Takeaways from Emma Hayes’ first match on the sideline — Interview with Mallory Swanson

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, June 3, 2024

First off, happy Pride everyone and welcome to another edition of Soccer Monday! Emma Hayes said last week not to expect any sweeping changes now that she’s formally taken over as head coach of the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). Interim coach Twila Kilgore already set the groundwork as the team’s coach in Hayes absence, she said.

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Now, for Hayes, it’s all about the details. And those details will become very important as she considers the whittled Olympic roster.

Fans got a first look of what the team will look like under Hayes on Saturday, and the U.S. came away with a 4-0 victory over South Korea. Another chance comes on Tuesday night in Saint Paul.

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So what to make of it? Hayes started four up top, with Sophia Smith, Catarina Macario, Mallory Swanson and Trinity Rodman. Macario played the No. 10 role, Smith in the No. 9.

Alex Morgan had a slight injury and Hayes held her back to make sure she was “fresh” for Tuesday.

The move shows that the team under Hayes is going to put a greater emphasis on the attack, something that was a shortcoming last year during the Women’s World Cup.

Still, the team was a bit slow to get going — perhaps a matter of finding a groove in the new system.

“In terms of what I asked from the group, what we prepared for, the execution of that, we made steps in the right direction,” Hayes said afterward.

A daily earlier, Hayes referred to the group as “unbelievable sponges.”

“I think there’s been a better tactical understanding than I anticipated. But for me, the most important thing has been their ability to grasp information really, really quickly. Sponges, unbelievable sponges,” Hayes said of her experience with the players this week in training camp. “No matter what we’ve thrown at them this week, they’re taking it on, they’re absorbing it. This team is desperate to improve, and it’s focused on the performances and the processes to do just that.”

Hayes was asked in the post-game if she had a sense of relief that now, after all the build up over her arrival.

“You know, I don’t think like that. I don’t feel that pressure. I don’t know, I’m doing the job I love. I get to enjoy all those amazing players. I don’t feel relief from that. I feel-re-energized and want to coach this group, and they want to be coaches. And I think you can see we’re building something. There’s lots of work to do. There’s lot of holes in our play, no question. But it was a good start.”

More will be gleaned on Tuesday. Then there’s the tough job of picking the 18.

Couple of extra notes:

The starting lineup averaged 45 caps and was 25.5 years old, making it the youngest lineup in two years.

Macario made her first start for the USWNT after her ACL injury. That’s 781 days between appearances.

Sam Staab got her first USWNT cap.

Tierna Davidson became the first defender to score a pair of goals in a match since Julie Ertz in 2016. She’d only had one goal before Saturday.

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Must-click links

Loved this story from The Athletic’s Steph Yang on Croix Bethune

Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philly Inquirer with a nice story on Sam Coffey

Sandra Herrera for CBS Sports on Barbra Banda sealing her legacy with the Pride

Jenna Tonelli with a story about Emily Menges’ fresh start with Bay FC

Laken Litman for Fox with the question everyone’s been asking: Who is going to play on the front line?

ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf with a thoughtful story on how Hayes will switch from club to national team play

Emily Caron for the Equalizer on Horan’s anticipation of the Hayes’ era

Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times with a story on rising star Mackenna Whitham

Ann Killion from the San Francisco Chronicle writes about Catarina Macario’s return

TMZ on Deion Sanders meeting Hayes

USA Today’s Nancy Armour with a column on how Hayes is aware the USWNT needs more that a quick fix

The Deseret News with a nice story on the deaf national team

Five at the IX: Mallory Swanson

Following her appearance in USWNT’s Swanson spoke to reporters after the match in the mixed zone. Here is what she said.

Question: What does it feel like to score again for the national team?

Swanson: Yeah, it’s super special. I think ultimately I’m just proud of the group and the performance we had. It felt good. I think that we created a lot of chances. This week has been a lot of growing and trusting the process and I’m ultimately just proud of the group.”

Question: The front four looked fluid. How did that go?

Swanson: It felt really good. I think with Cat, Trinity, Soph, we’re all learning eachother’s tendencies and continuing to evolve and continuing to apply the principles we’re learning and trying to execute them. And I think we did a very good job with that.

Question: You’ve said you discovered a different person during the layoff?

Swanson: I feel like I’m still discovering that. I think you’re never the same person that you were the last day and so I’m taking every learning opportunity that I can and growing, and trying to be an impact on whoever I can.

Question: You had a big crowd of fans here. Did that add any pressure and did you expect their response?

Swanson: No I didn’t. I think ultimately I was just super thankful that I could play in front of them again, I could play on this team, because you never know when [it will be] the last time you could play. I think, especially with all those people, they were supporting me all of last year. For them to be in the stands and then see me back on the field, doing what I love, it was super special.

Question: How does this squad compare to the past with the depth of the talent pool ahead of the Olympics and the smaller roster?

Swanson: Obviously the Olympics is 18 players and within this team it’s super competitive, but at the end of the day, I’m trying to push my teammates and they’re trying to push me to be better, and that’s how this team grows. Like I said before, I learned last year through an injury, you can never take any day for granted. So I’m just really taking everything day by day and again, just super thankful that I’m back.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson