USWNT vs. South Korea score: USA win Emma Hayes' debut as Mal Swanson, Tierna Davidson record braces

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The U.S. women's national team cruised to victory in Emma Hayes' first match as the head coach, beating South Korea 4-0 in front of a sold-out crowd at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado. Mallory Swanson and Tierna Davidson each scored a brace, marking a memorable stamp on Hayes' debut as a slow start gave way for a productive match. 

Swanson combined with fellow Colorado native Sophia Smith for the game's opening goal in the 34th minute, while Davidson, a defender, scored her second international goal off a set piece just four minutes later. Davidson's goal count went up just three minutes into the second half off another set piece, becoming the first USWNT defender to score twice in a match since Julie Ertz did so in a 3-0 friendly win over Colombia in April 2016. 

Swanson completed her brace in the 74th minute, cooly finishing off a chance after substitute Rose Lavelle slipped her the ball close to the penalty area. Hayes has a chance to follow up her strong start with another big performance on Tuesday, when the team face South Korea again. It will be the final match before the new head coach names the 18-player roster that will compete at next month's Olympic Games in Paris.

The refresh pays off

Hayes ran with a lineup that was undoubtedly different from the team that lined up at the Women's World Cup last year but felt familiar after the squad rebuild led by assistant coach Twila Kilgore. That was especially true in attack, where Swanson was flanked by Smith and Trinity Rodman, and the group delivered in trademark fashion.

Swanson's brace marked her first USWNT goals since February 2023, spending much of the next year out with a patella injury. It served as a reminder that the team's attack is perfectly set up to operate around her -- she scored seven goals in 2022 and 2023 before the injury, which clearly limited the USWNT's attacking output in Australia and New Zealand a year ago. Her combination with Smith inspires optimism, considering the versatile attacker is really carving out a place for herself as a wide forward.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," Hayes said in her post-match press conference about Swanson. "She's a player I always admired so to get the opportunity to coach her, see firsthand the quality she possesses, but 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."

Hayes was also full of compliments about Smith, who she also identified as an important part of the team.

"Soph, she stretched the pitch out really well, thought she linked well with Mal," she added. "There's another level, in my opinion, yet … She really wants to do well for this team but with the right amount of coaching and time, I think we can add a lot to her."

Hayes' focus on progress was reflected in her entire assessment of the team's performance, particularly in attack. The new head coach identified areas of improvement despite the lopsided scoreline, reflecting her pre-match comments that the team's foundation was set but that there were details that needed to be filled in. Hayes focused heavily on tactics during her first week in charge, identifying that a detail-oriented approach takes time but that the USWNT are on the right track.

"I've trained them quite hard this week and I think with the altitude, the heat and the training, I thought there was a little lethargy but I thought the team stuck at it," she told broadcasters post-match. "I thought we were controlled in what we did in the first half, we stuck to the structures, we stuck to the coaching. Felt at times, maybe we could've played in behind in the right moments but going from underplaying to overplaying is usually the first step … Everybody did what I asked of them."

Want more coverage of women's soccer? Listen below and make sure to watch Attacking Third on Golazo Network Monday and Friday for all your USWNT, NWSL and WSL women's soccer coverage.

Macario's strong return

The big surprise when the team news came out was that Catarina Macario would make her first start for the USWNT in 781 days, completing a long road back from an ACL tear that kept her out for the better part of two years. The midfielder played 61 minutes, demonstrating strong signs of match fitness and offered an attacking spark that was crucial to the team's success, including an accuracy on set pieces that resulted in both of Davidson's goals.

"I know how she operates in the pockets," Hayes said about Macario, with whom she worked with at Chelsea last season. "She can draw players in, she can escape pressure. She's quite a press-resistant player, links really well. [She] struggled with the altitude in the first half, she said that to me at halftime. Cat is still having to build but this is important … Good 60 minutes under her belt, so really enjoyed the front four in the first half."

Macario's big impact on set pieces reflected one of Hayes' immediate priorities, a category she believes the team should be excelling in.

"30% of all tournament goals are scored from [set pieces], so it's an opportunity," she said. "We don't have time to waste. Second of all, we have set pieces that can hit the right areas consistently, so if you hit the right areas, you do the right thing in those areas, then you increase your chances of scoring. It's an expectation. I've seen, historically, this program be good at it so I want to return to that. We have to excel and for me, that demand won't decline. It is a part of our training, no matter the opponent and the team did a really, really good job with it this week."

