In a triumphant debut, Emma Hayes led the U.S. women’s national team to a resounding 4-0 victory over South Korea.

The match, held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado, drew a sold-out crowd of 19,010 fans. It thus marked a strong start for Hayes’ new chapter with the team.

Mallory Swanson opened the scoring in the 34th minute after a well-executed buildup play. Sophia Smith slipped a precise pass through the South Korean defense.

This allowed Swanson to cut through the penalty box and beat goalkeeper Kim Jung-Mi. This goal marked Swanson’s ninth goal in her last nine matches, demonstrating her consistent scoring prowess.

Shortly after, Tierna Davidson, unmarked in the box, headed in her first goal of the match off a Swanson corner kick in the 48th minute, making it 2-0. Davidson, who was also celebrating her return to the international stage, added another goal later. This way, she has solidified her status as a key player in the squad.

Swanson continued her exceptional form by netting her second goal in the 74th minute after a methodical buildup from the back. Rose Lavelle intercepted a loose ball and provided a slick pass to Swanson, who finished the play with clinical precision.

New tactical innovations and team adaptations

Hayes, hired in November, aimed to rejuvenate a roster that needed fresh energy. Only 11 players from this squad were part of the 2023 World Cup team, and merely 10 out of the 23 had participated in previous national team camps. This fresh approach paid off, as the team looked confident and comfortable under her guidance.

In her debut, Hayes experimented with an intriguing lineup, starting a front line consisting of Swanson, Smith, and Trinity Rodman, with Catarina Macario playing as the No. 10. Macario, who was making her first USWNT start in 781 days following a long recovery from an ACL injury, recorded an assist, showcasing her potential impact on the team.

Hayes also made strategic use of her substitutions, including giving Crystal Dunn time on the wing and awarding Sam Staab her first senior national team cap. These changes highlighted Hayes’ commitment to integrating new talent and providing valuable experience to her players.

Emma Hayes took charge of her first game.
Emma Hayes took charge of her first game.

Emma Hayes took charge of her first game.

New era for USWNT with challenges ahead

The victory against South Korea is a promising start as the team prepares for the Paris Olympics this summer. Hayes, visibly pleased with the performance, noted the team’s technical execution and praised the efficiency and clinical nature of the goals. She also acknowledged the valuable contributions of the substitutes in the second half.

“We made steps in the right direction,” she said. Reflecting on her debut, the English boss expressed excitement rather than pressure, emphasizing her passion for the job and her enthusiasm for working with the talented squad. “I’m doing the job I love and get to enjoy these amazing players,” she said. “I’m re-energized and want to coach this group, and they want to be coached.”

While the ex-Chelsea boss acknowledged that there are still areas for improvement, she remains optimistic about the team’s potential. “There’s lots of work to do, there’s lots of holes in our play, no question. But it’s a good start.”

Photo credit: IMAGO / Sports Press Photo