Swanson is unstoppable and Morgan remains a marvel! USWNT winners and losers from the SheBelieves Cup

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Mallory Swanson USWNT 2023 SheBelieves Cup
The 24-year-old Chicago Red Stars No.9, who scored against Canada, Japan and Brazil, is arguably the best forward in the world right now.

SheBelieves Cup champions again, and there never really was any doubt.

The U.S. women's national team cruised to three consecutive victories in a tournament that proved a vital tune-up for the World Cup later this year.

On their road to glory, the U.S. took down Canada, Japan and Brazil – all good teams that could certainly make some noise this summer.

It was, overall, an impressive run as the U.S. defeated three legitimate sides to lift another trophy on home soil. They did so behind the heroics of an emerging star, Mallory Swanson, who looks all but unstoppable as the World Cup draws closer and closer.

But all is not perfect in USWNTland. Vlatko Andonovski's side wasn't completely convincing throughout this three-game set as it remains clear that this team still has some holes.

Those holes could prove their undoing against Europe's elite this summer and Andonovski will have some work to do to patch them up going forward.

Still, while there is reason to nitpick, it's safe to call this tournament a success as we now have a slightly clearer picture of how the USWNT will line up at the World Cup.

So, here's a look at the biggest winners and losers of the USWNT's SheBelieves Cup campaign...

  1. WINNER: Mallory Swanson

    WINNER: Mallory Swanson

    Can anyone stop Mallory Swanson? Well, if this tournament is anything to go by, the answer is no.

    The former Mallory Pugh has taken her game to a whole new level, combining her elite speed with a confidence and precision in front of goal that we had never quite seen.
    Throughout this run, Swanson was both efficient and absolutely ruthless, taking her total to seven goals on the year with finishes in all three games.

    In a crowded forward pool, Swanson has distanced herself from the pack. She's proving herself one of the world's best forwards, if not the world's best, and there hasn't been any team in the USWNT's path that has been able to do anything about it.

    At World Cups, superstars can change games. Even if the system fails or something goes wrong, sometimes one gifted player can make the difference.

    If you're a gambler, put your money on Swanson to be that kind of game-changer for the USWNT, because this tournament proved that she's more than capable of taking the World Cup by storm.

  2. LOSER: The forward bubble

    LOSER: The forward bubble

    Andonovski faces an almost impossible task in finalising his attack. There are simply too many world-class players to choose from.

    A nice selection headache to have, some would argue, but that won't make Andonovski's task any easier.

    Swanson, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Sophia Smith and Lynn Williams seem like locks. Depending on positioning, Catarina Macario may also be on this list when healthy.

    That leaves the likes of Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch and Midge Purce fighting for, potentially, just one spot, and that's not even looking at someone like Christen Press, who could make a late surge once she recovers from injury.

    None of those fringe players truly seized their opportunity during this tournament.

    Rodman was solid enough, but still hasn't quite taken the leap on the international level, although that could come soon. Hatch has scored boatloads in the NWSL, but didn't do much in limited minutes. And Purce only made a quick cameo in the opener.

    There's still a lot to be decided here but this camp didn't do much for those trying to secure one of those final roster spots.

  3. WINNER: Naomi Girma

    WINNER: Naomi Girma

    Pencil Girma in for a starting role for the next decade.

    The 22-year-old defender was spectacular throughout the SheBelieves Cup as she continues to evolve into a legitimate international star.

    Girma has all the potential to be the USWNT's next great centerback, and you can argue that she already is in the here and now. She's earned plenty of praise for her play, with her own teammates taking notice of just how good she is already.

    "She is just so f*cking good," said Rapinoe. "It's tough to step into this team at this level and immediately be a no-brainer to start."

    But Girma has done just that. The USWNT has a truly special talent on their hands.

  4. LOSER: The No. 6 problem

    LOSER: The No. 6 problem

    Julie Ertz isn't walking through that door, unfortunately for the USWNT. It certainly would be great if she did, considering the team's struggles to properly replace what she offers in midfield.

    But perhaps the biggest question Andonovski faces heading towards the summer is: what do you do about the midfield? There's Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan, sure, but who's going to be his No. 6?

    He's clearly thought a lot about it, as much of the precamp discussion centered around the possibility of playing Taylor Kornieck there due to her height.

    By the end of camp, though, Kornieck was coming on as more of a target forward, perhaps showing that the experiment isn't going to work out any time soon.

    Andi Sullivan is likely the starter, but she didn't quite convince. And Kristie Mewis looked pretty good against Japan in a statement performance, but the role she played is still somewhat new.

    At times in this tournament, the USWNT midfield looked pedestrian, and they certainly would be made to look worse by some of the heavy-hitters in Europe.

    Maybe the U.S. can get away with playing a 4-2-3-1 sometimes, with Macario in midfield, and you can certainly argue the lack of a defensive presence won't hurt them against most teams.

    But, at some point, this could be a problem that comes back to bite them and, after these three games, it didn't get any closer to getting solved.

  5. WINNER: Alex Morgan

    WINNER: Alex Morgan

    Just in case you forgot, Alex Morgan is very, very good.

    There was a time when it looked like the USWNT would try to move on without Morgan, but those days are long, long gone. Morgan remains key to this team's attack and the SheBelieves Cup showed exactly why.

    Swanson will get the fanfare, and rightfully so, but Morgan was nearly as good as her attacking teammate. Time and time again, Morgan teed up Swanson, notching an assist in each of the first two games.

    And then, in the third, she got a goal of her own from a moment of magic. A stunning finish from a fantastic player, who still has a big role to play.

    It all served as a reminder of the level Morgan can play at. She has a teammate in Swanson also playing at that level and, when Sophia Smith returns, the USWNT attack can take an even bigger step forward.

    But it's Morgan that sets the tone, and she did so spectacularly this tournament.