Sweden Defeats The U.S. Women's Soccer Team In An Olympic Stadium With No Fans

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NPR 21 July, 2021 - 06:14am 25 views

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TOKYO — It was a devastating start to the Tokyo Olympics for the U.S. women's soccer team. The U.S, ranked number one and the reigning World Cup champions, played a familiar foe: Sweden. And unfortunately for the U.S., it was a familiar result. Sweden beat them 3-0.

In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Sweden won against the U.S. in the quarterfinals, denying the squad a medal. The U.S. came into these Games seeking to become the first women's team to ever take Olympic gold after winning the World Cup.

Today's loss to fifth-ranked Sweden will make that feat more difficult, but does not rule it out.

The vast majority of the starting lineup in this game – seven out of 11 – were players who played in that 2016 match against Sweden. Those include big names like Alex Morgan and Kelley O'Hara.

The action took place in a nearly empty stadium, since Olympic events in Tokyo are happening without fans due to a coronavirus-related state of emergency. As the players warmed up, an announcer called out each of their names – and no cheers followed for superstars such as Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle.

In a normal Olympics, the first U.S. women's soccer game would be played in front of a packed stadium with throngs of fans who travelled from all over the world.

It was a most unusual game for the U.S., which played without its usual attacking zeal. Sweden dominated the first half with strong attacking runs and several defensive stops. Sweden got on the board in the 25th minute when Stina Blackstenius headed the ball into the goal. "Song 2" by Blur was startling as it blasted through the stadium, which was otherwise quiet except for a few claps in the press area.

The U.S. almost equalized just before halftime when midfielder Lavelle narrowly missed a goal off the post.

During halftime, a video of a small group of cheering fans came onto the stadium jumbotron — almost emphasizing their absence in the stadium.

In the group stage, the U.S. women will have two more games – against Australia and New Zealand. The top two teams in their group of four will then move on to the knockout round.

Read full article at NPR

Humiliation: USWNT embarrassed in Olympic opener as Sweden sweep aside tournament favourites | Goal.com

Goal.com 21 July, 2021 - 05:43am

The U.S. women’s national team went into their Olympic opener against Sweden as overwhelming favourites to claim the gold medal in Tokyo.

But Wednesday's shock 3-0 defeat saw them put in a display that verged from embarrassing to surreal.

For the first time since January 2019, the USWNT lost a game. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski lost for the first time in his tenure, in what was his first game at a major tournament.

The USWNT were outplayed, out-thought and outmaneuvered. They were sloppy, wasteful, disorganized and looked nothing like what they have been for years: the best team in the world.

If there is any consolation for the U.S. it is that they could hardly play worse in the rest of the tournament, which is far from over.

Easier opponents are ahead, and a forgiving group stage should give them a boost moving forward.

But it is clear that something needs to change.

Here are three takeaways from the USWNT's first defeat in 44 games....

Julie Ertz has been out with a knee injury since May, and the linchpin defensive midfielder’s absence in the first half could not have been more noticeable in Tokyo.

Sweden exploited their opponents in transition, oftentimes bypassing the U.S. midfield trio as if they were not there.

Lindsey Horan had held up well in Ertz’s spot in the team’s recent friendlies, but Sweden is an entirely different caliber of opponent and they took advantage of Horan’s limitations at the position. 

Andonovski was forced to bring Ertz on at half-time, removing Sam Mewis and moving Horan further forward. Ertz immediately helped clean things up in the middle, but the damage had been done, and she could do nothing as Stina Blackstenius scored Sweden’s second from a corner kick. Lina Hurtig then added a third to compound the USWNT’s misery.

The U.S. desperately needs someone to maintain some positional integrity at the No.6 and break up attacks. Against the best competition at these Olympics, it is clear there is no substitute for Ertz.

If any teams were wondering exactly how to beat the previously dominant U.S., they can wonder no more, as Sweden and head coach Peter Gerhardsson showed exactly where the USWNT’s limitations lie.

Sweden ruthlessly attacked down the left side of the U.S. defense, going at left-back Crystal Dunn.

That strategy paid off on their opener, as Dunn gave Sofia Jakobsson plenty of time to pick out Blackstenius for a near-post header. Dunn was exposed again on Sweden’s third, as Hurtig converted a cross from the right flank.

The Swedes also exposed the lack of speed on the U.S. back line, bursting forward from midfield while also playing balls over the top. 

The USWNT typically uses a suffocating press to make opponents uncomfortable, but Sweden completely turned the tables on Wednesday, giving the U.S. – who usually are afforded time and space by tentative opponents – no time to breathe.

Every time the U.S. saw a passing lane open going forward, it seemed to close just as fast.

It must also be noted that as well as Sweden did in deafeating the U.S., Andonovski's side was pretty effective at beating themselves too. Rarely has the USWNT committed so many unforced turnovers, missed so many markers and been so disorganized all over the field.

The last time the U.S. lost a game, they went 44 straight without losing in the aftermath, including a dominant run to the 2019 World Cup title. 

It may not be two-and-a-half years until the USWNT loses again, but they still have every chance of taking home the gold in Japan.

The U.S. will face formidable, but weaker opponents in Australia and New Zealand to close out the group stage, and progression is still highly likely due to eight of the 12 teams in the women’s tournament reaching the quarterfinals.

