USA vs Japan score, updates, highlights as Shaw, Horan see USWNT into SheBelieves Cup final on Swanson’s returns

With the Summer Olympics just around the corner, the United States women continued their build towards Paris 2024 by topping Japan 2-1 in the SheBelieves Cup semifinal, with Jaedyn Shaw and Lindsey Horan providing the goods in an impressive comeback.

Japan stunned the USWNT by scoring 30 seconds into the match, catching the U.S. defense off guard as Kiko Seike put the Nadeshiko in front very early. The United States, however, recovered exceptionally well, dominating the rest of the match and peppering the Japan goal.

Shaw brought the hosts back level in the 22nd minute, becoming the first player in USWNT history to score a goal in each of her first five international starts. While they were unable to take the lead before halftime, the performance hinted that a winner was coming.

While Japan appeared to weather the storm for a while, Sophia Smith came off the bench to win a penalty in the 75th minute, and Horan dispatched from the spot to secure the lead.

There was even more good news as U.S. forwards Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario both returned from long-term injuries. Swanson was brilliant in her 80 minutes of play, and only finished without a goal of her own thanks to a few great saves by Ayaka Yamashita. Macario, meanwhile, came off the bench to finish out the game and will be looking to contribute heavily over the next few months after nearly two years on the sidelines.

The only negative was an early thigh injury to vitally important defender, and her evaluation will be closely monitored with the Olympics to come in the summer.

EXCLUSIVE: USWNT star Jenna Nighswonger speaks to The Sporting News about her career so far

The Sporting News followed the USA vs. Japan match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happened.

USA vs Japan final score

  Score Goal scorers
USA 2 Shaw (22′),
Horan (76′)
Japan 1 Seike (1′)

Kickoff: 12:35 p.m. ET / 9:35 p.m. PT
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, GA)
Referee: Myriam Marcotte (CAN)

Starting lineups:

USA (4-2-3-1, right to left): 1. Naeher (GK) — 23. Fox (Krueger, 63′), 12. Davidson, 4. Girma (Dahlkemper, 18′), 3. Nighswonger — 17. Coffey (Albert, 79′), 10. Horan — 22. Rodman (Smith, 63′), 8. Shaw (Sonnett, 63′), 9. Swanson (Dunn, 79′) — 13. Morgan (Macario, 79′).

Japan (3-5-2, right to left): 1. Yamashita (GK) — 2. Shimizu, 4. Kumagi, 3. Minami — 5. Moriya (Hamano, 46′), 14. Hasegawa, 10. Nagano, 19. Tanikawa (Koga, 46′), 17. Seike (Sugita, 46′) — 9. Ueki (Tanaka, 70′), 15. Fujino (Miyazawa, 87′).

USA vs Japan postmatch quotes, commentary

Naomi Girma, Sam Coffey being evaluated for injuries

Head coach Twila Kilgore did not have much of an update to offer on injuries to Naomi Girma and Sam Coffey. Girma is “being evaluated for a thigh injury” but they don’t know the severity at this point, while Coffey was withdrawn in the second half with a head injury – which sounds like they’re looking to check if she has a concussion.

Sophia Smith exceptional in role off the bench

Sophia Smith used to be a locked-in starter for the USWNT, but she seems to have fallen behind a few others in the crowded winger depth chart. With that said, Twila Kilgore took the opportuity after the match to gush about Smith’s contributions in today’s match, drawing the penalty which led to Lindsey Horan’s winner, as well as her professionalism in handling her new role as a substitute.

“She was just incredible today,” said head coach Twila Kilgore. “She’s a competitor, someone we would feel comfortable starting, those are just decisions we make on the day. Especially when you are preparing for an Olympic tournament, it’s about starting players on a day rather than having ‘starters’ — every single one of them is there because you’re confident you can start them.

“I thought she went in and made a tremendous impact. She did the defensive work first, which isn’t always a forward’s favorite thing to do. She understood the moment. She’s a true pro — something I know about her is she wants to be the best at everything, she’s willing to hold herself accountable and work harder than anyone else while she’s doing it. In the future, there’s even more for her.”

It’s clear from those comments that Sophia Smith isn’t very happy about not starting, but that she’s handing it as positively as she possibly can. Clearly, it’s given her the ability to come on and make a positive impact despite the situation.

Jaedyn Shaw quickly becoming an undroppable player for USWNT

With just 10 international caps to her name, 19-year-old Jaedyn Shaw has made a meteoric rise up the USWNT depth chart, and is suddenly a player that needs to be on the pitch in the biggest games. She not only has cropped up in huge moment to score critical goals, but also is a versatile player who can put in a defensive shift as well.

