Mallory Swanson leaves USWNT friendly with serious knee injury and rushed to hospital


Mallory Swanson is sent off after suffering a left knee injury during the first half of USWNT’s friendly against Ireland. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

TO UPDATE: Swanson was diagnosed with a ruptured patellar tendonand will almost certainly miss the World Cup.

AUSTIN, Texas — Mallory Swanson (née Pugh), star of the US women’s national team, left Saturday’s friendly against Ireland on a stretcher after injuring her left knee, which shook teammates and put their 2023 World Cup in doubt.

Swanson, the USWNT’s top scorer that year, went down after a tackle late in the first half and immediately waved one arm in desperation while grabbing her injured left leg with the other.

After at least five minutes of treatment in the field, she was evacuated and taken to a nearby hospital, a team spokesman said.

The extent of the injury was not initially clear. But Swanson’s pain was. Teammates rushed towards them; Rose Lavelle tried to steady her heaving torso and comfort her; others signaled medical help, which soon arrived.

“It’s a bit emotional,” Lavelle later said. “It doesn’t look good at first, of course.”

USWNT medical personnel rushed onto the field. An EMT car arrived and half a dozen medical personnel arrived to immobilize Swanson’s left leg. A few teammates stood by her side; one, Lindsey Horan, stepped 10 feet away from the scene and crouched.

Two hours later, after the game, Horan said she was still “a little bit shaken.”

When Alex Morgan was asked about Swanson, her expression immediately dropped. “It’s really hard to see Mal in so much pain ahead of the World Cup,” said Morgan.

Swanson had scored seven goals in five games from 2023 and almost single-handedly won the SheBelieves Cup in February. She had scored in six straight games since 2022. After a few struggles in her early 20s, she was the USWNT’s top attacker and a potential catalyst at this summer’s flagship women’s soccer tournament.

Their status for the World Cup – which starts in mid-July and the squad will be announced in June – is now unclear. A USWNT spokesman said it was a left knee injury.

“We don’t know the extent of the injury yet,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said at his post-match press conference. In response to speculation, he said he didn’t even understand terms like patellar tendon or (dislocated) kneecap. “She’s being examined,” he continued. “And I hope for good news in the near future.”

The players were also hoping, but none seemed particularly hopeful or optimistic after seeing Swanson react himself. And they felt for a woman who has not only blossomed into a brilliant footballer, but is also a close friend and “a very lovely person,” as Andonovski put it.

Andonovski himself joined the players on the field while Swanson received treatment. He said everyone, including staff, was emotionally affected.

The good news, or at least the biggest glimmer of hope, was that after Swanson was lifted onto the cart, according to the players and Andonovski, she was in a much better mood and was even smiling. Andonovski said Swanson told him, “Coach, I’m fine. I promise I’ll be good.”

As she was carried away, she waved to fans several times and brought her hands together in a heart symbol on at least one occasion. A sold-out crowd at Austin’s Q2 Stadium, which had lapsed into silence for several minutes, applauded and chanted her name.

The injury was Swanson’s third week. She had been hit by a ball in training a few days earlier and suffered a black eye. Then, midway through the first half of Saturday’s game, she was thrown off balance on a run and collided headfirst with Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan. She was treated lying on the field for four minutes after that collision, but only came off the field briefly and stayed in the game. Andonovski said it was “a small blow” and not a brain injury.

The knee injury occurred about 13 minutes later. Trinity Rodman replaced her. Rodman would likely compete in New Zealand this summer if the injury sidelines Swanson – and Lynn Williams, Megan Rapinoe or Alyssa Thompson would line up for the suddenly vacant roster spot.

The USA were leading 1-0 at the time of Swanson’s injury thanks to full-back Emily Fox’s first USWNT goal. Horan added a penalty kick in the second half for a 2-0 win. Julie Ertz’s return for 23 minutes in the second half was also a welcome sight. But Swanson’s injury overshadowed everything.

The Americans have a second friendly against Ireland in St. Louis on Tuesday, then another game in early July ahead of the World Cup, which begins on July 20.

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