Catarina Macario still has an eye for goal after 641 days away from the game

The 24-year-old forward netted her first goal post-injury just 6 minutes into her Chelsea debut

Chelsea's Catarina Macario hugs teammates after her goal against Leicester City
Chelsea's Catarina Macario hugs teammates after her goal against Leicester City / Morgan Harlow/GettyImages

Six minutes was all it took for Catarina Macario to score and prove her 20-month absence from the sport was irrelevant to her long-term success.

Macario suffered a devastating ACL tear with Lyon in June 2022, an injury that eliminated her from World Cup contention with the USWNT. She went on to sign with Chelsea in June 2023 where she saw more of the training room than the soccer pitch for nine months.

Though her journey was slow, a dream team of Chelsea staff prioritized her long-term health and ultimately Macario debuted looking sharp and raring to go.

In the 78th minute when the ball hit Macario's foot, she could have found the back of the net with her eyes closed. She operated on instinct, moved with ease and purpose, and looked right at home.

Catarina Macario received overwhelming support from teammates

The beaming smiles and long embraces from her teammates indicated she must have won them over on the training pitch and in the locker room long before she stepped foot on the field Sunday. Only a player who puts in the hours and lifts up those around her even when she's low gets that kind of emphatically exuberant reaction when she succeeds.

Chelsea's not the only place Catarina Macario is likely to succeed. Fortunately for her, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes will shortly be taking over the USWNT head coaching job. What more could you ask for than to have a pre-established bond and understanding with your national team manager?

Macario doesn't need Hayes' help to find her way back to the national team, but it will certainly make the return less anxiety-riddled.

In the meantime, Catarina Macario's sights are set on keeping Chelsea at the top of the table, and she'll inevitably boost her stats and gain the needed match fitness along the way.

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If you're a Chelsea fan, might I suggest investing in a #9 jersey? I'd put money on Catarina Macario having a few more world-class moments in her yet.