Twila Kilgore mentioned after the match that she can play in multiple positions, which is key to keeping her on the pitch regardless of who else is in the lineup or how they wish to attack a particular opponent. “She usually plays either an inverted 7 or 11, but played the 10 today,” Kilgore said. “It’s great experience to play people at multiple positions. She did an exceptional job.”

Kilgore then praised Shaw’s defensive contributions in the match, which is nothing new for her. The youngster averages 2.15 completed tackles per 90 minutes in NWSL play over the last calendar year, which puts her in the 99th percentile of forwards amongst the top nine leagues in women’s football. She’s also in the top 10 percent of forwards in interceptions, and in the top quarter for blocks and clearances. She does it all, and at this stage, has to be involved moving forward — what a talent!

USA vs Japan stats

USA Stat Japan
18 Shots 6
7 Shots on target 5
52.7% Possession 47.3%
2 Corners 4
7 Fouls 16
0 Yellow cards 2

USA vs Japan live updates, highlights, commentary

FULLTIME: USA 2-1 Japan

The United States respond well after conceding just 30 seconds into the match, completing a comeback and winning 2-1 behind brilliance from Mallory Swanson and Jaedyn Shaw. It’s a completely dominant performance from the hosts, who controlled play from the moment Japan scored the early opener to taking the lead with 15 minutes to go.

Japan pushed for a late equalizer, but were successfully repelled without creating too much danger. All told, it’s a massively positive performance, with Swanson returning from injury and looking just as sensational as before she went down, while Cat Macario also made her first appearance in nearly two years.

They advance to the title game on Tuesday, where they’ll take on either Canada or Brazil, whoever wins that game later in the day. The only concern is the injury to Naomi Girma, and the U.S. will hope that tests show a muscle injury that won’t take long to recover from.

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USA vs Japan: Second Half

82nd min: Chance, Japan! Alyssa Naeher has to make a big save as Mina Tanaka rises high to head a cross on frame. It’s a great effort but Naeher makes the stop to preserve the lead. Nervy for the U.S. at the end here, after Japan barely threatened all match.

78th min: Just after the goal, the U.S. make a double change, as one player returning from injury replaces the other, with Mallory Swanson taken off and Cat Macario brought on in her place. Korbin Albert also comes on to replace Sam Coffey who was injured just before the U.S. goal, while Crystal Dunn enters to replace Alex Morgan. Albert’s introduction draws a few jeers from the pro-USA crowd after her social media controversy of the past week.

76th min: PENALTY! USA! Sophia Smith gets on the ball and puts Hina Sugita in a blender, and is taken down by the Japan defender inside the top corner of the area! It’s a clear penalty, and Japan doesn’t even bother arguing.

Lindsey Horan places the ball on the penalty spot, and…GOAL! USA! The U.S. captain takes the lead! She buries her low, powerful effort past Ayaka Yamashita, who guessed correctly but had no chance getting to the hit in time.

72nd min: Chance, USA! Now Mallory Swanson comes up empty! Sophia Smith snatches the ball from a Japan defender in the attacking third, and while she has a chance to shoot herself, she feeds Swanson instead who cuts a shot with her right from a tighter angle, but blasts it over the crossbar. That’s another huge chance that goes begging! Smith may have been better taking the shot herself, all things considered.

After the play, Sam Coffey is down behind the play needing treatment. It’s unclear what’s wrong, but she’ll have to be withdrawn, as Korbin Albert will enter shortly.

69th min: Chance, USA! Lindsey Horan should put the US in front, but puts it wide! She picks the pocked of a defender who makes a possessional mistake in her own penalty area, but from about 17 yards out, she scuffs the shot across the face of goal! A big opportunity missed, and by her reaction, she knows it!

50,644 fans are at Mercedes-Benz Stadium today, it is announced, which officially breaks the attendance record for a USWNT friendly.

62nd min: Chance, USA! The hosts are denied right on the line again! Mallory Swanson nearly catches Japan in possession, but it’s stopped by the goalkeeper. The ball bounces right to Jaedyn Shaw about 12 yards from goal, who is surprised to have the ball land at her feet and therefore can’t get a shot off, squaring it to Lindsey Horan but she’s closed down before a shot comes off! So close.

Soon after, there’s a triple change as Sophia Smith, Casey Krueger, and Emily Sonnett enter in place of Shaw, Trinity Rodman, and Emily Fox. No Cat Macario just yet.

