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A pair of first-half goals by Mallory Swanson gave the United States women a 2-0 opening match win over Canada on Thursday night in the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida.
Players from both teams wore wristbands in support of gender equality and transgender rights during the match and gathered at the center circle in an embrace prior to kickoff in a show of solidarity for a Canadian team in the midst of a labor dispute with its federation ahead of the World Cup this summer.
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Swanson settled a ball in the center of the area in the 7th minute and fired a volley past Canada’s Kailen Sheridan to put the U.S. in front early and then capitalized on a mistake by the visiting defense to roll the ball into an open net before halftime.
The brace gave Swanson five goals in her first three games for the U.S. in 2023 after scoring three times across two matches against New Zealand in January.
Canada captain Christine Sinclair said the team were “mentally exhausted” after the week they’d endured.
“Either we’re fighting for everything and come out on fire or we come out flat. And I think you saw those first 10, 15 minutes, we came out flat,” Sinclair said.
“I think we looked like a team that was tired, a team that’s mentally exhausted, coming up against a team, I mean, they’re defending World Cup champions for a reason and you have to be at your best to compete with them. And we weren’t tonight.”
U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher preserved the lead just before halftime with a lunging save of a Janine Beckie shot from outside the box. Naeher also stopped a header by Jordyn Huitema in the 74th minute.
Her third save came in the 91st minute on a header from Vanessa Gilles.
It was also a historic night for Alex Morgan, who was honored before the match for her 200th appearance for the national team, which occurred late last year against Germany.
Brazil defeated Japan 1-0 in the first match of the doubleheader. The four-team round-robin SheBelieves Cup moves to Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, where the U.S. will play Japan and Canada plays Brazil. All four teams have qualified for the World Cup. The United States has won the last two World Cups and has four titles overall.
“That’s in front of our minds,” Morgan said after the match. “That’s why we’re playing these games. Everything we’re doing right now is just to put us in contention for the World Cup.”
The first SheBelieves Cup was won by the Americans in 2016. France was the champion in 2017 and England took the title in 2019. The U.S. is a five-time winner, including 2018 and the past three editions.
Under the format, the winner is decided by total points (three for a win, one for a tie) with tiebreakers used if needed.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.