Catarina Macario could give U.S. women’s soccer a boost

The U.S. men’s national team has often had a strong foreign contingent. Players like 1998 World Cup captain Thomas Dooley and current teenage phenom Sergiño Dest grew up overseas but, thanks to an American parent, were eligible to play for the USA — even though both hardly spoke English before joining.

The women’s team hasn’t needed to recruit players in the same way. But phenom Catarina Macario, who was just called up for her first national team camp, is aiming to flip the script — a foreign-born player who’s here by choice, rather than because she wasn’t getting the call from the national team in her own country.

Macario, Brazilian by birth, moved to the United States at the age of 12 for both a safer life and to pursue her soccer dreams. (The mind boggles at imagining a male Brazilian making a similar move, but Brazil has a history of ignoring women’s soccer.) After landing at Stanford, she took college soccer by storm, winning the Hermann Trophy twice as the nation’s standout player — just like her idol, Mia Hamm.

With 63 goals in 68 college games, Macario — recently naturalized as an American citizen — would bring both youth and firepower to a team where the best-known attackers are on the veteran side of 30.

SHORT TAKES

• Five Americans played on Tuesday in the Champions League, setting a record. Dest, now at Barcelona, and goalkeeper Ethan Horvath at Belgium’s Club Brugge, joined Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), breaking the previous record of three.

• The first El Clásico of the season is Saturday morning, but it’s hard to remember the last time Barcelona and Real Madrid were both stumbling so badly coming into the match. Madrid lost twice already this week, to Cadiz in Spain and to Shaktar Donetsk in the Champions League. Barcelona lost last weekend to Getafe themselves, and remain in disarray after a tumultuous summer.

WATCH GUIDE

MLS: LA Galaxy at LAFC, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 5. There are LAFC fans that hate the name “El Tráfico” for these games. This is because they are humorless and self-absorbed. “El Tráfico” is a great name for what’s quickly becoming one of the league’s best rivalries, and I will not let it drop. The Galaxy are in last place but have topped LAFC twice this season already.

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: [email protected]

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Stanford star Catarina Macario ready for new chapter with U.S. women’s national team

After eight years of waiting, hoping and navigating a complicated process, Catarina Macario spent less time completing her U.S. citizenship than she does playing a soccer game.

Called to an immigration office in San Jose, California, last week for her citizenship test, Macario answered six questions posed by her case officer. After she answered all six correctly, she was presented with a packet that included her certificate of naturalization. In normal times, Macario might have scheduled an appointment to return for a swearing-in ceremony. In coronavirus-pandemic times, the official told her she could wait around for an ad hoc ceremony in the parking lot with other successful applicants or take care of it right away in the office.

The Stanford senior opted for the latter.

“Honestly, I had midterms and I almost just wanted to get it over with,” Macario said. “I was by myself anyway, so I just chose the easier route.”

Hours before the Brazilian-born Macario officially became an American citizen, U.S. Soccer announced she was among the players whom Vlatko Andonovski invited to the women’s national team training camp on October. Her first call to the senior national team coincides with that team’s first activities since March and first tentative steps toward next summer’s rescheduled Olympics.

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The 10-day camp in Colorado, which will be conducted in a bubble and under strict COVID-19 protocols, is an afterthought to some. Much of the core of the team that won the 2019 Women’s World Cup and qualified for the Olympics will be absent. Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Alex Morgan and Sam Mewis are in England. Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe are injured or absent by choice. But for many of the 27 invitees, the camp is a chance to make an impression with a new coach who is planning not just for the Olympics next year, but the 2023 World Cup.

For Macario, who moves one step closer to becoming the first naturalized citizen to play for the women’s team, the camp was a lifetime in the making.

“The fact that it all happened the same day was just really magical,” Macario said. “I know that Oct. 8 will forever be a very important date in my calendar.”

Macario was ecstatic when she got the email informing her of the impending camp invite a few days before the official announcement, but she was also apprehensive when she spoke with Andonovski. She told him she was grateful for the call-up but worried that she might not be able to put her best foot forward.

USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski believes that anyone who has seen Macario play for Stanford knows that she is a special talent. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty
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