60th min: Lindsey Horan has a pop from outside the penalty area but doesn’t get the right contact, and it bounces right into the grasp of the goalkeeper.

The United States have picked up right where they left off in the first half, but have yet to create any more opportunities in front of goal. They’re in complete control of this match, but Japan are hanging on for dear life to this point.

47th min: Chance, USA! Mallory Swanson continues to search for a goal on her return from injury, having a go from inside the penalty area in a dangerous position, and it takes a deflection off a defender but skitters just inches wide! The ensuing corner is punched away by the goalkeeper and eventually Lindsey Horan is whistled for a foul on the recycle.

Kickoff: They’re back under way in Atlanta, and there are no changes for the hosts, while Japan make three changes. Miyabi Moriya, who is on a yellow card, is withdrawn alongside the goalkeeper Kiko Seike and 18-year-old Momoko Tanikawa. Hina Sugita and two teenagers Toko Koga and Maika Hamano enter for the final 45 minutes.

The U.S. were punished for their high line in the first minute of this match, so Japan will know that’s how they can hurt their opponents, but the U.S. were also vindicated in that tactic by using it to devastating effect on numerous occasions.

HALFTIME: USA 1-1 Japan

The opening-minute goal for Japan was a brutal wake-up call for the USWNT, but they responded exceptionally. The hosts controlled essentially the entire first 45 minutes from that point on, and while they only profited once, it feels as if they’ll find a fair few more if this continues.

An injury to Naomi Girma is very concerning, but otherwise, the U.S. will feel comfortable as they head back for the halftime chat, despite not holding a lead. Jaedyn Shaw’s electric start to her USWNT career continues, becoming the first player in U.S. history to score in each of her first five international starts.

USA vs Japan: First Half

45th min: A foul on Lindsey Horan sees Riko Ueki booked by the Canadian referee. Three minutes of added time are shown.

36th min: Chance, USA! Mal Swanson is denied by the goalkeeper! Lindsey Horan feeds a lovely through-ball for Swanson up the gut, but it comes too close to goal, and by the time Swanson gets a touch, it’s right on the doorstep and Ayaka Yamashita makes the stop point-blank.

34th min: Jenna Nighswonger is whistled for a foul which gives Japan their first moment in the U.S. third really since the first-minute goal. It’s essentially been all USA since that moment. The set-piece is delivered into the mixer but there’s no end product and Alyssa Naeher can collect.

29th min: A yellow card is shown to Moeka Minami who clatters Alex Morgan to the ground just outside the top of the penalty area to stop a U.S. breakaway chance, and she’s lucky that defenders were in position to cover or else there could be an argument for a last-man red card.

Lindsey Horan takes the free-kick, but it’s denied by the top of the wall. The TNT broadcast says that Naomi Girma is being evaluated for “a right thigh injury” which is problematic, but certainly a sigh of relief in the sense that it’s not a knee issue.

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24th min: Trinity Rodman is slow to get up off the ball, but she’s up after a short bit of treatment and able to continue.

21st min: GOAL! USA! After peppering the Japan penalty area over the last five minutes, Jaedyn Shaw finally delivers the equalizing goal! Nobody steps to Shaw just outside the top of the penalty area, and she catches the Japan goalkeeper cheating left, firing a shot to the opposite side. It nestles into the net as Ayaka Yamashita is left rooted to the spot!

20th min: Chance, USA! Another massive chance goes begging, again created down the left as Jenna Nighswonger feeds Mal Swanson in space. She crosses to Trinity Rodman at the far post, and her header is saved, while Alex Morgan misses horribly at the far post, skying the shot from no more than two yards out!

18th min: Now this is troubling for the U.S. as Abby Dahlkemper will come on to replace Naomi Girma inside the opening 20 minutes. It’s unclear what the issue is for Girma, but she cannot continue after receiving treatment on the pitch. A huge loss for the U.S. as they lose far and away their best defender.

15th min: Chance, USA! MAL SWANSON HAS AN EQUALIZER CLEARED OFF THE LINE! The returning USWNT star is ever so close to scoring an absolutely stunning equalizer, dancing around three Japan defenders in the penalty area, dazzling with the ball at her feet before cutting an effort perfectly past the goalkeeper and seeking the inside of the far post. But Moeka Minami does brilliantly to anticipate the shot and position herself perfectly at the far post to boot it away literally right on the line.

What a moment that would have been for the USWNT fans to savor in Atlanta, but she’s denied!

