The U.S. women’s national team entered Saturday’s match at Sweden on a 37-game unbeaten streak. Head coach Vlatko Andonovski had won all 16 of his matches in charge, while the team hadn’t conceded a goal in 2021.
Two of those streaks came to an end at Friends Arena in Stockholm, but a questionable late penalty call bailed the USWNT out in a 1-1 draw against a game Sweden outfit.
The USWNT didn’t deserve much from the game, but they did extend their unbeaten run to 38 after Megan Rapinoe netted from the spot in the 87th minute.
Regardless of the result, Andonovski will be happy to see his team tested the way they were, and he’ll certainly have learned plenty about some of his players on the Olympic roster bubble
USWNT gets the test it needed
The U.S. scheduled friendlies against Sweden and France – two teams ranked in FIFA’s top five – for a reason. They are a team that is often not tested and heading into the Olympics, they needed that to change.
The Swedes, playing in a 3-4-3 formation, gave the U.S. 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 get exposed to different tactics, high-level tactics, organized teams and to try to overcome all of that.”
When Lina Hurtig scored for the home side in the 38th minute, it was the first time the USWNT had trailed in a match since October 2019, and the first goal they had conceded in six games in 2021.
The USWNT will often overwhelm teams with their fitness as matches draw on, but that was not the case against a Sweden side featuring players from several top European sides near the end of their season.
Though Andonovski was happy to see his team tested, he wasn’t necessarily pleased with how they responded to the challenge Sweden presented.
“If we play the way we played today, it’s not good enough,” he added. “And I know that. Nobody has to tell me that. It’s just a good learning opportunity for us to get better.”
Lloyd makes history with Olympic spot still up in the air
Prior to Saturday’s game, there were only two players in the history of international soccer, men’s or women’s, to reach 300 caps. When Carli Llloyd started for the USWNT, wearing the captain’s armband, she made it three.
The 38-year-old joined former teammates Kristine Lilly (354) and Christie Pearce Rampone (311) in an exclusive club against the Swedes, looking lively in her 65 minutes on the pitch.
“Getting 300 caps is an unbelievable accomplishment and obviously something that is just so rare,” Sam Mewis said ahead of the game. “She’s someone who could never be replaced or replicated in any way.
“She’s really one of a kind and so deserving of this feat. She’s been a great role model for all of us.”
Playing as a No.9, Lloyd held up play well and connected with her teammates effectively but, as she has many times in 2021, she failed to find the back of the net despite having several good opportunities to score.
On most teams, Lloyd would be a lock for the Olympic roster but on a team as stacked as the USWNT, she is firmly on the bubble. As she moves past 300 caps, Lloyd will hope to show more finishing ability to boost her chances of playing in Tokyo.
Naeher shows her good and bad side
Alyssa Naeher has solidified her status as the team’s unquestioned starting goalkeeper in recent years, coming up huge at the 2019 World Cup in particular.
However, the Chicago Red Stars shot-stopper has always been capable of errors and she showed that again on Sweden’s opener.
Naher came off her line on a corner kick but got nowhere near the onrushing Hurtig, who headed into an open net.
Though she wasn’t the only player to blame (the team’s zonal marking setup did her no favors in that regard), Naeher still can’t come off the line like she did if she’s not going to even come 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 on Fridolina Rolfo, who was in alone and nearly doubled her side’s advantage.