The United States women’s team entered Saturday’s game in Sweden with a 37-game unbeaten streak. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski had won all 16 of his games in charge, while the team had not conceded a goal in 2021.
Two of those streaks came to an end at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, but a questionable late penalty knocked out the USWNT in a 1-1 draw against a Swedish team of the match.
The USWNT didn’t deserve much from the game, but extended their unbeaten streak to 38 after Megan Rapinoe scored from the point in the 87th minute.
Regardless of the outcome, Andonovski will be happy to see his team tested the way they were, and he will certainly have learned a lot about some of his players on the Olympic roster bubble.
USWNT gets the proof it needed
The United States has scheduled friendlies against Sweden and France, two teams ranked in the top five in FIFA, for a reason. They are a team that is not often put to the test and heading into the Olympics, they needed that to change.
The Swedes, playing in a 3-4-3 formation, gave the United States exactly what they were looking for in that regard.
“It’s something that was very good for us,” Andonovski said after the game. “That’s why we came here. We came here to play good teams, we came here to expose ourselves to different tactics, high-level tactics, organized teams and to try to overcome all of that.”
When Lina Hurtig scored for the hosts in the 38th minute, it was the first time the USWNT had lost in a game since October 2019, and the first goal they conceded in six games in 2021.
The USWNT often overwhelms teams with their fitness as matches progress, but that was not the case against a Swedish team with players from several major European teams near the end of its season.
Although Andonovski was happy to see his team tested, he was not necessarily satisfied with the way they responded to the challenge presented by Sweden.
“If we play the way we play today, it is not good enough.” “And I know. No one has to tell me that. It’s just a good learning opportunity to improve.”
Lloyd makes history with the Olympic plaza still in the air
Before Saturday’s game, there were only two players in the history of international soccer, men’s or women’s, to reach 300 international matches. When Carli Llloyd left for the USWNT, wearing the captain’s armband, she did three.
The 38-year-old joined former teammates Kristine Lilly (354) and Christie Pearce Rampone (311) in an exclusive club against the Swedes, looking vivacious in her 65 minutes on the pitch.
“To get 300 caps is an incredible achievement and obviously something that is very rare,” said Sam Mewis before the game. “She is someone who could never be replaced or replicated in any way.
“She is truly one of a kind and she deserves this feat. She has been a great role model for all of us.”
Playing as No. 9, Lloyd kept the game well and connected with her teammates effectively but, as she has done many times in 2021, she was unable to find the back of the net despite having several good opportunities to annotate.
On most teams, Lloyd would be insurance for the Olympic roster, but on a team as stacked as the USWNT, he’s firmly in the bubble. As he surpasses 300 caps, Lloyd will hope to show more shooting skills to increase his chances of playing in Tokyo.
Naeher shows her good and bad side
Alyssa Naeher has cemented her status as the team’s undisputed starting goalkeeper in recent years, standing out at the 2019 World Cup in particular.
However, the Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper has always been capable of making mistakes and proved it again in Sweden’s opener.
Naher came off his line on a corner kick, but didn’t get close to Hurtig, who headed into an open net.
Although she wasn’t the only player to blame (the team’s zonal marking setup didn’t do her any favors in that regard), Naeher still can’t get off the line like she did if she’s not even going to get particularly close to the ball. .
But just minutes later, Naeher showed why she won’t be in any danger of losing her starting role when she made a crucial save over Fridolina Rolfo, who was alone and nearly doubled her team’s lead.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.