Clay Travis: USWNT make Olympics political and lose big against Sweden

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Fox News 22 July, 2021 - 06:19am 17 views

Is US women's soccer out of the Olympics?

Team USA has lost one of its first events at the 2020 Olympics after the U.S. women's soccer team was beaten 3-0 by old rivals Sweden on day one of the beleaguered games in Tokyo. ForbesTeam USA: Sweden Defeats U.S. Women’s Soccer Team In Opening Tokyo Olympics Game

Who won the USA vs Sweden soccer game?

U.S. soccer star Alex Morgan tells Robin Roberts how the USWMNT is preparing for the Olympics. TOKYO (AP) -- Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and Sweden once again stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women's soccer tournament. WPVI-TVUSWNT vs Sweden: USA women's soccer loses opening match in Tokyo Olympics

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USWNT looked lost, confused as Sweden end unbeaten run

ESPN 21 July, 2021 - 08:30am

There was a moment early in the first half of the United States women's national team's opening match of its Olympic campaign when midfielder Rose Lavelle, dribbling into Sweden's half with the ball at her feet, looked around furiously and put her hands out, as if she was lost. Even without being able to hear what she said in Tokyo's cavernous Ajinomoto Stadium, it's easy to imagine it was something along the lines of, "Where is everyone?"

That, in a nutshell, was how the USWNT began its 2020 Olympics, looking confused in a 3-0 loss to open Group G play.

The defeat was notable, first, because the team rarely loses. It came into Wednesday's match unbeaten in its previous 44, with 40 of them wins. Its last loss was in January 2019, at a friendly in France.

To say the reigning Women's World Cup champions arrived in Japan as a favorite is perhaps an understatement. The U.S. has reached the gold-medal match in five of the six Olympics since women's soccer became an event, and unlike some of the teams in Tokyo, the USWNT has played warm-up games for the months leading up to this amid the pandemic.

But the defeat was also notable because of just how bad the loss was. Confused expressions abounded as players, including Lavelle, looked for an open American to pass the ball to but couldn't find anyone. As Sweden swarmed, pressing and bossing the midfield, the Americans looked rattled and gave the ball away too cheaply.

"It felt like there were holes everywhere defensively," striker Alex Morgan said. "I didn't feel like we were pressing together, and then when we were on the attack and we'd lose the ball, we didn't have the numbers around the ball to win it back."

The hopelessness and confusion wasn't in spurts, as is wont to happen for even the best teams sometimes -- rather, it endured for the full 90 minutes and the USWNT never looked close to waging a comeback. That is a rare feeling in USWNT history. The last example might have been at the 2007 World Cup, where Brazil pummeled the U.S. 4-0 -- but there were the extenuating circumstances of then-coach Greg Ryan bizarrely benching first-choice goalkeeper Hope Solo on nothing more than a hunch.

There was no reason for the USWNT to lose as badly as it did Wednesday, but plenty of credit belongs to Sweden, a team that over the years has become the tactical thorn in the USWNT's side. After all, the only Olympics the USWNT crashed out of were in 2016 when Sweden, playing a disciplined, ultra-defensive bunker, knocked the Americans out in the quarterfinals.

This Sweden was not a bunker-and-counter team, however. This Sweden was out for the jugular, delivering crunching tackles to stop any whiff of American possession and committing numbers forward to slice through the American defense and strike.

Sweden's first goal, in the 25th minute, went seemingly just as planned: the USWNT got stuck in the midfield with nowhere to go and lost possession, springing Sweden in the other direction. Yellow shirts flew forward and, before the U.S. even seemed to know what had happened, Stina Blackstenius headed the ball into the back of the net.

When the USWNT dominates games, it likes to use every inch of the field, spraying the ball around and using the wide spaces to its advantage, and Sweden certainly recognized that, closing passing lines and choking those spaces. That rendered the U.S. midfield a turnover machine. But as much as Sweden deserves credit, the Americans also deserve blame.

"We got our ass kicked a bit," Megan Rapinoe said afterward. "There's a lot of stuff we can clean up -- trap the ball, pass the ball to your own team is probably the first one."

In other words, the USWNT looked flummoxed and unprepared for what it faced Wednesday. It would be easy to say that perhaps the USWNT was just overconfident. Maybe the No. 1-ranked team in the world and the favorite in this tournament had expected it to be a breeze. On the contrary, the USWNT seemed to lack confidence from the opening whistle. That put the Americans in trouble immediately because their confidence is perhaps their deadliest weapon -- the mentality that no matter the score, they always believe they can win and find a way to outwork the other team.

