Mallory Swanson scores sixth goal of 2023 as USWNT beats Japan

Ahead of the 2023 calendar year, Mallory Swanson took stock of where her chances and goals came from.

As a forward for the U.S. Women’s National Team, it’s only natural. However, her form to start the Women’s World Cup year has been anything but. It’s impeccable.

On Sunday, in the team’s second SheBelieves Cup game against world No. 11 Japan at Geodis Park in Nashville, Swanson (née Pugh) scored her sixth goal of 2023, as the U.S. were scrappy enough on both sides of the ball to hold on to a 1-0 win.

The Highlands Ranch native, according to U.S. Soccer, became the first player to score in five consecutive games for the USWNT since Christen Press scored in six straight from November 2019 to February 2020. Of the 12 goals the U.S. has scored in 2023, Swanson has half of them which have come on 11 shots.

“This off-season I re-evaluated my game. One thing I was doing was, I wasn’t finishing easy chances and I wanted to be able to finish those and put them away,” she told TNT’s broadcast team after the game.

However, the goal on Sunday wasn’t easy.

After the U.S. faced plenty of pressure to open the game, the goal came against the run of play. In the 44th minute, Alex Morgan played a ball over the top, and with the ball still bouncing, took two touches — in midair — to settle it and then took one touch at full speed to get past defender Shiori Miyake. Two touches later, she slotted it into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to give the U.S. the lead.

“She certainly makes my life a little easier,” U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski told reporters after the match. “The speed that she has helps, but she controlled the ball and took two touches on a juggle in the air, at full speed. That’s technicality and a very skillful player. … It looked like the game stopped for her so she could finish with her final touch. Obviously, she’s in really good form and we’re supporting (her) any way possible.”

The tough finish comes one game after her two-goal performance in Thursday’s 2-0 win over Canada, in which she scored off of a mistake from the defender, and added a world-class volley as well.

Horan dons captain’s armband, Kornieck plays

Golden native Lindsey Horan captained her country, as she earned her third start of 2023 and wore the armband for the ninth time in her national team career. She was tasked with being a disrupter in midfield and keeping the side organized against a team known for its technicality on the ball in Japan.

Horan was substituted off for former Colorado Buffaloes star Taylor Kornieck with five minutes and stoppage time remaining to help see out the game. Kornieck, a midfielder, was able to use her 6-foot frame to head away a few potential opportunities and ensure a shutout.

The U.S. will finish the SheBelieves Cup off at 5 p.m. MT Wednesday against ninth-ranked Brazil in Frisco, Texas.

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