COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Emma Hayes era began with a win on Saturday as the U.S. women’s national team beat the Korea Republic 4-0 in Hayes’ first match as head coach.

The goals came courtesy of braces from Tierna Davidson and Mallory Swanson, who had 30 family members and friends on hand to watch her in her home state of Colorado. The goals were long overdue for both.

Davidson had previously only scored once for the national team — 2,101 days ago — and Swanson, who tore her patellar tendon last year, hadn’t scored in 465 days, per U.S. Soccer.

United States women's head coach Emma Hayes, right, holds her 5-year-old son, Harry, after defeating South Korea in an international friendly soccer game Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. | David Zalubowski

Before the Hayes chapter officially kicked off, a new chapter also began for the U.S. deaf women’s national team.

The deaf national team played the first game of a historic doubleheader with the senior women’s national team, and they dominated Australia 11-0. Emily Spreeman had six goals, more than any member of either the USWNT or USMNT has scored in a single game.

Saturday was the first-ever doubleheader featuring an extended national team and senior national team, and the deaf national team’s first-ever game on U.S. soil. It was also their first televised U.S. Soccer-controlled match.

“I just hope that this inspires a future generation of deaf girls and boys everywhere and that they’re able to see one of us and say, ‘Oh, I want to be the next Holly Hunter. I want to be the next Kate Ward,’” Spreeman said postgame.

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U.S. Soccer celebrates the deaf community

The doubleheader allowed for interaction between members of both national teams, something that rarely happens but that both teams embraced.

“It’s really great to have this doubleheader with the women’s deaf team, just with the success they’ve had and that they’re officially under the U.S. Soccer national teams’ umbrella as well, is incredible. But for them to showcase themselves in front of a crowd on home soil, I think is really unique because they don’t get the opportunity often,” Alex Morgan, who grew up playing with Spreeman, said Friday.

At the conclusion of her press conference Friday, Hayes signed “good luck” to the deaf national team, who were in attendance. Trinity Rodman made a TikTok with deaf national team players Erin Cembrale and Paris Price, and both teams wore training shirts with “Champs” spelled out in ASL on the back before Saturday’s game.

This week’s festivities were a far cry from where the deaf national team was a few years ago.

Before U.S. Soccer adopted the team, deaf players paid their own way, even buying their own equipment. Now, they wear the same jerseys as members of the senior national teams.

“We walked into the locker room and saw the jerseys hanging there with the last names on them,” head coach Amy Griffin said. “Just seeing the looks on the players’ faces is, ‘Hey, we’re valued equally,’ means a lot.”

The representation of the deaf community extended beyond the players. The deaf team’s match was refereed by Andrew Kirst, a deaf referee, and the national anthem was performed in ASL for both matches.

How two Utahns were a part of soccer history

Deaf national team goalkeeper Taegan Frandsen and forward Sophie Post both hail from Utah and were at the center of the historic doubleheader.

Frandsen started in goal for the U.S. and finished with a clean sheet. Post entered the second half as a substitute and said the game was everything she could have hoped for and more.

“It was spectacular to see our families and people supporting us out there in the stands, and being able to play on such a big stage is really, really important,” she said. “It’s not anything I ever imagined for this team — like that we’d have the opportunity, so the fact that we did is quite wonderful.”

US deaf national team forward Sophie Post, center, receives the ball during the second half of a friendly soccer match Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. | David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Frandsen and Post told the Deseret News prior to the match that they were excited to represent and, hopefully inspire, the deaf community.

“I just hope that the deaf kids out there — the little girls that are struggling to find role models to look up to — they’ll find someone to look up to because growing up, I didn’t have anyone that had the same disability as me,” Frandsen said. “I think the deaf girls and the deaf boys and every kid with a disability has someone to look up to now.”

The pair got what they wished for. Every time Frandsen ran back to her goal, she noticed a little girl in the stands signing “USA.”

“It was so heartwarming,” she said. “I just, it makes my heart so happy that so many got to come and so many got to watch.”

Unlike the members of the senior national team, Post and Frandsen don’t have professional teams to return home to. Instead, they will return to their normal lives — Frandsen to Weber State, where she studies zoology, and Post to the semi-professional team she’s playing for in-between college semesters at the University of Utah.

Once home, they’ll prepare for their next call-up after living out their soccer dreams of playing in a major league stadium.

“That was awesome to come and play and be in such a large stadium in front of a pretty decent sized crowd, like that was probably our biggest crowd yet, and it will be a little bit strange going back to normal life and not having anyone really know who I am,” Frandsen said. “It was just such a cool experience for sure.”

United States deaf national team goalie Taegan Frandsen oplays the ball during the second half of a friendly soccer match against Australia, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. | David Zalubowski

What’s next for the U.S. deaf women’s national team?

The team hopes Saturday’s match leads to more opportunities, something Griffin said are few “for this team at this moment.”

“I hope we get more opportunities like this to show people who we are. Hopefully to get a little bit more publicity and play in different places, different stadiums and just kind of open up the world to deaf soccer,” Post said.

Griffin also hopes that deaf youth across the country tuned in and were inspired to try out for the team.

“Hopefully my inbox is full of players that want to try out for this deaf team. This is the only time our players get to play soccer, the only time they get to play with other deaf players, and the fact that there’s only one team in the USA right now is sad,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of deaf kids out there, and I can’t wait to see them enjoy the sport as much as (these players).”

Unlike the senior national teams, the deaf national team will not compete at this summer’s Olympics. Instead, they will look to defend their gold medal in Tokyo next year at the Deaflympics.

Continuing to improve is the team’s next step, Frandsen said.

“We just have to keep improving, keep working and keep getting better and showing what we’re made of and just keep going with the good press and the good attitude and the good focus,” she said. “I think we’ll do great things.”

Members of the United States women's national team salute fans after defeating South Korea in an international friendly soccer game, Saturday, June 1, 2024, in Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. | David Zalubowski

What’s next for the USWNT?

The U.S. faces the Korea Republic again on Tuesday and has two matches in July before heading off to the Olympics. It’s a short time frame for Hayes to assemble a winning 18-player roster from a deep talent pool.

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But that roster isn’t Hayes’ focus at the moment. She told reporters Friday that she doesn’t “have to do that just yet.”

“There is no denying there is an unbelievable talent pool in this country, and selecting a group of players to represent this country is, of course, going to be a difficult one because every single player, not just involved in this camp but players on the outside of that, are so desperate to represent USA in the Olympics,” she said.

Morgan, a three-time Olympian, knows what it takes to win gold at the Olympics, and she also knows that the team hasn’t lived up to that success recently. Right now, she believes it’s all about the process.

“We haven’t had the success that we’ve wanted in major tournaments over the last five years or so, so it’s getting down to the ways that we’re proud of,” she said Friday. “Just doing the things that we need to do. But before we get ahead too much and try to get in that gold medal match to just work on the process of each day learning from Emma, implementing things, executing things on the field that she’s been coaching and just taking it day by day.”

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