and losing 3-0. The loss was the first time that the USWNT had been eliminated from the tournament at such an early stage, and the first defeat for them in the World Cup in 12 years. Despite these disappointments, the USWNT remains optimistic about the future of their team and its developments, and the future of women’s soccer on a global scale.