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UEFA Women's Champions League

USWNT star Macario continues to justify the hype with Women's Champions League match-winning display for Lyon

8:00 PM SGT 25/4/22
Catarina Macario Lyon 2021-22
Lyon were 3-2 winners over Paris Saint-Germain in Sunday's semi-final first leg, with Macario bagging a crucial double as her fine scoring run goes on

To best understand how highly rated Catarina Macario is, one only needs to open social media whenever the Lyon and U.S. women’s national team forward is on the pitch.

On Sunday, it exploded as she scored twice in the Women’s Champions League semi-finals, giving Lyon a slender advantage going into the second leg with Paris Saint-Germain next weekend.

Macario's first goal involved a lovely combination with Ada Hegerberg, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner producing a wonderful first touch and pass for her team-mate, whose movement and anticipation was as impressive before she slotted the ball home.

The second was a horror show from PSG’s defence, but again Macario was alert and sniffed out the chance to score. It was those instincts that proved the difference in the end, in a 3-2 win.

Macario is a player whose short career thus far has brought with it incredible hype.

She had a sensational college stint at Stanford, in which she twice won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the best college soccer player.

She then chose to forgo her senior season at one of the country’s best programmes to sign for the biggest and best team in the game – Lyon.

The Brazil-born talent also opted to play for the United States, where she has lived since she was 12 years old, the biggest national team in the women’s game.

For some, the pressure of these environments would be too much. But Macario continues to justify the hype around her.

In her first full senior season, she has been exceptional – Sunday was simply a reminder of that.

She has 13 goals and four assists in 17 league games. In the Champions League, she has eight goals and two assists in 11 appearances – four of the former coming in the knockout stages.

This is all from a player who is still just 22 years old and only made her senior debut last January.

This incredible assimilation to the highest level is down to a few key factors. One is that the talent that Macario has is out of this world. Anyone who has ever watched her play knows that.

Another is her ability to perform under pressure. That is because she has been dealing with it since she left home 10 years ago.

When Macario and her family moved to the U.S., the main reason was for the benefit of her soccer career. That is intense.

“Being a 12-year-old girl, you know that your family is doing this really thinking about you and almost seeing you as investment to your future… It definitely took a toll at times,” she told GOAL on 'All of US: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Show'.

“If I had a bad game or something like that, especially in the very beginning, it was such a hard transitional period that I would just really get in my head.

“[I’d] think [about] whether we had made the right decision, whether I was good enough, whether it was worth it to go through all this, being separate from my mother, spending so much money - I mean, in comparison to the currency of Brazil - just to try and make this dream happen.”

When you have battled through that, you can cope with the Champions League. You can cope being part of the biggest club or national team in the women’s game. Better than cope – you can thrive.

After settling into her new home in the second half of last season, Macario has established herself as an absolute star this campaign.

She has begun to come to the fore in the USWNT, too, her sublime two-goal performance against Iceland in the SheBelieves Cup this year perhaps the game in which she really announced herself on the international level.

At club level, when GOAL spoke to Lyon’s talented young defender Alice Sombath - who ranked at No.6 on the 2022 NXGN list - about the most difficult player to face in training, the 18-year-old picked Macario out above many who have been among the best in the world for years.

“She protects the ball really, really well,” she said. “It's really hard to take the ball from her.”

To become a stand-out player in a team like Lyon’s is a feat in itself. There are players in that squad who have won seven Champions League titles. On Sunday, Wendie Renard became the first player in the competition’s history to play 100 games. That is the calibre within the club. But Macario is doing exactly that.

Lyon have not made things easy for themselves going into the second leg of this UWCL semi-final, though. They could have been more clinical and taken further advantage of PSG’s sloppiness, to take more than a one-goal advantage to Paris.

But there are tons of world-class match-winners in this team that can help them get over the finish line and into the Champions League final – and Macario is now well-established as being among them.