"We were a little tight, a little nervous -- doing dumb stuff like not passing the ball," Rapinoe said. "... I think a lot of it was just us not playing free and not being who we are and not enjoying it."

If there is a positive spin to put on the performance, it's that at least it happened in the tournament's opener. After 44 games unbeaten, the USWNT might have needed a reminder of the pain of losing.

"We've had a long string of wins, and we haven't had a lot of games where we've had to come back or anything like that," forward Christen Press said. "I think it was actually really good to have this match."

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Take, for instance, the 2008 Olympics. There, the U.S. lost 2-0 in its opening match to Norway. It bounced back without losing the rest of the way and won gold. While the U.S. doesn't usually lose in major tournaments, the Americans do usually have bad performances. During the 2015 World Cup, which the U.S. later won, calls to fire then-head coach Jill Ellis over the lackluster performances came from the media and even from former members of the team.

At the 2019 World Cup in France -- where on paper the U.S. dominated, scoring within the first 12 minutes of every match en route to the final -- the round-of-16 match against Spain was shaky, and mistakes allowed Spain to score, making for a surprisingly close match given Spain's still-rising status in women's soccer.

But the proper lessons will need to be learned, which includes by coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose substitutions projected panic and nervousness rather than the composure that comes from a clear game plan. At halftime, he yanked Morgan, who was the least of the U.S.'s problems as the most advanced player on the field, in favor of Carli Lloyd, who has usually been reserved for late-game minutes. He also took off Samantha Mewis for Julie Ertz, the stuck-in defensive midfielder he surely would've preferred to have started Wednesday. After all, Ertz is known as a midfield enforcer who flies in challenges and wins balls. But crucially, Ertz is coming off an injury and hasn't played competitive soccer since May, and some rust was evident, making her an unlikely solution in a game as difficult as this.

The good news, at least, is that New Zealand, the USWNT's next opponent in Group G, is not at Sweden's level. It's also hard to imagine the USWNT can play any worse, so its Olympic campaign can only improve from here.

"We, like Vlatko said, got ourselves into this mess," captain Becky Sauerbrunn said. "Now it's our responsibility to get ourselves out of it."

Olympics-Soccer-Sweden's women stun U.S. with 3-0 thrashing in Tokyo opener

Yahoo Sports 21 July, 2021 - 05:37am

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TOKYO (Reuters) -A pair of goals from Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius spelled catastrophe for the United States on Wednesday, as they suffered a shock 3-0 defeat in their Tokyo 2020 debut.

Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, as the four-time Olympic gold medalists showed little sign of the stellar, 44-game unbeaten run they had enjoyed since 2019.

Forward Stina Blackstenius converted in the 25th minute, rocketing a header past U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher with an assist from Sofia Jakobsson. The goalie had five saves in the first half as a dominant Swedish forward line crashed through the Americans' defences.

Midfielder Rose Lavelle nearly equalised with a header in minute 45 off a corner kick from Christen Press but hit the post.

The addition of veteran midfielder Julie Ertz did little to revive the U.S. in the second half, as Blackstenius again scored in the 54th minute.

The match was personal for Team USA: The Swedes knocked the four-time World Cup winners out of the tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals in 2016.

But their much hoped-for revenge in front of 48,000 empty seats inside the Tokyo Stadium was not to be, as forward Christen Press missed a wide open net at close range midway through the second half.

Swedish midfielder Lina Hurtig then heaped on more pain with a clinical header to give her side a three-goal cushion a minute later, ending the United States' hopes.

"We (have) developed our game and our play," Blackstenius said after the match. "We have so much quality in every player. Every player is also very different from the other."

The Rio defeat marked the U.S. team's earliest exit in Olympic history, after previously reaching the final of every edition of the Games since 1996, when the women's event was introduced.

The two sides drew 1-1 in an April friendly, the only blemish to the United States' 2021 record of 11 wins in 12 matches and a prescient warning of the challenges the team would face in their 2020 Tokyo kickoff.

"We played a little bit tight and just hurt ourselves a lot," said 2012 gold medallist and veteran forward Megan Rapinoe. "They took their chances, got into better space and inevitably scored more goals."

The defeat was the United States' first under head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis in 2019.

"It is a tough result, a tough situation to be in. I don’t remember this team has ever been in a situation like that," he told reporters after the match. "It is a bit of a shock but everyone is positive. We still have games ahead of us."

The pandemic-postponed Games kicked off earlier Wednesday with a victory for the Olympic hosts, as Japan's softball team walloped Australia 8-1 at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium.

The United States next face New Zealand in the group stage, while Sweden play Australia, both on Saturday.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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