NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Mallory Swanson is making the most of every opportunity for the United States, and her timing couldn’t be better ahead of the Women’s World Cup later this year.
Swanson scored in the 45th minute, and the United States shut out Japan 1-0 Sunday to remain undefeated in the SheBelieves Cup.
“Honestly, I think this offseason I kind of just reevaluated my game,” Swanson said. “And I think one thing was that I wasn’t finishing easy chances, all of last calendar year, so I just wanted to come into this year and just be able to finish easy chances and just put them away.”
She did just that when she got the ball on a pass from Alex Morgan and outraced the defender before beating goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita from the center of the box with a shot off her right foot to the far corner.
U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Swanson’s speed certainly makes his life easier. He also made clear Swanson showed much more on her goal, controlling the ball with two touches in the air at full speed.
“That’s technicality,” Andonovski said. “I mean that’s a very skillful player. And then at the end, with the pressure on the back … when she finished that goal, it looked like the game stopped for her so she can finish, do her final touch.”
The forward in her team-best fourth start this year leads the U.S. in scoring after scoring both goals in Thursday night’s win over Canada in Orlando. She tied Megan Rapinoe for most goals by any player at this event at seven after not making the cut for the 2021 Olympics.
Rapinoe said Swanson pulled herself out of a tough period and is now showing what she’s all about.
“To be honest, she’s one of the best players in the world,” Rapinoe said. “It’s hard to even have words. She’s just so smooth, and everything just looks easy.”
Swanson, who recently married Chicago Cubs and former Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, now has six goals in four games and is one off her career-high for a season. This goal was the 31st of her national team career.
“Obviously, she’s in a happy place and doing well on and off the field,” Rapinoe said.
Swanson also set a career-high scoring in her fifth straight international game dating back to Nov. 13. That tied the longest scoring streak by a U.S. women’s player since Christen Press had a six-game scoring streak between November 2019 and February 2020.
“I just want to win and I think that we’re going into a World Cup and the intensity just needs to be picked up,” Swanson said. “Honestly, just being able to be more of a leader on this team, and have people see that spark and see that fire and see that `Let’s go!′ kind of thing.”
Goalkeeper Casey Murphy preserved the shutout with a a couple big saves, her first off a shot by Yui Hasegawa’s right foot right in front of the box in the 81st minute. Murphy made another big save early in the four minutes of stoppage time, smothering a left-footed shot by Jun Endo.
“Those are the moments you train for, right, is those big saves in the last 10 to 15 minutes,” Murphy said. “So it was just staying in the game and making sure that I was doing whatever it took to keep the ball out of the back of the net.”
Rose Lavelle sat out her second straight game. The Americans will be looking for their fourth straight win in this annual event Wednesday night in Texas when they play Brazil after Japan plays Canada. The Canadians shut out Brazil 2-0 in Sunday’s second game.
Ashley Sanchez missed a header from the center of the box left in the 53rd minute off a pass from Kristie Mewis.
The U.S. had a couple of prime chances early at GEODIS Park, home to Nashville SC of MLS, in front of a crowd of 25,471.
Japanese keeper Ayaka Yamashita got her left hand on a shot from Lynn Williams in the 14th minute before the ball went off the crossbar. Then Morgan was offside before a crossing pass from Williams with Yamashita also stopping that shot in the 23rd minute.
Japan was held scoreless for a fourth straight match despite having plenty of opportunities. In the first half, Riko Ueki had one chance with her right foot from outside the box in the 25th minute that missed wide right.
Aoba Fujino missed a shot off her right foot in the 51st minute, and Hina Sugita just missed a header in front that went wide left. Then midfielder Fuka Nagano hit the crossbar with a shot off her right foot from outside the box in the 79th minute.
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