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Mallory Swanson denied off the line 🛑<br><br>Watch the match on TNT/Max 📺 <a href=”https://t.co/XHnU8tnQbR”>pic.twitter.com/XHnU8tnQbR</a></p>&mdash; B/R Football (@brfootball) <a href=”https://twitter.com/brfootball/status/1776655231314436420?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>April 6, 2024</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

10th min: It’s been all U.S. since the opening goal, and they create their best chance yet as Mal Swanson delivers a beautiful vertical feed for the overlapping Jenna Nighswonger down the left edge. Nighswonger crosses to the middle at pace, but it evades Alex Morgan in the middle and Trinity Rodman at the far post. A goal kick is given, which Rodman vehemently disagrees with.

3rd min: The United States have been jolted awake by the quick Japan opener, and they have a corner down the other end. Swanson is the one to take, and she delivers a right-footed outswinger to the top of the six-yard box, but it’s headed well over the crossbar by Jaedyn Shaw.

1st min: GOAL! JAPAN! Oh no, disaster for the United States literally 30 seconds into the match! The high U.S. back line is beat by a ball down the right for Kiko Seike, and she finishes from an incredibly tight angle, pinging it in off the far post! Alyssa Naeher was clearly cheating her near post knowing the window to pick out the other side was tiny, but Seike found it!

Kickoff: They’re under way at Mercedes-Benz Stadium! There’s a record crowd for a USWNT friendly match, with over 48,000 on hand to watch this game in Atlanta.

Mal Swanson, who says she calls that city her home, told the truTV pregame show, “I missed gameday, I missed the fans, I missed being around my team, I missed the music in the locker room, I missed my coaches, I missed everything about it.” USWNT fans missed you too, Mal. Now just one day shy of exactly a year off her injury (364 days), she’s back with the national team.

USA vs Japan: Pre-match commentary, analysis, more

15 mins to kickoff: We finally have access to a lineup for Japan, and there are some interesting changes for the Samurai Blue. In the absence of injured wingers Jun Endo and Hikaru Naomoto, we see Kiko Seike chosen to step in out wide opposite Miyabi Moriya. Up front, Rito Ueki steps into the attack, with the experienced Mina Tanaka surprisingly left out.

30 mins to kickoff: One player USWNT fans will be hoping to see over the next few days is 16-year-old Lily Yohannes, who has risen to prominence with Dutch club Ajax. She’s theoretically eligible to play for the Netherlands on an international basis as well, but does not currently hold a Dutch passport, and therefore would have to do some paperwork to make that happen.

At this stage, it appears her international future lies with the USWNT, even if she can’t be officially cap-tied in the SheBelieves Cup as the matches are technically considered international friendiles. Her dad is on hand to watch the match in Atlanta, and will get to watch his daughter make her international debut if she comes off the bench!

45 mins to kickoff: A player who has forced her way into the U.S. starting lineup consistently over the last few months is Jenna Nighswonger. The Sporting News spoke exclusively to Nighswonger before the start of the SheBelieves Cup, and she detailed how her approach for both club and country is “a marathon not a sprint,” while trumpeting the effect former Gotham teammate Ali Krieger has had on her career.

You can read the full conversation with Jenna Nighswonger by clicking here.

1 hour to kickoff: The U.S. starting lineup is out, and how about that, Mallory Swanson is back! She starts this match, which is a bit of a surprise given the general lack of match time she’s seen since returning from injury. Cat Macario is not amongst the XI, as she’s been handled with great caution after her ACL injury.

With four attackers in the lineup for Twila Kilgore, someone will have to play the No. 10 in front of Lindsey Horan and Sam Coffey. Could Swanson be in that role? Or will it be Jaedyn Shaw or Trinity Rodman?

1 hour 15 mins to kick: While the U.S. women have the exciting prospect of bringing two hugely key players in Catarina Macario and Mal Swanson back from their long-term injuries, Japan are facing the daunting task of continuing on without two of their own.

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23-year-old Jun Endo and 30-year-old Hikaru Naomoto both suffered ACL tears in recent months and will miss significant time. As we’ve seen repeatedly over the last few years, women’s football has seen yet another slew of early-season knee injuries, as the sport continues to figure out how to ramp up for a new campaign while keeping the players as protected from injury as possible.

The U.S. was not spared from the litany of injuries, as young Mia Fishel was cruelly injured in training before the W Gold Cup last month. The Sporting News wrote extensively on this subject last year, and many of the talking points are still relevant today.

1 hour 30 mins to kick: The U.S. will have special kit numbers with stars on them for the two SheBelieves Cup matches, a quality addition to the look!

