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Teenager Jaedyn Shaw makes US soccer history as she continues to shine for the USWNT

By Cassidy Hettesheimer, CNN

(CNN) — When Jaedyn Shaw played youth soccer at FC Dallas, she would put her hair into a high ponytail, straightened, with a black prewrap. “A Mal Pugh ponytail,” Shaw called it, in honor of Mallory Swanson, née Pugh, the US national team forward who wore her hair the same way.

On Saturday, 19-year-old Shaw lined up on the same field as her role-model-turned-teammate as the US beat Japan 2-1 in the SheBelieves Cup in Atlanta in front of a record crowd of 50, 644 to advance to the final.

With an assist from Sam Coffey, Shaw scored the United States’ first goal, a 36th-minute equalizer, ripping a low shot from outside the 18-yard box into the bottom right corner of the net.

She became the first player in the national team’s history to score in each of her first five starts – she was the first to do so in four starts, too – and now has seven goals in her first 11 internationals.

“She’s a footballer,” US captain Lindsey Horan, who played alongside Shaw in midfield and scored the United States’ game-winning second goal: a penalty kick in the 77th minute, told CNN.

“She has a physical presence, but she’s so smart on the ball and technical and savvy and creative.”

Meanwhile, Swanson donned the national team jersey for the first time in nearly a year, after suffering a patellar tendon injury that kept her out of last year’s Women’s World Cup.

“I looked up to her. She’s an amazing player,” Shaw told reporters about Swanson. “I’m so happy that she’s back and I can play with her.”

This match was Shaw’s first playing on the national team with Swanson. Shaw turned pro in July 2022, opting out of a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina women’s soccer to sign with National Women’s Soccer League expansion team San Diego Wave FC. Since then, she’s scored nine goals and recorded three assists.

“I feel like the Wave has contributed so much to me being here and being able to play at this level and contribute to this team. So I credit a lot of my coaching staff, teammates, all to that,” Shaw added. “It’s a dream being here.”

Abby Dahlkemper, Shaw’s teammate in both San Diego and on the national team, recounted conversations where she told the young player that she might have to be patient until her national team callup.

“[I told her] you’re going to be there for a long time. You’re going to be with the national team for a long time. You’re going to be a huge player. And you know, it’s just undeniable the talent she was. She’s playing way above her years,” Dahlkemper told CNN.

Shaw earned her first national team callup in October 2023, scoring in her second appearance and first start in a 3-0 win over Colombia. She treated her hometown crowd in Frisco, Texas, to a game-winning goal against China in December.

“I feel like none of my goals are just me. I feel like it’s always my teammates contributing and creating those opportunities,” Shaw said.

Her scoring streak continued in the United States’ gold medal run through the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, scoring four goals and earning tournament MVP.

“You see her working hard, just as hard as she does attack, defensively now, and you can see these evolutions of her game,” Dahlkemper said. “She can’t stop scoring for this team, and she’s going to be a huge player for the team in the future, and she’s a huge player for us now.”

Shaw’s attacking contribution for the US comes as the team prepares for the 2024 Olympics.

Shaw had yet to make her US debut when the 2023 Women’s World Cup roster was selected, but is quickly making her case for inclusion in the next major tournament roster, though it’s a competitive selection pool.

“That is what makes the US so competitive and so special because we have so many young and crucial players for this team and a lot to chose from,” Horan said. “It’s going to be difficult and competitive, and that’s how it goes.”

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