Swanson and Macario return as USWNT beats Japan 2-1

Jordan Godfree-USA TODAY Sports
USWNT dominated Japan after falling behind early.

Saturday was a spectacle in Atlanta. The USWNT was greeted with a record-breaking crowd for a home friendly of 50,644 as forward Mallory Swanson started in her return to the USWNT for the first time in almost a year.

The USWNT controlled the match after conceding a first-minute goal en route to a 2-1 victory.

“It felt like home to all of us,” said head coach Twila Kilgore about the crowd. “Even even the nonreaction to the Japan goal helped us. Every step of the way, this crowd was incredible, and my neck was hurting. I was looking up to see how far it went and how many people were up there, which was just incredible.”

15 minutes into the match, Swanson received the ball in the box and patiently picked out her shot, beating Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita, but the shot was cleared off the goal line.

Swanson knocked on the door all night but could not find the back of the net. Still, she regularly found dangerous positions and created for her teammates.

20 minutes into the match, Swanson played an excellent cross to forward Trinity Rodman at the back post, but Rodman’s header was saved. Forward Alex Morgan had a chance to follow up but missed the goal.

Eventually, it was midfielders Sam Coffey and Jaedyn Shaw who combined for a goal. 21 minutes into the match, Coffey gained possession in the attacking half, drove, and found Shaw, who scored. 

Excellent work from Coffey created the chance, and Shaw buried it from outside the box. The goal marked Shaw’s fifth goal in five starts with the USWNT.

Shaw thrived as a No. 10, a different role from the inverted winger role she had largely played in previous games for the USWNT. She was excellent in all aspects of the game. 

“Not only did she score a brilliant goal, and not only was she part of a very effective buildup, but she did a great job defensively,” said Kilgore about Shaw. “This is an area where she has accepted a challenge, is continuing to grow in, and makes a massive difference for our team.”

36 minutes into the game, midfielder Lindsey Horan made an excellent run and played a through ball to Swanson in a dangerous position, but Swanson’s shot was saved.

Again, 72 minutes into the match, Sophia Smith found Swanson, but Swanson missed it wide. The chance was dangerous, but Swanson missed the final piece, the finish. 

On the TNT broadcast postgame, Swanson said she was a bit too excited in front of the goal. But as those jitters go away, she could quickly return to showing her goal-scoring ability. 

Smith was excellent after entering the game as a substitute for Rodman in the 63rd minute as the USWNT looked to break the draw. She drew a penalty kick 76 minutes into the game, which Lindsey Horan buried in the 77th minute to give the USWNT a 2-1 lead, the eventual final score.

“[Smith] went in and made a tremendous impact,” Kilgore said. “She did the defensive work first, which is not always a forward’s favorite thing to do, but she took care of the defending, took care of the attacking, understood the moment knowing we needed to get in behind, just did a really good job.”

Like Swanson, forward Catarina Macario also made her USWNT return from an injury. Her comeback came after almost two years, and she entered as a substitute Morgan.

“Cat(arina Macario) being back in the environment is really important for this team and also for her,” Kilgore said. “She’s been gone for so long. Quite a bit has changed. There’s a lot of similarities. We have a lot of DNA and have a lot of the same people, but there’s also been a lot of shifts. So, getting back in and getting used to it but also developing chemistry with her teammates being in the environment, training, and getting some minutes today here. Really important, and we’re really happy with her.”

With the win, the USWNT advanced to the SheBelieves Cup final. They will play Canada or Brazil on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.

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