It was less than two years ago when Taylor Kornieck, to put it in soccer parlance, felt banished from the pitch.
The first few months of Kornieck’s pro career was a cluster of adversity unlike anything she faced in four years at the University of Colorado. Less than a year removed from rewriting the CU women’s soccer record book, Kornieck felt compelled to take an overseas assignment.
Once the Orlando Pride, the team that selected Kornieck third overall in the January 2020 NWSL draft, was unable to participate in the league’s Challenge Cup during that pandemic summer due to virus issues, Kornieck was transferred on loan to the German club Duisburg.
It wasn’t exactly the autumn of Kornieck’s discontent. But it was close.
The language barrier made it an isolated existence for Kornieck. Though the dividends eventually would be enjoyed on the field, home felt more than a half a world away. And a spot on the roster of the U.S. women’s national team? Well, that felt destined to remain as unfamiliar to Kornieck as her unexpected surroundings in Germany.
Not anymore. The former Buffaloes star returned to Colorado this week for the first time since she left CU as the program’s all-time points leader, training with the USWNT in Centennial ahead of a Saturday night friendly against Colombia at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (5:30 p.m., FS1). The USWNT will face Colombia again on Tuesday in Salt Lake City before departing for Mexico for the CONCACAF W Championship.
The tournament doubles as a qualifier for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“It was extremely tough,” Kornieck said of her first pro summer during an interview this week with BuffZone. “I obviously felt kind of isolated out there and I didn’t really get the help that I needed for myself. Coming into that professional environment, it’s completely different than college. I needed to learn a lot in terms of the tactics.
“Going from all that and coming back to Orlando, I just kind of lost my way and I just didn’t feel comfortable. It affected my confidence and I just wasn’t playing like myself. I knew I needed a change of scenery and a fresh start.”
That fresh start arrived this past January, when Orlando traded Kornieck to San Diego FC. She posted two goals and three assists in 22 games last season with Orlando, but in San Diego she has begun to recapture the form on display through four standout seasons in Boulder.
Utilized frequently at the top of the attack in Orlando, Kornieck has shifted to her more natural role as an attacking midfielder with San Diego FC. In 10 games, all starts, Kornieck has collected two goals and two assists. She scored both goals in the final 10 minutes of a June 8 match against Portland FC to salvage a draw for San Diego. That performance netted Kornieck the NWSL Player of the Week award.
Now more consistent in her performance, Kornieck’s play also drew the attention of national team coach Vlatko Andonovski. Whenever she makes her national team debut, the 6-foot-1 Kornieck will become the tallest field player in team history.
“I’ve been striving for this all my life, and I feel like when I came to San Diego I kind of grew into myself and I started playing the way that I truly in my heart knew that I could play,” Kornieck said. “I was truly in shock when I got the (national team) call.”
Kornieck won’t be the only Buffs alum in the CONCACAF field, as former teammate Joss Orejel once again will suit up for Mexico. Kornieck has made appearances with the U.S. U18, U19 and U20 teams, but once her debut occurs she will be the first CU alum to play for the senior USWNT (Nikki Marshall received a call-up in May of 2014 but was unable to play due to an injury).
Kornieck was just 17 when she posted 11 goals and four assists for CU as a freshman in 2016, winning the Pac-12 freshman of the year award and landing the first of three first team All-Pac-12 honors. It has been a somewhat tumultuous journey in the few years since leaving CU, but it is perhaps fitting Kornieck has regained her top-flight form in time to don the USWNT jersey for the first time in her return to Colorado.
“We’ve had quite a few players represent their countries at different things,” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “But for this coaching staff, to recruit a player, help in her development, and then see her progress to the full women’s national team, it’s obviously very gratifying. We all saw what she could do in college, but sometimes when you get to the professional level, there’s going to be challenges. I’m really proud of what she’s done in San Diego. Everything that she’s gotten, she’s earned.”
On the eve of her debut with the U.S. women’s national team, a look at Taylor Kornieck’s all-time marks with the Colorado Buffaloes.
Career points: 1st (102)
Career goals: 2nd (39)
Career assists: T-1st (24)
Career game-winning goals: 2nd (15)
Career shots attempted: 1st (332)
Career shots on goal: T-2nd (118)
Penalty kick goals: 1st (9)
Starts (field players): 5th (82)
Single-season points: T-2nd (30 in 2019); T-4th (28 in 2018); T-6th (26 in 2016)
Single-season goals: T-2nd (12 in 2019); T-5th (11 in 2016); T-10th (9 in 2018)
Single-season assists: T-1st (10 in 2018)
Single-game assists: 1st (4 vs. Missouri, Aug. 25, 2018)