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Olympic roster headache? Assessing the maddening depth of the USWNT’s attacking midfield

Emma Hayes suddenly has a raft of options to choose from for the squad’s No. 10 position. So, who will be heading to Paris next month?

9 min read

It wasn’t so long ago that Jaedyn Shaw felt like the heir apparent in the attacking midfield spot for the U.S. women’s national team.

Catarina Macario was still recovering from her ACL tear, Rose Lavelle couldn’t stay healthy for extended periods, and the stodginess of Lindsey Horan playing further forward was painfully apparent for months. Shaw’s breakout at the Concacaf W Gold Cup in February meant that she could plant her flag as the future No. 10, possibly to start at the Olympics this summer. 

Now that Emma Hayes has officially stepped into the head coaching role, Shaw may no longer be lonely at the top of the attacking midfield depth chart. 

Macario made her first USWNT start in over two years over the weekend, slotting in underneath Sophia Smith in the team’s 4-0 drubbing of South Korea. Rose Lavelle made a substitute appearance, and did a bunch of Rose Lavelle things before starting on Tuesday. Shaw made a cameo over the weekend and then joined Lavelle in the starting lineup three days later, often pulling inside underneath the strikers. Rookie sensation Croix Bethune ground it out on the training squad with Olivia Moultrie. 

Even Mallory Swanson got in on the action, scoring her first goal in game one from a central spot. In all, the U.S. outscored South Korea 7-0 across these two friendlies.

Hayes now has some difficult choices to make for an Olympic roster with only 18 openings (plus four alternates that travel with the team in case of injuries). With potentially six games coming thick and fast over a 17-day period, versatility will be prized for prospective No. 10s, as will quick-setting chemistry with their fellow midfielders and the forward line. 

An ability to fill in elsewhere on the pitch will be as critical as the ability to break compact defensive lines, be an extra runner in the box, and to help steady possession at the back of the final third.

Every possible No. 10 has their strengths and weaknesses by these benchmarks. What are they? And who might make the strongest cases to be on the plane to France in six weeks’ time? 

Catarina Macario

Age: 24

Caps: 19

International goals and assists: 11

Macario was supposed to be the face of the U.S. attack at last year’s World Cup.

A torn ACL suffered while playing for Lyon on the last day of the 2021-22 season kept her away for nearly two whole years. She didn’t seem to have missed a step in her lone appearance against South Korea, grabbing 42 touches in 61 minutes with most of them concentrated in the fabled Zone 14 area just outside the top of the box.


In limited minutes toward the end of the season at Chelsea, Macario looked her usual self. She’s an elite chance creator and occupies the exact kind of playmaking profile the USWNT will need to break low blocks and generate looks in transition against top teams.

Macario’s biggest highlight in this window came in an area that Hayes had apparently drilled into her players during the week: set pieces. Macario’s dime to Tierna Davidson’s head gave the squad another option besides Sam Coffey and Jenna Nighswonger for deliveries. 

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