Here are some highlights from the U.S. women's soccer team's pregame conversations with the media on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's SheBelieves Cup game against Germany at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
U.S. coach Jill Ellis spoke from the podium at a press conference, striker Alex Morgan spoke to a gaggle of reporters outside the locker room, and defender Ali Krieger spoke exclusively to me a few minutes later.
By the way, if you're on the fence aboug going to Chester on Wednesday, U.S. Soccer said that as of Tuesday evening, around 1,000 tickets remained for sale.
On Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd deciding to play abroad for a while:
These players want to explore other environments. In 2015 and '16, we've been heavy with our programming. This year, the commitment to the NWSL is when they're in that league, we're playing FIFA dates. So that obviously puts everybody in the same category, whether you're playing domestically or overseas.
I think for them, it's an opportunity to see something different and experience something different. All three of them have never been overseas. I think for them, it's a great opportunity for them to experience high-level teams, or slightly different things. Every environment you can go to that you can take away something [from] I think is going to benefit us in the long run.
On the contest between Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris to be the top goalkeeper on the depth chart:
That's part of this. What I committed to after the Olympics was giving them games. Well, in truth, this is the biggest game for Ash and Alyssa. These are the biggest games right now, because when you're suddenly competing to get on a podium, it puts a whole other emphasis on the importance - or the stress, really.
So I think for both of them, these games are big tests. Listen, is one game going to determine it? No. You have to look at consistency in a player. So what I'm committed to there is to get them games. I know [Harris] has done very well in the league, but again, it's a different level.
And it's not just seeing them one-off, or in a couple of games, or a game against a lesser opponent. It's seeing them against these big opponents, to see how they manage the stress, the pressure, and obviously the action, because they can get a lot of it.
On her expectations for 16-year-old midfielder Brianna Pinto, and what fans should expect:
Having her in here, she's gaining so much just being in and around it, training with these players every day. Pinto is a player - and I've said this before - it's a position, the No. 6 [defensive midfielder], with [Andi] Sullivan getting hurt, I think we still need to deepen that spot.
She's done well. She's, of course, young. And what I'm trying to look at is, okay, where is she now and where could she be in two years with investment with us in here. That's really why I'm looking at her. Will she play in this tournament? I don't know. To be determined. But getting this major tournament under her belt at 16 years old, I think is going to benefit us.
On what it's been like in Lyon so far:
It's definitely been challenging a lot of times. It's been fun and exciting to get to know my new teammates, to get to know the club a little bit better. But it's not always easy.
There's difficult moments, and the last two weeks have been pretty difficult with the illness [she's had the flu] that I had, and then having a little knock to my ankle as well. So it's been a tough couple of weeks, but I'm happy to be back in the U.S. and representing my country.
On how her time in France has changed how she plays:
I think I have gained a different style. Learning to play a different way. With Lyon, it's more of the technical side and coming back for the ball, and making your runs more sophisticated. A lot of teams that we play against kind of sit a little deeper because they don't want to get beat. So for me it's trying to still contribute and open up space for myself even though that space is limited.
Then, at the same time, bringing my best to training every day, because we have a lot of the best players in the world on that team, as you saw from the FIFPro (Women's Team of the Year) nominees. I think there were 50 nominees and 11 of those were on Lyon.
[It was 55 total, not 50, but Morgan was right that Lyon had 11.]
It's amazing to see, it's really challenging every day, and I feel like we're able to challenge ourselves and create a competitive environment every day. So it's fun to be a part of that.
How big do you think this tournament is?
Huge. This week is going to be incredible. This week is what we all dream of being a part of. At the highest level, you're playing against the best teams in the world. We're all in the top five teams int he world. So I think this is an awesome experience for all of us.
This is who we want to play all the time. These are the opponents that we dream of playing against, not only in big tournaments but during the year. It makes us better, it challenges us, we grow from it, and it gives us more experience. It's nice to just have a small, intimate tournament domestically for us to really build the game.
At the same time that this tournament is happening, Orlando City is opening the fancy new stadium that you'll be playing in with the Orlando Pride. How good a place is it?
What a dream. I can't say that I've been because we've been so busy with training and things like that. I haven't yet gone to the stadium tour, but I hope to do that right when I get back.
It is incredible. They've thought about every single last detail, and I can't wait to see it, to be a part of it, to open up the stadium for the inaugural season coming up. It's soccer-specific, the atmosphere is going to be amazing. It's a dream that we as women footballers get to play in the same stadium as the men.
How much of the stadium really belongs to the Pride specifically?
It's half and half. We share it completely with the men. And they understand that too. We're a family, we're a community, and I feel just as much a big part of that, even though I haven't even been there yet - really involved with the team. I really feel a huge part of it. We share it 100 percent with the men, and that's something that you feel like you're rewarded in that way from the organization.
Alex Morgan is at Lyon, Crystal Dunn is at Chelsea, and Carli Lloyd is headed to Manchester City after the SheBelieves Cup ends. How much of a different element does it bring to the national team when top players are playing abroad?
It allows players to kind of step up, and it allows players to go and achieve their individual goals that they want to do. I had the whole European experience, and I would tell every single one of my teammates that they should go and experience it as well if you're able to. I think these two off years [2017 and 2018] are really a good time for them to do that.
To have that experience, check it off their lists, and to fight for a Champions League title - that's something I already have in my back pocket, and I've experienced, and I've grown so much as a person. I don't think I would be where I am on this national team if I hadn't gone.
So for them, it broadens the game and opens up, maybe, doors for other players to feel the same. I think it's an awesome experience, and I'm really happy they're doing that.
Jill Ellis is trying to get this team to play a 3-5-2 formation. What has that transition been like for you?
It's amazing, because I think it fits my style a lot better than a four-back [formation]. So I'm really excited about that. I can just defend, I can focus on winning the ball back and giving it to the front six players who can do their magic.
I love playing in a three-back [formation]. I really enjoy it, because of the speed of play and the opportunities to get the ball and play it into the front six. I think it's nice to have a variety of lineups and formations to use against different opponents, depending on what they bring.
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