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FT: USA 4, KOR 0

The USWNT's Emma Hayes era is off to a winning start, courtesy of a comfortable win over South Korea. The scoreline calls back to the high-scoring version of this team many are familiar with, but with a personnel refresh that feels ready for the new challenges of an uber-competitive women's soccer landscape.

 
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Patient attack

90' The last minutes of this game have been almost exclusively dedicated to patient attacking play for the USWNT, since South Korea have not been able to do much with Coffey breaking up just about all of their forward motions. The hosts have not delivered too many meaningful chances since, but that's to be expected from a team that's already up 4-0.

 
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USA 4, KOR 0

78' The USWNT pad the scoreline even more, this time seeing Lavelle slip the ball to Swanson, who scores from an angle.

 
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Another substitution

70' Hayes goes to the bench again, this time selecting Albert to come in for Horan. The captain hands the armband to the 23-year-old Girma, while a mix of cheers and boos emerge once Albert enters the field. The reaction comes two months after fans discovered discriminatory posts on her social media account, as well as criticism of USWNT legend Megan Rapinoe. Albert has since described the comments as "immature."

 
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Attack-minded plays

68' Coffey reignites the USWNT's offense and has her teammates working around the box, but South Korea do enough to send it out for a corner. The hosts don't score from the set piece this time, though Shaw has a go at it with the aim of scoring her latest international goal.

 
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Time for changes

61' The USWNT have settled into a rhythm after going up 3-0, which means it's time to try and learn some new things. Hayes has lined up four subs for the final half hour plus stoppage time -- Lavelle, Dunn, Shaw and Staab, who earns her first cap. Off come Davidson, Smith, Rodman and Macario. Dunn will play on the right wing, while Shaw will on the left.

 
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USA 3, KOR 0

47' Make it three for the USWNT, courtesy of a surprise player with a brace -- Davidson. She notches her third international goal off another set piece, getting her head on the ball to bolster the hosts' lead in Hayes' first game.

 
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Second half underway

The teams are back on the pitch after some halftime subs. For the USWNT, Krueger is coming on in place for Fox to start the second half, a first sign of Hayes' tinkering as the new head coach. This will be a first chance for Hayes to see Krueger in person since she began playing a more attack-minded role as a fullback, something she has excelled in during her early days at the Washington Spirit.

 
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HT: USA 2, KOR 0

That escalated quickly! A patient start for the USWNT eventually gave way for a more dominant showing in front of goal and, more importantly, two goals before the break. It isn't a bad way for Hayes to begin her tenure as the USWNT coach, and the performance reflects well so far on the groundwork assistant coach Twila Kilgore laid in her absence.

 
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USA 2, KOR 0

38' And just like that, it's two for the USWNT! The hosts earn a corner and Macario's ball eventually lands to Davidson, whose impressive header from distance finds the bottom right corner and doubles the USWNT's lead. It's also Davidson's second international goal, and her first since recovering from injury last year.

 
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USA 1-0 KOR

34' Smith and Swanson combine for the first goal of the Hayes era, coincidentally in their home state of Colorado. The cool finish from close range also marks Swanson's first goal for the USWNT since returning from her knee injury that she sustained last year -- just in time for the Olympics.

 
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Chances by Coffey and Swanson

Half hour officially gone and the USWNT is still on the ball with looks in the final third. A shot from distance by Coffey and Swanson drew some attention from the fans, and the goalkeeper, but still no breakthrough. 

 
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No goals yet

Still, nothing particularly lethal in front of goal by either team yet in this one as we approach 25 minutes. Horan slotted the ball through on goal after a quick flick but was easily offside. Both squads regroup on the sideline as a stoppage of a play for a player down. 

 
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No shots from USWNT yet

Opening 14 minutes of the match and South Korea leads with two shot attempts and zero for USA. They group is still very active on the ball and getting into dangerous spaces in South Korea's half.  

 
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Quick throw-in leads to collision

Sophia Smith is slow to get up after getting on the ball from a quick throw-in by Sam Coffey. She was eager to get on the ball in the final third and collided with a South Korean defender. She's back up in and in play now. 

 
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Early combinations

Some back and forth in the opening 10 minutes of the match here. South Korea with a few final third entries, and the USWNT being strategic with their pressing triggers. Some good connections between Nighswonger and Macario so far. 

 
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USA 0-0 (1H)

1' We're underway in Colorado!

 
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Player walkout!

Emma Hayes and the players are all out on the field and getting ready for anthems. We'll be with you throughout the match with live updates and analysis from Pardeep Cattry, so make sure you follow here for more!

 
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Prediction

We're just about 10 minutes away from kickoff, so let's have some fun with a little prediction! 

