Women's International Friendlies
For USWNT's rising star Jaedyn Shaw, this is just the opening act
Women's International Friendlies

For USWNT's rising star Jaedyn Shaw, this is just the opening act

Updated Apr. 8, 2024 5:10 p.m. ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio — These days, Jaedyn Shaw is the talk of the town.

And for good reason: Just 19 years old and a rising star for the United States women's national team, Shaw recently became the first player in program history to score five goals in her first five career starts.

Not even the most prolific of scorers like Mia Hamm or Michelle Akers or Abby Wambach can say they did that.

This happened last Saturday when she scored the equalizer in a 2-1 win over Japan in the SheBelieves Cup semifinal. Her shot was so powerful that it left Japanese goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita frozen on her line. 


A few weeks before that, Shaw earned the Golden Ball, awarded to the most outstanding player, at the Concacaf W Gold Cup. She scored four goals, including a critical one in a wild semifinal win over Canada, which was played on a water-logged pitch thanks to steady rain.

The U.S. will face its northern rival again on Tuesday night at Lower.com Field in the SheBelieves Cup final. Thankfully, rain is not in the forecast. But if it were, that wouldn't matter to Shaw. She has been completely unfazed by the spotlight she's found herself in, and doesn't act or play like a rookie.

And, if you ask USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore how she would describe Shaw's evolution since she made her first appearance for the senior national team in October, she will say that we haven't seen anything yet.

"While the world is saying, ‘Yeah, she's here, and she's arrived,' and I agree, she's doing a great job, be patient," Kilgore said Monday. "Because there's more. A lot more for her."

Saturday's match against Japan was a glimpse of what some of that could be. After mostly playing as a winger for the USWNT, Shaw started in the No. 10 role as an attacking midfielder. This is a position Shaw said she's quite comfortable in, as she often plays there with her club team, the San Diego Wave.

"She's just a footballer," captain Lindsey Horan said of Shaw's versatility. "She has a physical presence, is so smart on the ball and technical and savvy and creative. That's what you want in the No. 10."

Kilgore, who has probably fielded more questions about Shaw specifically than anyone or anything else over the last several days, explained putting the teenager there is important for a variety of reasons. Especially with the Olympics on the horizon. The Paris Games begin in July and only 18 players are selected for the roster, as opposed to the 23 that go to the World Cup. And with two goalkeepers, that means just 16 field players, so being able to play multiple positions like Shaw can is advantageous.

"I think finding your niche in this team and being able to score consistently is quite a feat, especially as you're being integrated," Kilgore said. "And I would say that even though she's here, she's been doing a great job, we're seeing great things from her, and we're really pleased, she's still in the onboarding process."

Kilgore went on to explain that Shaw is still working "on all phases of her game" and praised her not only for her ability to attack, but also defend — an area where the coaching staff has challenged her.

"She's accepted that challenge and she's continued to grow," Kilgore said.

While Shaw has clearly shown a knack for scoring, she's not the focal point in the USWNT attack — no one player is, which Kilgore said is by design. And yet, Shaw has the ability to make the most of the opportunities she gets and finishes them in a variety of ways.

"What makes her such a great goalscorer is her focus, it's her calmness, and I believe that she's looking at beating the goalkeeper and not necessarily the person that's right in front of her," Kilgore said. "She's willing to take a risk on going back to finishing crosses, willing to take a risk and hit a first time [shot] or even take a risk and make a well-timed run and assume the ball is going to get there as opposed to waiting for the ball. 

"And that sets her apart from other people."

It's reasonable to think it would take a younger player time to acclimate to the ultra-competitive USWNT environment. Just ask Trinity Rodman, who joked Monday that she's still trying to get comfortable. Or Sophia Smith, who is still fighting off some World Cup demons. Even as they continue to carve their respective paths and battle for their own Olympic roster spots, the fellow young players hype up Shaw's potential.

"It's been awesome to see her just kind of come onto this team and take it as her own and be exactly who she is and shine on the biggest stage," Smith said. "And I'm happy to see how far she's come, but I'm more excited to see where she goes. And I think this is just the start."

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.


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