USWNT won the 2022 SheBelieves Cup after defeating Iceland 5-0 in a must-win game on Wednesday, and goal-scorers Catarina Macario and Mallory Pugh were among the players who successfully auditioned for the chance to lead the USWNT into the future.
While the USWNT’s fifth SheBelieves Cup trophy is a fantastic finale after a tough start last week, coach Vlatko Andonovski’s main goal for this tournament was to identify unpolished gems — players with potential who can carry the squad into the future as the team regenerates.
Macario and Pugh are among a group of players that have pushed Andonovski to take another look at them.
When asked if any players had improved their position on the team, Andonovski said, “We’re leaving this tournament feeling like we’re progressing in the right route.” “They shown their ability to win games.”
In the 37th minute, Macario’s SheBelieves Cup breakout performance accelerated. She chased down a ball on the left flank, cut, and then blasted a rocket from the corner of the penalty box that rolled off the inner frame and into the net.
The placement was perfect: the ball would have clanked off the post and out to safety if it had been an inch or two to the right. Sandra Sigurdardottir, the goalkeeper, would have had a chance to tip it away if it had been a little closer to the left.
“I’ve been working on that for a while,” Macario explained. “It doesn’t always work, but the fact that it did today was incredible. ‘OK, that was some decent contact,’ I thought as soon as I hit.”
In the 45th minute, she added to her tally with another spectacular goal. Macario startled everyone by swiveling her hips around the ball and chipping it inside the far post netting after a pass from Pugh went behind her and left her chasing the ball away from goal.
Andonovski stated, “Goals like that should be on highlight reels all over the world.” “I’m pleased with Cat not only because of the goals she scored, but also because of how she was able to enlist the help of others.”
Pugh said about Macario’s goals, “You give that gal a little bit of room and she’ll finish.”
With a well-taken goal in the 60th minute, Pugh picked up where Macario left off in the second half. Ashley Sanchez sent a wonderful through-pass into Pugh’s path, and she raced onto it, outrunning goalie Cecilia Runarsdottir and tucking the ball into the far post.
Before this year, just one player from outside FIFA’s top 15 had competed in the event. Iceland, on the other hand, was the highest-ranked opponent this time, at No. 16 in the world. The Czech Republic is ranked 24th, while New Zealand is ranked 22nd. The United States Women’s National Team is ranked first in the world.
The USWNT had won 29 of its 32 total matches against its 2022 SheBelieves Cup opponents prior to the event, with the exception of the inaugural encounter against New Zealand in 1987.
However, there were reasons to anticipate that the USWNT would not just ignore the competition.