Andonovski will have plenty of adjustments to make, however. There is no excuse for a performance like Wednesday’s, but if there ever was a time for it, then it would be the tournament opener. 

The USWNT’s margin of error is, however, now a little slimmer. Another display like the one against Sweden could see them shockingly crash out without a medal for a second straight Olympics.

Sweden dominates USWNT in a 3-0 victory in their opener at Tokyo Olympics

USA TODAY 21 July, 2021 - 05:34am

The Americans had been pointing to this game for five years, ever since they lost to Sweden on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics

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US Women's National Team player Crystal Dunn has gained confidence as an outspoken player since their 2019 World Cup win. USA TODAY

TOKYO – Instead of getting revenge for their ouster at the Rio Olympics, the U.S. women's soccer team got embarrassed.

The reigning World Cup champions were completely outclassed by old foe Sweden in their opener at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, a 3-0 loss that, frankly, could have been a heck of a lot worse. The Americans were outplayed, out of sync and, in the few opportunities they did have, off target.

It was their worst showing at a major international tournament since a 4-0 loss to Brazil in the semifinals of the 2007 World Cup. It was their first loss since January 2019 – ending a 44-match unbeaten streak.

The only positive is that, unlike the loss to Sweden in 2016, this was not a knockout game, and the top two finishers in each group are guaranteed of advancing. But unless the U.S. gets itself in gear – fast – it’s going to be looking at a similar early exit from Tokyo.

The U.S. plays New Zealand next, on Saturday.

The Americans had been pointing to this game for five years, ever since they lost to Sweden on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. It was their worst result ever at a major tournament, the first time they had failed to medal at an Olympics or a World Cup.

The loss drove them in 2019, when they won their second consecutive World Cup. And they were confident the extra year to prepare, because of the COVID-19 delay, would work in their favor as they tried to become the first reigning World Cup champions to win the Olympic title.

But the Americans looked against Sweden like teams usually look against them: Inept, and unable to do anything about it.

It wasn’t just the two goals by Stina Blackstenius, one in each half. Or the header by Lina Hurtig in the 72nd. This is largely the same squad that won its second consecutive World Cup in 2019, yet there are pickup squads that look more cohesive.

Sweden shredded and slithered its way through the midfield as if the Americans were invisible. Or standing still. Their defensive miscues were confounding; on Blackstenius’ second goal, for example, she was left largely unmarked at the far post on a corner kick, allowing her to chip a rebound over Alyssa Naeher’s head in the 54th.

When the Americans did get the ball, it wasn’t for long – or to much effect. Too often passes were made to empty spaces, and there was never any sense that the Americans were in control. At one point in the first half, when the game was still somewhat within reach, Rose Lavelle held out her hands as if to say, “What are we doing?”

The only threats were shots off the posts by Lavelle and Christen Press.

Even the additions of Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz at halftime had little impact. Oh, the Americans appeared a little more active, but they still couldn’t contain Sweden’s pace or produce anything resembling an offensive attack.

The loss in 2016 came on penalty kicks, and the Americans could at least take comfort in knowing the game could have gone either way. There is no excuses to be made in this game. The best team in the world for much of the last three decades, the Americans simply got outplayed.

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How will the USWNT line up vs Sweden? | Goal.com

Goal.com 19 July, 2021 - 09:00am

The U.S. women’s national team enters the Olympics as the clear favorite to take home gold, with a veteran core of players who should be familiar to anyone following the program in recent years.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has the luxury of calling upon players who have a huge amount of experience of winning at the highest level, but haven’t seen their ability dip at all as their careers have reached their twilight phase. 

There is, though, one major question mark in the U.S. lineup, and that is the health of Julie Ertz. The team’s linchpin defensive midfielder has been out since May with a knee injury and, though she’s on the Olympic roster, her status for the tournament is still in doubt.

The USWNT lineup is mostly settled, but Andonovski will be forced to adjust if Ertz is not available.

Here is how Goal projects the USWNT could line up in their Olympic opener against Sweden...

The team’s back five is settled. Barring injury, Alyssa Naeher will start in goal with the defensive line featuring Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper and Kelley O’Hara from left to right. 

Andonovski and his predecessor Jill Ellis were often faced with a dilemma in the midfield three, with four world-class options to fill those roles in Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Sam Mewis.

Having Ertz out at least takes that decision out of Andonovski’s hands. The coach has recently preferred Horan in Ertz’s number six role, with Mewis playing as a box-to-box midfielder and Lavelle as a playmaker. 

Further up the field, Christen Press has made herself into an indisputable starter at the wide forward position, with Alex Morgan set to fill the striker role. That leaves Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath to fight for the other wide forward role. 

Look for Rapinoe to get the nod early in the tournament as the left forward with Heath continuing to work her way back to fitness. Should Heath come into the lineup, she’d likely move to the right side with Press heading to the left. 

Should Ertz recover in time for the U.S. opener, Andonovski would be forced to remove one of his four star midfielders from the lineup. 

The U.S. drew Sweden 1-1 in April – the only one of Andonovski’s 23 matches in charge that hasn’t ended in victory. Lavelle started that match and would likely start again, as her presence helped the U.S. find pockets of space in front of Sweden’s back five.

It’s a toss-up between Horan and Mewis for the last spot but Horan could get the nod, as she did in April, due to her ability to unlock passing angles in Sweden’s well-organized back line.

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