Women's International Friendlies
USWNT starts Emma Hayes era with 4-0 win over South Korea
Women's International Friendlies

USWNT starts Emma Hayes era with 4-0 win over South Korea

Updated Jun. 1, 2024 10:28 p.m. ET

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado —The first one is out of the way.

After months of waiting for this moment, Emma Hayes' tenure as the United States women's national team coach has begun. And it's off to a winning start after the Americans cruised to a 4-0 victory over Korea Republic on Saturday afternoon at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

There was a lot to see in Hayes' debut match on the American sideline: for one, Mallory Swanson and Tierna Davidson each scored a brace in front of a sold out crowd of 19,010 fans. It was Swanson's ninth and tenth goals in her last nine matches, while Davidson scored the second and third goals of her international career.

The U.S. looked confident and comfortable, a glimpse into how the team is quickly adapting to life under its new head coach. Hayes tried some intriguing things, including starting a front line that consisted of Swanson, Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman with Catarina Macario trailing as the No. 10 in the lineup. Macario, who recorded an assist, earned her first USWNT start in 781 days after a long road back from an ACL injury. Hayes used all of her subs, which included getting Crystal Dunn out on the wing. She also gave Sam Staab her first senior national team cap.


"We made steps in the right direction," a visibly tired Hayes said after the match, making mention of the heat and altitude. Her life has also been a whirlwind lately – after winning a fifth consecutive Women's Super League title with Chelsea on May 18, she took four days off before starting her new job with the USWNT.

Hayes added that she was pleased with the team's technical execution early on and described the goals as "efficient and clinical." She thought the second half substitutes "added value" and was "really happy with the first performance."

While Hayes had been visualizing what her first U.S. match might be like for some time, she wasn't stressed or anxious about it.

"I don't feel that pressure," Hayes said. "I'm doing the job I love and get to enjoy these amazing players. Like for me, I don't feel relief from that. I'm re-energized and want to coach this group and they want to be coached. And I think you can see we're building something. And there's lots of work to do, there's lots of holes in our play, no question. But it's a good start."

Here are some takeaways from the match:

Play of the game

And the first goal of Hayes' tenure goes to … Swanson.

In the 34th minute, Naomi Girma settled a pass from Davidson in the final third of the field, took a few touches and found Smith at the top of the box by splitting two defenders. A patient Smith held off a defender and fed a sprinting Swanson, who one-touched her shot inside the box just past Korean goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi. 

Swanson, who grew up just outside of Denver, was playing in front of a bunch of family and friends – in fact, she said she had to buy a box for all of them to fit – and let out all her emotions after scoring, throwing her arms wide with a massive smile. This was her first goal for the USWNT since returning from a gruesome knee injury that held her out of last summer's World Cup. Or more precisely, it was her first national team goal in 465 days.

"It's so fun to see Mal back out there," Smith said. "She's one of my favorite people to play with. She's like my big sister. I watched her go through a tough time. To see her back out there being Mal and doing what Mal does, it's a good feeling."

Swanson wasn't finished though. In the 74th minute, already holding a 3-0 lead, Rose Lavelle intercepted a pass near midfield, quickly dribbled down the field before slipping a ball to Swanson, who ran onto it in space and slipped her second goal inside the left post.

"She's a player I've always admired," Hayes said. "To get the opportunity to coach her and see firsthand the qualities she possesses. She's a connector. She's really magnetic as a human being the way she operates in the team. She can multitask, she can do what she's doing on the pitch and she can listen on the sidelines. I noticed that about her today. 

"[We need to] keep her fit, keep her healthy, because she's an important part of this team." 

Turning point

Davidson's two goals came off set pieces, which gave the USWNT a 2-0 and then a 3-0 lead to put the game well out of reach. 

The first came in the 38th minute off a soaring cross by Macario. 

And the second was in the 48th minute off pinpoint service from Swanson.

Davidson, a center back, entered this match with 57 caps and just one goal in her national team career, which she scored on Aug. 31, 2018. The last time a defender scored a brace in a match was Julie Ertz in 2016. 

Davidson did not make the World Cup roster last summer, but it's clear Hayes wants to take advantage of the defender's 5'10" frame, not just on set pieces, but everywhere on the pitch.

"Tierna is a really reflective character," Hayes said. "Thoughtful, intelligent. [She has] game intelligence, but really thoughtful. She waits until she comments on anything in the environment – and she listened all week. We rehearsed multiple things, not just set pieces, multiple things. And her attention to detail, her ability to grasp ideas. 

"It's been really good to watch her and Naomi all week. Two exceptionally gifted football minds and I'm not surprised she got into that position because it was something we've worked on."

Key stat

Hayes' starting lineup averaged 25.5 years of age, and 45 caps per player, making it the youngest starting 11 for the USWNT since April 2022. 

Certainly a fresh start for Hayes.

What's next for the USWNT?

The USWNT and Korea Republic will play a friendly rematch on Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn. 

The game will be significant as it's the final time the Americans play together in front of Hayes before she names her 18-player roster for the Paris Olympics. The USWNT's first group stage match vs. Zambia is on July 25.

Will anyone who didn't play in the first match – like Alex Morgan, Emily Sonnett and Lily Yohannes – see the field in the next one? Hayes said there's nothing to make of the fact that Morgan didn't play on Saturday. Morgan, who has just come back from an ankle injury, fell during training on Friday and Hayes said there was "maybe stretching a little bit of the pelvic area". Hayes kept her out as a precaution.

"This is an important issue to raise," said Hayes, who has long been a vocal advocate for women's health. "Us women who have had children have to focus on keeping our pelvic floor agile. And I told her yesterday I'm not going to take any risks because I want her to play Tuesday. So I took the decision not to bring her into the game so she's nice and fresh Tuesday."

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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