Catarina Macario injury update: USWNT star scores on Chelsea debut after 21 months out due to ACL injury


As the months dragged on and Cat Macario still had not returned to the pitch, fans and media began to wonder what was wrong with her ACL recovery, which dragged on and on with no end in sight.

All the way back in June of 2022, the 24-year-old went down just 13 minutes into Lyon’s final league match of the season, and four days later confirmed that she had suffered a torn left ACL in what was a meaningless match.

After 21 months on the shelf, during which she transferred to Chelsea, and faced constant questions about when she would return, she finally made her debut for the Blues and found a goal in the process.

It was an emotional moment for Macario, who will now look to work her way toward full match fitness to be an option for the U.S. women in this summer’s Olympics.

How long was Catarina Macario injured?

It was a long recovery for the USWNT star, and the national team has definitely felt her absence in the attacking third.

“Unfortunately, injuries are a natural part of football,” Macario wrote in a social media post announcing her injury last summer. “Tearing an ACL is never easy, and although I am devastated to be away from the field and my teammates for a few months, I could not be more proud of my first year as a professional footballer and to have helped the team reconquer two big titles this season.

Macario joined Women’s Super League giants Chelsea this past summer, but she needed over half the season to make her debut for the club.

While there was hope that Macario would return in time to take part in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, there are fears that her return to action could cause issues with her ability to ramp back up to fitness in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics a full year later.

MORE: Why female athletes are more prone to ACL tears than men, and what is being done to keep women safe

When did Catarina Macario return from torn ACL?

There were questions for nearly a year about when Cat Macario would return from her injury.

According to USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski in early February ahead of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, Macario was in “return to play protocol” and could be back in the national team fold by April. She was prepping for an imminent return alongside a host of other big-name international teammates.

That feels like a distant memory now. In mid-November of 2023, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes, who is set to take over for the USWNT once the season concludes, stated that Macario would likely not be back before the start of the 2024 calendar year.

“I don’t think so,” Hayes said when asked by Forbes if Macario would be able to return for any of Chelsea’s four remaining league games in the 2023 calendar year. “I don’t think she’ll play this half of the season. I hope (she can) and if she does it will be a bonus. But I don’t think with the time she’s been out that we would take that risk.

“Listen you have to understand, when you’ve been out a long time, this isn’t about me withholding something, this is about the recognition that – with all the will in the world – you can’t just put a player on the grass with a knee history, and sometimes if the knee blows up, you then have to come back off it again.”

Upon suffering the injury in June of 2022, Macario was aiming for a February 2023 return. On Oct. 31, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski stated in a press conference that โ€œIf she doesnโ€™t have any setbacks, we can see Cat back on the field in late February.”

Also back in that same October, Macario told Julie Foudy’s podcast Laughter Permitted that her recovery is going well. โ€œIโ€™m starting to do some more movements and feeling a little bit more like myself again,โ€ she said. โ€œLike Iโ€™m somewhat of an athlete,” she said, “So thatโ€™s cool.” Macario also stated that her goal is to return in time for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which now seems highly likely.

Finally, Macario returned on March 3, 2024, against Leicester City, coming on as a substitute in the 72nd minute to replace Mayra Ramirez. Just six minutes later, she scored Chelsea’s final goal in a 4-0 road win.

How was Catarina Macario injured with Lyon?

In the ninth minute of Lyon’s season-ending D1 Feminine match against Issy, Macario went down with an injury, substituted off five minutes later after lengthy treatment. The USWNT star would eventually confirm the injury as a torn ACL, leaving her sidelined for the coming months.

The injury took place while taking an off-balance shot, whipping a right-footed shot that was blocked by her defender. The Brazilian-born star then immediately fell to the ground clutching her left knee. The broadcast’s replay did not clearly show what happened, but it appeared that Macario’s twisting shot may have caused her to land awkwardly or somehow twist her leg, triggering the injury.

The match was a meaningless affair, with Lyon having already confirmed themselves league champions weeks prior, finishing the season 11 points clear at the top of the 12-team table, collecting 64 points across a 22-match season, with 21 wins and one draw, amassing a +71 goal differential. PSG finished second with 53 points.

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How much time did Catarina Macario miss with torn ACL?

Injured in early June 2022, Macario faced a long and frustrating time on the shelf. The typical 8-12 month recovery time for a torn ACL long since passed, Macario missed significant time for both club and country.

Macario missed the entirety of Lyon’s 2022-23 season, joining Chelsea in the summer while she continued to recover. She then needed over half the season to make her Chelsea debut, finally returning in early March 2024. By the end, Macario spent an incredible 641 days on the sideline between her injury and return.

For the U.S. national team, Macario missed the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship tournament, which ran from July 4-8. The USWNT won the competition in Macario’s absence, defeating Canada 1-0 in the final, securing qualification to the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Macario’s participation in the Women’s World Cup was initially thought possible, or even likely, but eventually it just would not materialize. โ€œWhile Iโ€™m excited and super optimistic about my future as a footballer, Iโ€™m sad to share that I wonโ€™t be physically ready for selection to our U.S. World Cup team,โ€ Macario wrote on social media, announcing her inability to participate.

Macario was not included on Chelsea’s UEFA Women’s Champions League group stage roster, meaning she won’t be eligible to participate in any of their six matches against Real Madrid, Paris FC, or BK Hacken, and was not added to the roster for the knockout stage, meaning she is not eligible to appear in European play for the remainder of the season.

The 2024 Summer Olympics begin on July 24, and now that Macario has returned to the field, she will be pushing to build her match fitness to prove a viable option for the USWNT this summer.

Catarina Macario’s rise with Lyon & USWNT

Cat Macario has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the women’s game over the last two years, establishing herself as a star presence for both a Champions League winner (Lyon) and a top international side (No. 1-ranked USWNT).

Macario joined Lyon in January 2021 after an historic collegiate career with Stanford where she won two MAC Hermann trophies as the best player in college. She pushed herself into a starting role, helping the club to a D1 Feminine title and the Champions League crown in 2021-22, becoming the first American international to score in the Women’s Champions League final.

Additionally, Macario has quickly risen to a key role with the U.S. Women’s national team. She already has eight goals to her name in just 17 appearances since debuting in January 2021.

Born in Brazil, she received her U.S. citizenship in October of 2020 and was granted clearance to represent the United States in January 2021. She made her USWNT debut on Jan. 18, 2021, in a 4-0 win against Colombia, and rapidly rose to prominence with the side.

Her most recent national team goals came against Uzbekistan in two April 2022 friendlies, and before that, she found the net against Iceland in the 2022 SheBelieves Cup:



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