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Magic moment: Former CU Buffs star Taylor Kornieck scores goal in USWNT debut

CONCACAF tune-up begins with 3-0 win against Colombia

COMMERCE CITY, CO – JUNE 25: Taylor Kornieck, (20), puts her arms in the air as she celebrate her goal in the second period of the USWNT friendly between the U.S. WomenÕs National Team and Colombia at DickÕs Sporting Goods Park on June 25, 2022 in Commerce City, Colorado. US beat Colombia 3-0.
(Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
COMMERCE CITY, CO – JUNE 25: Taylor Kornieck, (20), puts her arms in the air as she celebrate her goal in the second period of the USWNT friendly between the U.S. WomenÕs National Team and Colombia at DickÕs Sporting Goods Park on June 25, 2022 in Commerce City, Colorado. US beat Colombia 3-0. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
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COMMERCE CITY — It was a moment Taylor Kornieck had been striving toward since childhood.

And she wasted little time creating a memory that will last a lifetime.

Returning to Colorado for the first time since she became the third overall pick in the 2020 NWSL draft, the former CU Buffs star made the most of her debut with the U.S. women’s national team on Saturday night, coming off the bench to cap the scoring for the U.S. with a late header goal in a 3-0 victory against Colombia.

It was a festive, Colorado-themed atmosphere at sold out Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, as Windsor native Sophia Smith ended a scoreless stalemate with a pair of second half goals before Kornieck put the finishing touches on the victory.

The USWNT will have a rematch against Colombia in another friendly on Tuesday in Utah before departing for Mexico to compete in the CONCACAF W Championship.

“I think the first thing I said was ‘I can’t feel my legs,’” Kornieck said of her big moment. “It just means everything to me. It’s been my dream ever since I was a little girl. Scoring obviously wasn’t part of the plan, but it was a good perk.

“It was an amazing ball and I’m just so fortunate to play with such great players.”

Kornieck said she was informed earlier in the day by USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski that she would play at some point, allowing Kornieck to prepare mentally for the inevitable wave of jitters and nerves. CU’s all-time points leader and a three-time first team All-Pac-12 selection, Kornieck entered the match in the 73rd minute but didn’t immediately see much action, as a few Colombia players dealt with apparent cramping issues.

However, in the waning moments of the 90th minute, Kornieck took advantage of her height — at 6-foot-1, she is the tallest field player in USWNT history — to record her indelible moment.  The goal also may have provided a sort of passing-of-the-torch moment for the USWNT. Working off a free kick, USWNT veteran Megan Rapinoe delivered the pass that Kornieck was able to convert.

Kornieck became the 26th USWNT player to score a goal in her debut.

“They’re always looking for my head. Obviously I’m a really good target to play to,” Kornieck said. “It’s a really good confidence-booster. Before the game obviously I was trying to get into the zone as fast as possible. I was just thinking in my head I’m excited to play, I’m excited to be out there and just play my game. I’m really happy with the result.

“I of course knew there were going to be jitters, but I had to put that aside and just play my game like I know how to do it.”

The USWNT dominated possession throughout the first half but still found itself in a scoreless tie at halftime. The US enjoyed a prime opportunity to break through just before the break when Smith was taken down in the penalty area, drawing a foul.

Another Colorado native, Lindsey Horan, took the penalty kick but was turned away by Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez. Perez later stopped another penalty kick in the second half, but Smith and Kornieck made certain the 17,143 in attendance went home happy.

“Afterward (Kornieck) was like, ‘I’m so happy. I can’t stop smiling,’” said yet another Colorado native, starting forward Mallory Pugh. “That’s what it’s all about, those emotions. Her family was here and I know that she went to school at CU, so she’s kind of from here, too. Just to have that as well, it’s a special night.”

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