The U.S. women's national team bested the Republic of Ireland, 1-0, in front of an electric crowd of 22,294 at St. Louis' CityPark on Tuesday night. The friendly match was part of the team's final tuneup ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand.
The match's lone goal — a long ball into the box from at least 40 yards out that sailed over the goalkeeper — was scored by defender Alana Cook in the 43rd minute of play. The goal, scored on her 26th birthday, was Cook's first on the international stage. She became the third player in team history to score on her birthday, joining Mia Hamm and Alex Morgan.
The reigning Women's World Cup champions played without star forward Mallory Swanson, 24, who tore the patellar tendon in her left knee Saturday, during the first leg of a two-match series against Ireland. Swanson was a member of the U.S. team that won the 2019 World Cup.
The star-studded team is captained by Olivette native Becky Sauerbrunn, who was honored before kickoff for her 200th international appearance with the team. "To be able to [celebrate] that and have my family and club coaches, and all these people that made me, me ... is really special," she said ahead of the match.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski commended Sauerbrunn for her contributions on and off of the field. "From Day 1 we could see the type of person she is, the type of leader she is and on top of that, [an] amazing player," he said. "It's been an extremely great experience ... and an honor to work with her and to at least have a small impact on her career."
Sauerbrunn was also one of five players who filed suit in 2019 seeking improved working conditions for the women's national team and the same pay as members of the men’s national team.
The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association reached an equal-pay agreement with the U.S. Soccer Federation last year that included $22 million in back pay. It incorporated a deal with players on the men’s team to pool and equally divide World Cup prize money awarded by FIFA, the international organization that runs the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Katelyn James, a 13-year-old soccer player and USWNT fan from St. Charles, had her photo taken with 2015 Women’s World Cup champion and St. Louis native Lori Chalupny alongside her mother and sister before the game. Katelyn said that win or lose, she was excited to see her role models on the field. “I’m hoping to see Rose Lavelle because I feel like she’s a really good player,” she said. “I look up to a lot of them and I feel like they’re just very inspiring.”
Fan-made posters lined the stadium with messages of support for Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and other national team players and for girls' and women's soccer. Many of the fans in the CityPark stands were young players with aspirations to play on the world's largest stages.
"I was once one of those young girls watching this team, wanting to be on this team. So my message to them is [that] it’s so possible — anything is possible," Sauerbrunn said, "as long as you love the game and you get the support that you need. I would say that if your goal is to get on the national team, I am a representation of that absolutely being a possibility."
The U.S. team will kick off the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup against Vietnam at 8 p.m. Central time July 21.