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USWNT continues resilient streak with 2-1 comeback win over Japan

Twila Kilgore’s penultimate match at the USWNT helm didn’t get off to an ideal start but the resiliency that the team has built under their interim head coach proved useful once again on Saturday in Atlanta.

The USWNT booked their place into the SheBelieves Cup Final after registering a 2-1 semifinal victory over Japan.

Entering the match, Mallory Swanson hadn’t played a USWNT game in 363 days after tearing her patellar tendon nearly a year ago, Catarina Macario hadn’t played a USWNT game in 725 days after tearing her ACL nearly two years ago, and Jaedyn Shaw had scored in every USWNT start she made.

Luckily, only two of those things changed on Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd of 50,644 for a friendly on home soil in Atlanta.

“I’ve heard this is the biggest crowd that we’ve had since [the] 1999 World Cup Final which is incredible,” Kilgore showed her appreciation. “I think the players deserve this sort of energy around them. It was so incredible and for it to happen close to – it’s our home now – we’re moving here to Atlanta, U.S. Soccer’s home. It’s just an incredible feeling.”

Technically set to be in Trilith in Fayette County, the new U.S. Soccer National Training Center which will cover more than 200 acres of land was announced at the end of last year. The incredible atmosphere in Atlanta on Saturday was just the latest justification for U.S. Soccer’s decision as fans were treated to a comeback victory after a shaky start.

Only thirty seconds into the match, Japan’s Kiko Seike got in behind the American’s back line down the right flank after the home side was caught in possession in the middle of the park. This left fullback Jenna Nighswonger caught behind the play while center-back Tierna Davidson’s attempt to cover the gap was too little too late as Seike slotted home a pinpoint finish off the inside of the far post. Always eager to set a new record, the USWNT conceded in the first minute of a match for the first time since an October 2003 friendly against Italy.

Within twenty minutes, Swanson saw her shot cleared off the line by Japan and Naomi Girma was substituted due to a right thigh injury for the USWNT. Luck wasn’t on their side but the team’s grit, aided continually by the fans, saw the Americans turn things around quickly as they continued to put pressure on Japan.

“Even the non-reaction from the Japan goal helped us,” Kilgore half-joked.

Seemingly it did as the suboptimal start ended when Sam Coffey found Jaedyn Shaw free at the top of the box in the 21st minute, pushing the 19-year-old could take center stage with an arrowed finish past a frozen Japanese goalkeeper. In turn, Shaw became the first USWNT player ever to score in her first five starts for the national team. Further, she is only the 19th USWNT player ever to score in five consecutive starts at any point in their career (and unsurprisingly the youngest). 

“I think she did an exceptional job and I just want to point out [that] not only did she score a brilliant goal, and not only was she part of a lot of very effective buildup, but she did a great job defensively,” Kilgore praised Shaw. “This is an area where she has accepted a challenge and is continuing to grow in and [it] makes a massive difference for our team.”

Often pushed out to the wing for the USWNT, against Japan Shaw was employed in her favorite #10 position. Comfortable in the spot she plays at club level, Shaw exemplified a versatility that will only add to her seemingly locked roster spot ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics in which only 16 outfield players are allowed on a roster.

Another lock on that roster, of course, will be team captain Lindsey Horan who has made an early habit of coming up in the big moment for the USWNT in 2024. Adding to her winning goal in the W Gold Cup Final less than a month ago, it was Horan who stepped up to bury a 77th-minute penalty drawn by Sophia Smith to secure the 2-1 USWNT win.

“I just can’t speak any more highly of this group,” Kilgore raved postgame. “This is a group that continues to deal with anything that is in front of them. I think Japan has a world-class team and to do what they did today, especially almost starting a game a goal down essentially, ​​it’s just a mark of who they are as people and who they are as a team and what they’re willing to do to get the job done.” 

It’s a mentality that has certainly been hardened under Kilgore’s leadership, particularly in the recent W Gold Cup title run. From overcoming an unexpected loss to Mexico to finding a way to win in a swimming pool against Canada, one thing that is clear as we transition into a new era of the USWNT is that they will always remain resilient with a winning belief.

Fittingly, that belief will be put to the test again on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio when the USWNT take on either Canada or Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup Final, almost exactly a month after beating both en route to winning their inaugural W Gold Cup title.


  1. Good to get Mal and Kat back on the field. Fitting that we get a US v Canada match after their last one in the monsoon.

    • Swanson really is a difference maker., she plays with so much persistence. She is such a great chance creator and difficult to defend in the offensive third .
      Might be stretch for Macario to make the Olympic roster? It will be very interesting who get selected?
      Versus Japan the US still struggled in the final third for shots on goal. They have so many skilled players as forwards and midfielders. It will be interesting who Hayes selects in contrast to WC players selected


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