Sandra: With Smith, Swanson, Rodman, and Macario back this could get exiting very quickly. USWNT players will have plenty to prove so look for some early final third entries and attacking opportunities, South Korea won't make it easy though. Pick: USWNT 3, South Korea 0

Pardeep: Hayes said pre-match that the foundations of this team are already set, and the lineup reflects just that. This group of players is already familiar with each other and more importantly, has succeeded together, so expect them to score a few goals as the new head coach begins to put in the final touches before the Olympics. Pick: USWNT 2, South Korea 0

 
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An extra perspective

Hayes' initial arrival stateside included a media tour in New York before USWNT training camp. Here's some of what she said about how she and the program need to regroup ahead of the Olympics:

"The realities are the world game is where it is, and the rest of the world do not fear the USA in the way that they once did. And that's valid. I think it's valid. There are different world champions, there are different Olympic champions. There are different European champions. So it's our job to grasp quite quickly what we need to do to get close again, to those levels."

 
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Hayes training perspective

This week Hayes finally got some one-on-one time with her roster, though she still hasn't settled with every player individually just yet. During her pre-game press conference, Hayes confirmed she was still meeting with players individually and joked that she was learning all their names. Brief introduction to the media and public aside, Hayes will eventually have to name an Olympic roster, but insists her focus is only on the game ahead of them.

"Well, I'm not focused on that today. I'm focused on preparing the team for tomorrow. You know, the camp objectives this week have been, you know, developing an introduction to the structural principles, the principles of play," said Hayes. 

"It's been about building trust. It's been about making sure everybody understands what the expectations are. So, it's a process and we've got to go one step at a time and for me, the focus is on [today]."

 
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What's at stake

These are just friendlies during an international break, so there's no trophy to be won here, but there will be plenty for U.S. players to showcase. The next pair of friendlies are scheduled for July and promoted as Olympic send-off games, so the two matches against South Korea will be the final games before the official U.S. Olympic roster is announced. 

So, despite the two-game series being scheduled as simple friendlies, they are a pair of set-up matches ahead of the Olympics, and they're still the first for Hayes on the sideline. She named a 27-player roster, that includes four training players, so the final group of 18 Olympic hopefuls will likely be selected from the current 23 players Hayes initially named to training camps

 
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Goalkeeper Jane Campbell gets start

Campbell will earn her eighth cap as she makes her first start for the USWNT since 2021. The reigning NWSL goalkeeper of the year, Campbell previously recorded a clean sheet against South Korea in her last start with the USWNT on October 26, 2021. She was also named as an alternate to the 2021 Olympic Team and was promoted to the active roster when the IOC confirmed the roster expansion to 22 players but did not see game action in Tokyo.

 
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Emma Hayes with a young lineup

Today's lineup averages 25.5 years of age and 45 caps per player, making it the youngest Starting XI for the USWNT since April of 2022. Perhaps a sign of shifting things for the program with Hayes' arrival. Is this a peek at the USWNT ideal Olympic starting XI? Or is this still a chance for players to showcase their abilities to crack that final tournament roster?

 
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First start for Macario after injury

Macario is set to earn her 19th cap with her first start for the USWNT in 781 days. Macario sustained an ACL injury in June 2022 and made her return to the national team on April 6, 2024 725 days following her recovery. She's listed as a midfielder for today's game on the lineup sheet. 

 
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USWNT Starting lineup

The lineup has dropped! Here's who is starting in Emma Hayes' first official match on the sideline

USWNT Starting XI: 21-Jane Campbell; 3-Jenna Nighswonger, 4-Naomi Girma, 7-Catarina Macario, 9-Mallory Swanson, 10-Lindsey Horan (Capt.), 11-Sophia Smith, 12-Tierna Davidson, 17-Sam Coffey, 22-Trinity Rodman, 23-Emily Fox

Available Subs: 1-Casey Murphy, 2-Sam Staab, 5-Korbin Albert, 6-Lily Yohannes, 8-Jaedyn Shaw, 13-Alex Morgan, 14-Emily Sonnett, 15-Hal Hershfelt, 16-Rose Lavelle, 18-Aubrey Kingsbury, 19-Crystal Dunn, 20-Casey Krueger

 
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Hello and welcome!

At long last, Emma Hayes' first game in charge of the USWNT is finally here. A new era for the four-time World Cup winners means there's an exciting level of uncertainty around this first game, which will offer a first glance at Hayes' plans for the team. Follow along as we build up to the match and then for updates once the game begins.