Mallory Swanson: USWNT's leading goal scorer in a turbulent year

Mallory Swanson celebrates goal in SheBelieves Cup against Brazil
Mallory Swanson celebrates goal in SheBelieves Cup against Brazil / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Mallory Swanson is officially finishing out 2023 as the USWNT’s leading goal scorer thanks to a seven goals in six games blazing start to the year.

I (and every other human with access to a computer keyboard) wrote with confidence about Swanson being an obvious shoo-in for the World Cup roster. Then, right on cue, injury came a-knockin’ just to prove us all wrong.

Leading goal scorer on one of the best teams in the world? If you’re Mallory Swanson it’s an accomplishment worth celebrating. If you're everyone else, it's equal parts encouraging and depressing.

Swanson missed two-thirds of the year and still earned the title. Here’s what that means.

Mallory Swanson dominated international play until April

If you’re scoring seven goals in six games for the USWNT, you’re probably right where you belong.

Swanson proved herself to be an indispensable talent in peak form. She found her mojo. Heck, she was even newly married. It was rainbows and unicorns in Swanson land…until it wasn’t.

Three months shy of fulfilling her World Cup dreams, Mallory Swanson suffered a patella tendon tear, and so began a rather grim episode of the USWNT’s year.

Coaching errors, subsequent injuries to key players, lackluster performances, lack of cohesion until it was too late…this all played a part in the USWNT’s World Cup failings.

The USWNT wasn’t without standout performances throughout the year. Leading up to the World Cup, Sophia Smith was clever, fast, and a complete menace to backlines worldwide. During the World Cup, Naomi Girma defended with a maturity and confidence beyond her years. She led by example and will surely anchor the USWNT backline for many years to come.

Still, Mallory Swanson’s injury gut punched the team’s morale and put an at times crippling pressure on others to pick up the slack.

Post World Cup, the USWNT is a smorgasbord of new faces and styles. It’s younger, fresh and wildly creative. Passion and confidence are running rampant among these young players anxious to make this new iteration of the national team their own.

First caps, first goals…it’s a time of newness and growth. And in that sense it’s far less concerning that Swanson’s seven goals topped the list. For now, the USWNT is spreading out the goal wealth as it rediscovers itself.

dark. Next. Megan Rapinoe’s career defined by more than farewell match injury. Megan Rapinoe’s career defined by more than farewell match injury

As we head into the new year, the promise of 2024 excites me. An Olympic year, a new coach that brings with her new ideas and a new sense of hope, a chance to see what the next generation of USWNT talent has up their sleeves, and yes, the return of Mallory Swanson and, with any luck, her mojo too.