A solar eclipse, and a dramatic start to the SheBelieves Cup

The USWNT comes from behind to win its SheBelieves opener, and more headlines from the world of women's soccer

Happy Eclipse Day for all who celebrated. Portland was too cloudy to see anything, but the eclipse was only going to reach 28 percent totality here anyway. Frankly, I didn’t even notice that it got slightly dark.

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At least it wasn’t the rapture or the end of the world!

This past weekend was huge for women’s sports. Obviously, we watched and celebrated Carolina and Dawn Staley, said goodbye to Caitlin Clark’s magical college career, and ultimately witnessed an epic – and I hate to use that word, but here, it fits – NCAA title game.

The SheBelieves Cup also got started off to somewhat of a rocky start, as Japan scored against the USWNT in the first thirty seconds of game play. But the United States came back with an equalizing goal from Jaedyn Shaw in the 21st minute and sealed the win with Lindsey Horan’s penalty in the 77th.

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Arguably the most important thing about the match was the return of Mallory Swanson, who started, and Catarina Macario, who came on as a sub. Swanson had been sidelined 364 days earlier because of her patella tendon injury. Macario was out for just about two years because of her ACL tear.

Macario in particular returns to a team that looks much different from the last time she wore the crest. Fellow young and emerging stars, including Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw and Trinity Rodman, have secured regular spots on the team. Horan is now the captain. Sam Coffey is making a case for herself in the midfield.

The team’s new look really emphasizes its transformation in just a few short years. Just look at the roster for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics: Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Julie Ertz and Sam Mewis have all since retired. Christen Press and Tobin Heath have dealt with injuries and aren’t currently playing. That’s a lot of turnover.

This new-look USWNT squad will likely undergo tweaks as it heads toward this summer’s Olympics. With a reduced roster, there’s going to be a lot of jostling, especially at the forward position.

The other big takaway from the SheBelieves opener was the attendance. There were 50,644 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which set a record for biggest crowd ever for a USWNT friendly on home soil. It also marked the largest home crowd for any USWNT match since the 1999 Women’s World Cup final at the Rose Bowl.

And finally, Naomi Girma was subbed out in the first half with an apparent thigh injury. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore said this morning that Girma was day-to-day ahead of Tuesday’s final match against Canada. Sam Coffey was examined for a concussion after the opener, but she remains available for the game.

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In the other SheBelieves match, the Canadians got by Brazil on penalties after a 1-1 draw. The SheBelieves goes straight to penalties after a draw – no extra time.

One final note: Korbin Albert was subbed in late in the game and was met by some boos. Horan and Alex Morgan made a statement last week that the matter was being handled internally.

Per Horan: “We just want to address the disappointing situation regarding Korbin that has unfolded over this past week. We’ve worked extremely hard to uphold the integrity of this national team through all of the generations, and we are extremely, extremely sad that this standard was not upheld. Our fans and our supporters feel like this is a team that they can rally behind, and it’s so important that they feel and continue to feel undeniably heard and seen.”

And Morgan: “We stand by maintaining a safe and respectful space, especially as allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and this platform has given us an opportunity to highlight causes that matter to us, something that we never take for granted. And we’ll keep using this platform to give attention to causes that are important to us.”

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On o the links:

Really good feature from The Athletic on Lily Yohannes

Story from Forbes on Ramona Bachman joining the Dash

Jenna Tonelli with a nice feature on Paige Monaghan for The Equalizer.

ESPN takes a look at how the African players are doing for their club teams

Colombia’s Leicy Santos to join the Spirit this summer

Cleveland Soccer Group gets pledges for season tickets to secure NWSL team.

Lucy Bronze would like to see changes to the women’s calendar.

DW (Germany) asks whether young US stars will continue to champion social causes

The Evening Standard’s opinion page asks why we sometimes patronize women’s soccer?

Yahoo’s Henry Bushnell says the USWNT is fun to watch again

With the controversy surrounding Korbin Albert’s media posts, the SheBelieves Cup will be a test of USWNT’s bigger that the game mentality.

Interesting column from the Miami Herald on the Korbin controversy.

Jeff Kassouf with a story for ESPN on the USWNT’s vulnerability

A few comments from Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario:

Question: What emotions did you feel in preparing for the game? And then that opening whistle?

Swanson: I think preparing for the game, it was more of like, I’ve been here before and like feeling the confidence to contribute. Obviously, I’ve played some games with my club team and that’s given me some confidence to then step into this role. So yeah, I think overall I just felt really good going into the game. I felt prepared and then obviously there’s like little things, little details that I need to sort out. But yeah, I’m just super thankful for the support from coaches, my teammates, my family and my friends, the support staff, medical staff — everyone it takes it takes everyone to to do that.

Question: Can you talk about the team’s response after Japan scored 30 seconds into the game?

Swanson: I think everyone was just calm. I think the response was, we’re going to win this game, and to win that game, you needed to score more goals. Just as simple as that sounds. I think the response was great and I think we were able to gain momentum, create chances, and ultimately won. I’m super proud of that group.

Question: What was the atmosphere like being on the field and feeling that energy from the crowd?

Swanson: Yeah, I think it was great. I think being able to have 50,000 people support us, rally behind us, and as always, the fans are amazing and they support us so much and we feel it. We hear it. I’m just super thankful and I know the team is as well.

Question: It’s been a long time since you played, what were you thinking in the moment?

Macario: I kind of actually could not believe it. It’s been so long, you know? And I was just thinking, enjoy have fun and obviously, do work that’s needed in order to keep the line, in order to keep us in the game. I was just really grateful. Definitely an emotional moment. Just very happy.

Question: There more 50,000 people in the stands. What’s the energy like?

Macario: I’d say it was like a bit of a weird one, just in terms of, even though there were 50,000 people, I think because the stadium was indoors, it was a little bit different for us or at least for myself. And obviously we didn’t start the game how we wanted to, but we did a great job in bouncing back. We really just hope to keep that going.

Question: How about some of the new players that have come in since you last played?

Macario: Obviously, Jaedyn has tremendous potential to her. I’ve been watching them during this time off, but just to be with them, you can really see how special they are. We were just talking after the game that I hope to go in in a period where we’re actually playing together. It’s super exciting. Definitely have a new generation of wonderful players coming through. So it’s just exciting times ahead.

Written by Annie Peterson