The US Women’s national team took on Sweden today in the Volvo Winner’s Cup in Halmstad, Sweden. The American squad is in the final stages of preparation for the Olympics this summer and they are hoping to solidify a starting eleven and get sharp before the tournament begins. Today’s friendly showed that they still have a fair amount of work to do if they hope to bring home the gold.
The US came out on top with a 3-1 scoreline, but the game was not as smooth sailing as the scoreline suggests. It was sloppy from both sides, with Sweden creating most of it’s chances off US turnovers in the defense and midfield. Fortunately for the Americans, Sweden’s final touch was also sloppy, so they only capitalized on one occasion.
The US goals came from Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Tobin Heath, the latter a second half sub. Luckily, three goals were enough to keep the Swedes at bay and secure the game.
The game was played evenly right from the start. Lauren Cheney had the first chance for the US, a left-footed shot from the right side, but it went wide of the goal by a few feet.
Sweden had the next two chances, both coming off of US giveaways, the first by the usually steady Christy Rampone near midfield. A heavy touch by Goransson saw the ball out of bounds then, and later Jakobsson got under the ball on her shot and hit it well over.
The first US goal came out of nowhere from Wambach in the 8th minute. She received a bouncing ball about 40 yards out from the goal. Spotting the Swedish keeper, Lindahl, off her line, she let the ball bounce past her as she turned, and struck a half volley into the top corner. It was a very smart play from the veteran to put the US on top.
The next few minutes played out with each team giving up possession very easily, and no real chances are created. Sweden tried to get behind the US defense by using long balls and going over the top to the speedy Schelin, who had the next best chance for the Swedes in the 18th minute. Her shot from 25 yards out was saved nicely by Hope Solo.
Morgan doubles the lead
Morgan hit next for the US in the 22nd minute. It took a strong individual effort to get the goal. The defender seemed to have position on a ball into the box, but Morgan used her body to win the ball, and from that point she just needed one touch to slot it past the keeper.
Schelin on the board
The Swedes got one back in the 35th minute through Schelin. The ball came in to a Swedish player at the top of the box, who flicked it out to the left for Schelin. Rachel Buehler was able to get a foot on it but unable to clear, and instead awkwardly knocked the ball into the air. It fell right to Schelin on the right side of goal, and she flicked the ball right over Hope Solo and into the goal.
The US was fortunate to be up a goal at the end of the half. The match was played fairly evenly, and the Swedes had a number of chances created from US turnovers. The US looked disorganized and a bit slow in the back, and they gave the ball away in the midfield too many times. The US had two smart plays for the their goals, but they did not create many other legitimate threats.
The second half played out much like the first. The substitutes for the US had many of the same problems as the starters, though Tobin Heath did manage one exception in the 54th minute. Heath had a free header from the penalty spot off a cross from the right side. She did well to nod the ball down and past the keeper.
The US did not muster many more chances on goal until the end of the half. The best opportunity after Heath’s goal came from halftime substitute Carli Lloyd, who tried her best Wambach impression with a blast from 40 yards, unsuccessfully trying to catch Lindahl off her line again.
The rest of the half was a story of Sweden trying to capitalize on US mistakes in their own half of the field. In one instance in the 63rd minute, substitute Becky Sauerbrunn took out her own defender, Heather Mitts, which gave Schelin another attempt at goal, though the shot was right at Solo.
Two minutes later, a giveaway resulted in a three-on-two for Sweden. Luckily, all three of the Swedes were in the middle of the pitch, so the ball played wide to Schelin took her away from goal and she only got off a weak, wide shot.
In the 78th minute, Buehler lost the ball while facing goal, and a Swedish chance was prevented only by a fortunate whistle for a foul. The replay showed there was not much there.
Overall, a win is a good result for the US team, but this game was far from their best. There is still a lot of work to be done before the Olympics. A strong back four has not been solidified, and no one made a strong case for herself today. Every defender was guilty of being out of position, and of giving the ball away too easily.
The same was true in the midfield. The US did not seem to value possession, and there were too many times that they tried to force a great play when the smart play would be to keep the ball and build a new attack. Sweden is going through some growing pains of their own, and the Americans were fortunate that their opponents were unable to finish the many chances handed to them. The US will need to be stronger with the ball and more organized in the defense when they face Japan in a friendly on Monday.