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Coloradan Mallory Swanson kickstarts USWNT second half to 4-0 win over New Zealand

Lady Yanks rise-up. Swanson’s scores a brace. Then exquisite goals by Alex Morgan and Lynn Williams finish-off the Football Ferns.

New Zealand v USA
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JANUARY 18: Mallory Swanson of USA celebrates with Alex Morgan after scoring a goal during the International friendly fixture match between the New Zealand Football Ferns and the United States at Sky Stadium on January 18, 2023 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Within the large circle of international women’s soccer reporters covering this Southern Hemisphere friendly, most predicted a rather easy victory for the FIFA number one ranked U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) over their counterparts from New Zealand.

However, the 24th ranked Lady Ferns came out with their heads held high before the largest crowd that ever gathered to see them play on their home soil. And they almost pulled off a massive upset in Sky Stadium, Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

It wasn’t until the second half when Team USA experienced an awakening did they find their mojo, and put the New Zealanders on their back heels, and scored four unanswered goals with relative ease.

The Lady Yanks were led by Real Colorado Soccer Club alumnus, the former Mallory Pugh, now Mallory Swanson, after her recent marriage to MLB Chicago Cub infielder, and companion since 2017, Dansby Swanson. The duo tied the knot at the Ritz Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia in mid-December.

The high potential Coloradan is considered to be a key component in head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s plans to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup that will be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia this July-August.

Swanson now has goals in back-to-back games after scoring in the USA’s year-end win over Germany on November 13 in Fort Lauderdale.

Yesterday’s match also marked Swanson’s fourth career multi-goal game, and first since the 2022 SheBelieves Cup finale versus Iceland.

According to U.S. Soccer match day notes, she also scored her first of a career-high seven goals for the USWNT in 2022 against New Zealand on February 20 during the team’s annual SheBelieves Cup contest.

Swanson braced enable her to pass fellow Coloradan, Lindsey Horan, in the scoring charts with 27 career goals.

She now has nine goals in her last 16 caps after scoring 18 goals during 67 international appearances. The young Swanson has had her fair share of ups and downs throughout her international career, including a handful of injuries that sometimes a result of her self-called “floppy ankles.”

However, she appears to be ready to contribute at a high order throughout the team’s well scripted preparation period ahead of the summer tournament.

If all goes as planned, and her sincere prayers are heard, Swanson will carry her recent successes and momentum right into the heart of the greatest tournament on Earth.

In the 52nd minute of play, midfielder Rose Lavelle played Trinity Rodman out on the right wing. Rodman cut inside to get around her mark and sent a line drive cross into the box where Swanson was running in full stride. The ball met Swanson’s forehead and a powerful header from 12 yards out resulted.

Ten minutes later, Swanson was up to do good again. Her swift teammate, Ashley Sanchez took a pass in the midfield around the right side of the beautifully groomed pitch. She relayed the ball ahead of Swanson who was streak toward the mouth of the goal. The fleet-footed NWSL Chicago Fire star received the ball, then touched her way around rushing goalkeeper, drifted towards her left, and promptly finished from about eight yards.

Swanson won Woman of the Match honors. She summed up her outing during a post-match interview.

Joining Swanson in the Lady Yanks starting lineup were midfielders Lindsey Horan and Taylor Kornieck.

Both mirrored the team’s slow start start in the first half. At times their combination play appeared to be disjointed.

Horan, who is heading into her 11th year, is a leader in the midfield. Yesterday she appeared to be shaking of some rust since her last outing with the national team.

Her upcoming preparation efforts, both as a leader and player will be crucial, as Andonovski is counting on the often assertive and gifted box-to-box Colorado Rush product to deliver this summer. With Carli Lloyd now providing television commentary during soccer broadcasts, Horan is the heir to the most important role on the team.

Last fall she inherited Carli Lloyd’s #10 jersey and hasn’t looked back. She has teamed up with USWNT icon, Alex Morgan as co leaders of this high octane team. The pair have plenty on their respective plates, especially supporting Andonovski’s year-to-year exercise of reinventing his team from older to young all-stars.

Two stars that are not thinking of hanging up their boots sooner than necessary are Morgan and the crafty Rose Lavelle.

During the second half of yesterday’s game, they combined again when Lavelle delivered a beautiful and just as insane backheel pass to Morgan who was ready to pounce on it. And deliver Morgan did.

One example of Andonovski’s efforts update the team includes is what to do with new mother and recuperating from injury, Julie Ertz.

She gave birth to a son in August. Soon thereafter, Andonovski said, “She’s enjoying motherhood and she’s happy and doing a great job at it,” he said.

“We want to give Julie time to get back slowly. We won’t even discuss it. This is time for Julie to enjoy time with her family, and when the time comes, if she is anywhere near her best, this team will welcome her back.”

In the meantime, Andonovski is test driving CU Buffaloes’ acclaimed midfielder and sometimes forward, Taylor Kornieck.

She made her debut in DICK’S Sporting Goods Park for the United States this past summer. The agile Kornieck is also on the NWSL San Diego Wave FC roster. She is part of Andonovski’s attack-minded game plan. And when she is on the field, she becomes a target on set pieces. Her ability to leap up like a gazelle is uncanny.

Kornieck is a work in progress. She has plenty of upside, as well as serious competition in the midfield. She’s also teammates in San Diego with Alex Morgan. They do work all to well together in their NWSL games.

The next outing iwill take place January 20th, USA time, when the Ferns and Yanks faceoff in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau at New Zealand famed Eden Park National Stadium.