1 hour 45 mins to kick: Matches at the SheBelieves Cup are technically considered international friendlies, since the competition is organized and hosted by U.S. Soccer and not an official FIFA-sanctioned confederation. Still, the U.S. will consider it a competitive environment, and will want to defend its dominance on home turf, where they’ve won each of the last four SheBelieves Cups.

“Winning” this year’s title will look a little different with the slightly reorganized format, but they will still want to keep that trophy in-house.

2 hours to kickoff: While the results are of paramount importance with the Summer Olympics right around the corner, the return of Cat Macario and Mal Swanson are an incredibly notable moment in the USWNT’s future health. The two players, both in the prime of their careers, were sorely missed at last year’s Women’s World Cup.

Responding to a question from The Sporting News during their media availability on Wednesday, Macario told reporters that she attributes her hot start with Chelsea to the club’s handling of her long absence. “Chelsea has been tremendous in helping me get back on the pitch without rushing me,” Macario said.

After nearly two full years on the sideline (or 641 days, a number which she is able to recall with ease), Macario has been fantastic with Chelsea, mostly in a substitute role as she recovers match fitness.

USA vs Japan lineups, team news

The biggest news for the USWNT at the SheBelieves Cup is that both Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario return from their long-term knee injuries for the first time. Swanson has been out since last March after suffering a torn patella tendon in the lead-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, while Macario has been sidelined for a frustrating 16 months with a torn ACL. It’s unclear how many minutes each will be handed, but Macario, who is seeing solid action with Chelsea, is further along in her return than Swanson, who only just returned to the field for her club.

MORE: Full USWNT squad for SheBelieves Cup as Mal Swanson, Cat Macario return from injury

European-based youngsters Lily Yohannes (16 years old) and Eva Gaetino (21 years old) earned their first call-ups after impressing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, which new USWNT head coach Emma Hayes is currently participating in as she finishes out the season with Chelsea.

Rose Lavelle was not included as a “precautionary measure” as she deals with an injury, while Midge Purce has gone down recently with an ACL tear suffered in NWSL play.

USA starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Naeher (GK) — Fox, Davidson, Girma, Nighswonger — Sonnett, Horan — Rodman, Shaw, Swanson — Morgan.

USA subs (12): Murphy (GK), Campbell (GK), Krueger, Gaetino, Dahlkemper, Dunn, Albert, Sonnett, Yohannes, Moultrie, Smith, Macario.

The biggest absence for Japan is winger Jun Endo, who suffered an ACL tear in mid-February while in preseason with her NWSL club Angel City.

Also missing is midfielder Hikaru Naomoto who also went down with an ACL tear, suffered in late January while with her domestic club Urawa Red Diamonds. It means Japan are down both starting wide players, leaving head coach Futoshi Ikeda with a job to find their replacement, with Manchester United midfielder Hinata Miyazawa and Miyabi Moriya of Kobe Leonessa as options.

While wingers are thin for Japan, they are at no loss for forwards, most hailing from domestically based clubs. Riko Ueki has 11 goals in 34 international appearances, and she gets the start despite poor form at her English club West Ham, alongside Aoba Fujino and Kiko Seike who both play for Japanese clubs. Mina Tanaka is surprisingly left out despite holding 34 goals on 77 international caps.

Japan starting lineup (3-5-2): Yamashita (GK) — Shimizu, Kumagi, Minami — Moriya, Hasegawa, Nagano, Tanikawa, Seike — Ueki, Fujino.

Japan subs (11): Hirao (GK), Ohba (GK), Sugita, Ishikawa, Koga, Kitagawa, Hayashi, Miyazawa, Hamano, Ueno, Tanaka.

How to watch USA vs Japan

  • Date: Saturday, April 6, 2024
  • Time (ET): 12:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel (English): TNT, truTV
  • TV channel (Spanish): Universo, Telemundo
  • Streaming (English): Sling, Max,
  • Streaming (Spanish): Fubo, Peacock

The U.S. women will meet Japan in the opening match of the SheBelieves Cup, which will be televised in English on TNT and truTV, which are available to stream on Sling as well as on Turner’s dedicated platform Max.

There is also a Spanish-language television broadcast available on Universo and Telemundo, which is accessible for streaming on Fubo as well as NBC Universal’s dedicated platform Peacock.

Tuesday’s USWNT game against either Canada or Brazil, kicking at 7 p.m. ET regardless of whether it’s the final or third place match, will also be televised on the same channels and platforms, except the English-language television broadcast will be on TBS.

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