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USWNT cruise to comfortable victory in Emma Hayes’ debut

A couple of braces. A clean sheet. A perfect start to the Emma Hayes era.

In their first game under new management, the USWNT cruised to a comfortable 4-0 win over South Korea in front of 19,010 fans in Denver, Colorado on Saturday as Tierna Davidson and Mallory Swanson shared the goals. With the win, the 10th head coach in USWNT history became the eighth to win on her debut while extending the American’s unbeaten history against South Korea (12-0-4) and in Colorado (8-0-1).

“I’m pretty tired. It’s hot out there at altitude!” Hayes opened her inaugural postgame press conference with a joke. “I’m English so that’s going to take some time.”

It took the U.S. about half an hour to settle into the match but once they began creating chances, the ball began hitting the back of the net. All the game needed to open up was a beautiful turn from Sophia Smith at the top of the box to transform a line-breaking entry pass from Naomi Girma into a silver-platter assist for Swanson to finish off. It’s a relationship between Smith and Swanson which Hayes believes has “another level” to reach.

“I couldn’t ask for any more. She’s a player I’ve always admired so to get the opportunity to coach her and see firsthand the quality she possesses [is a privilege],” Hayes raved about the inaugural goalscorer of her USWNT tenure. “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 listen on the sidelines. I noticed that about her today. My goal is to keep her fit and keep her healthy because she’s an important part of this team.”

Less than five minutes later, Davidson rose up at the back post for a looping header into the opposite side netting to double the lead with her first USWNT goal in over 2,000 days. In her first USWNT start in as many days, assister Catarina Macario notched her first goal contribution in 781 days as well.

“Cat is a special player, no question whatsoever, so she’ll keep growing into the shirt I’m sure. She’s been tremendous all week in training,” Hayes praised the dynamic attacker she signed while coaching Chelsea. “My goal is to keep her on the pitch [and] I know she plays for the best football club on Earth so they’ll look after her. I’m just excited for her today.”

Continuing their leading performances as the second half began, Swanson took the corner which Davidson connected with to score another header at the back post. In doing so, the 25-year-old American defender who had only ever scored one goal for each club and country equaled her career goal tally in a single match on Saturday.

“I always relish the opportunity to be in the box for corner kicks,” Davidson shared. “It’s not often I get to be up there so I just try to execute my job which is making sure nothing gets all the way through the back and making sure that anything that falls into my zone I try to either put across the goal or into the goal. I think that’s just what happened today.”

Substitute Rose Lavelle ensured the hometown hero – who purchased an entire sweet for her 30 family and friends to attend the game – matched Davidson’s brace with one of her own as Swanson slotted home a through ball (74’) to cap off the comfortable 4-0 win.

“I don’t think like that. I don’t feel that pressure.” Hayes responded when asked if she felt relief after winning her USWNT debut. “I’m doing the job that I love and I get to enjoy all those amazing players. For me, I don’t feel relief from that. I just feel re-energized. I want to coach this group and they want to be coached. You can see we’re building something. There’s lots of work to do. There’s lots of holes in our play, no question, but it’s a good start.”

The Hayes era continues with an immediate rematch against South Korea on Tuesday at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota where the new manager will continue to test the player pool at her disposal from debutant Sam Staab to legend Alex Morgan as she cements the USWNT style under her stewardship.

After one match, all signs for that long-term future remain positive.


  1. at one point in the 1st half, there was break and the teams went to the sidelines. the mic let us hear Coach Hayes. emphatically, with body language and hand gestures, she said something lie, when we win the ball, look opposite (with big hand gestures to help make her point), and then get forward (again with the exaggerated hand gestures). the team responded.

    we sucked at that basic thing for a while there, just so direct, always stuck on one side. Twila helped move that along, but Hayes just insisted, and of course it worked

  2. Last night and the next match versus S.Korea are pretty much scrimmages. The ladies want to perform for the new coach and solidify a roster spot for the Olympics.
    Observations from last night the formation was set up 4-2-3-1 . However, RB Fox pretty much played as a third centerback. Sam Coffey is legit at the 6 and just keeps getting better at everything. Mal Swanson and Smith combining is just the start of a dangerous attack. Swanson is force with the ball. Assuming Hayes wants all her forwards to play in the midfield and vice versa. Creating a force owning the midfield and the offensive third. Defensive third will not be tested until the Olympics

      • it was a 4 4 2 with Nighswonger pushing high up the left into attack in the build out. when we defended, 4 4 2 except when we pressured defensively, the strong side mid pushed up to make it look like a 4 3 3, but fell back into 4 4 2. We were doing this same thing with Twila EXCEPT Macraio was out there yesterday and she free lances around in the build out, a true 10, what Hayes wants. No one played with that much freedom before

    • Good example of how in modern football once the ball is kicked everything changes. Unless a team is very old school 4-4-2, their offensive and defensive formations are different. Often your build out formation is different, you might have a pressing formation that then changes to your base formation if they progress past midfield. People can get all uptight about it but you probably all saw the same thing just in different phases of play.

      • I’ve already explained why I called the 3-4-3 the mirror formation. It mirrors the empty space of the other team’s formation. The 3-4-3 is meant to look like all formations. Rodman was RWB, Nighswonger was the LWB. Macario filled in the space between dropping centrally to being at RW. A 3-5-2 isn’t 5 in the back, just like a LB staying in the midfield by staying high, isn’t a 4-4-2.

      • Yes, It’s Ok also most people probably haven’t done a deep dive rewatch. What’s the left footed status of the women’s team.

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