Hayes lauds 'magnetic' Swanson in debut U.S. win

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado — Forward Mallory Swanson scored for the United States women’s national soccer team for the first time in 15 months to lead her side to a 4-0 victory over South Korea on Saturday in Emma Hayes’ first match as the U.S. head coach.

Afterward, Hayes spoke glowingly of Swanson, whom she first interacted with briefly in 2017 when Swanson was a teenager and weighing whether to turn professional.

“I couldn’t ask for any more,” Hayes said of Swanson’s performance. “She’s a player I’ve always admired, so to get the opportunity to coach and see firsthand the quality she possesses — she’s a connector. She’s really magnetic, as a human being too, in the way she operates in the team.

“She can multitask: She can do what she’s doing on the pitch, and she can listen on the sidelines. I noticed that about her today. Our goal is to keep her fit, keep her healthy, because she’s an important part of this team.”

Swanson, who tore her left patellar tendon in 2023 and missed last summer’s World Cup, broke the deadlock in the 34th minute with a darting diagonal run behind South Korea’s back five. USWNT forward Sophia Smith turned quickly and slotted the ball into the path of Swanson, who tucked her shot inside the near post.

“It’s super special,” Swanson said of scoring for the team again. “You’re never the same person as you were the last day, so taking every learning opportunity that I can, growing, and trying to be an impact on whoever I can.”

Center back Tierna Davidson scored twice — each time via a header on a corner kick — to round out the scoring for the Americans at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Catarina Macario, like Swanson, also returned to the U.S. team earlier this year following a long-term injury. Macario started in the No. 10 role on Saturday, marking her first time in the starting lineup in 781 days.

“It was my first time playing the 10 in a while, I think since the Carli Lloyd era,” Macario said, noting that the mile-high altitude in Colorado took a toll on her lungs. “So, definitely a bit of getting used to, but I feel like we have such great players that it’s easier to adapt.”

Prior to taking the USWNT job last year, Hayes recruited Macario to Chelsea. On Friday, Hayes referenced that familiarity and praised Macario for how she operates in pockets of space and resists pressure.

“Cat is a special player, no question whatsoever,” Hayes said. “She’ll keep growing into the shirt, I’m sure. She’s been tremendous all week in training.”

Macario played the corner kick that found Davidson for the defender’s first goal just before halftime. Three minutes after the break, Swanson delivered a corner kick to a wide-open Davidson for another headed goal to make it 3-0.

Davidson had only scored once in 57 prior appearances for the U.S. She was replaced in the 61st minute by Sam Staab, who made her national team debut.

Swanson then rounded out the scoring in the 74th minute when she latched onto a through ball from second-half substitute Rose Lavelle.

Midfielder Lindsey Horan captained the Americans on Saturday, as she has for the past year, and Hayes lauded her captain for controlling the middle of the park.

“Lindsey, she’s the captain for a reason,” Hayes said. “She’s a leader. She leads by example in so many ways. She was measured in her performance.”

Hayes’ victorious USWNT coaching debut came 200 days after she was announced as the next coach of the team upon negotiating with U.S. Soccer to finish the European season with Chelsea, with which she won a fifth consecutive Women’s Super League title.

“This is a game we’ve been waiting to play in, and it feels good leaving it; it feels like we’re in a really good place,” Smith said. “There were a lot of emotions going into it. I know I was nervous because it’s the first game with a new coach, playing in my hometown.”

However, Hayes talked down the idea that she was relieved to get the moment out of the way, saying that’s not how she thinks.

“All around, I’m really happy with the first performance, and it’s just one step in the right direction,” Hayes said.

Saturday’s match was part of a first-time doubleheader with the U.S. women’s deaf national team, which improved to 38-0-1 in program history following an 11-0 win over the Australia women’s deaf national team.

Emily Spreeman, the USWDNT’s all-time scorer, tallied six goals to set a record for a senior 11-a-side U.S. national team, men or women.

The USWNT will play South Korea again on Tuesday, as Hayes prepares to pick her 18-player roster for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. She could select the team before a pair of friendlies leading into the Olympics, one against Mexico at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on July 13 and another versus Costa Rica at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., on July 16.

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