USWNT We Got Our Asses Kicked Didn39;t We?39; Reels After Olympic
2020 Tokyo Olympics: USA vs. Sweden – Starting XI, Lineup Notes … Wed, 21 Jul 2021 04:00:00 -0700-For the last five years, even as the U.S. women's soccer team won a World Cup and rattled off victory after victory, its quarterfinal Olympic exit to Sweden has …
For the last five years, even as the U.S. women’s soccer team won a World Cup and rattled off victory after victory, its quarterfinal Olympic exit to Sweden has lingered.
It lingered in the run-up to the two sides’ meeting at the 2019 Women’s World Cup (the United States won, 2–0, against a less-than-full-strength Sweden XI). It lingered ahead of an April friendly in Stockholm, a pre-Olympic test for both heavyweights (the two sides drew, 1–1, after a late penalty by the U.S.). And it lingered—of course—as the countries returned to the scene of the crime, with the USWNT fittingly opening up its Tokyo Olympics run against the same opponent it left off against in 2016 on a field in Brasília, stunned after its earliest elimination ever in the tournament.
On Wednesday, Sweden took that enduring narrative and kicked down the door, setting an unsettling Olympic tone for the U.S. and giving itself a leg up in its own quest for gold.
Dominating in just about every facet, the Swedes put on a clinic against the world’s No. 1-ranked team, executing a note-perfect game plan in a 3–0 win that exposed the United States in a way that even the ‘16 iteration of Sweden did not come close to doing.
“We got our asses kicked, didn’t we?” forward Megan Rapinoe, who subbed on in the 64th minute Wednesday with her team already down 2–0, succinctly said afterward.
From the start, you could sense something was amiss with Vlatko Andonovski’s team, normally the one stepping on the gas pedal from the first whistle and never letting up. “Off days” for the U.S. are usually code for days when it struggles to finish chances, eventually figuring it out enough to build what had been a 44-game unbeaten streak and a torrid run across the last four years, when its only defeat came to France in January 2019.
But in Tokyo, it was the U.S. that was put on its heels almost immediately, repeatedly succumbing to Sweden’s relentless pressure and disruptions and failing to generate any kind of cohesive attack.
Missing star Julie Ertz—who entered the Olympics as a major question mark, having not played since May due to a knee injury—the normally formidable U.S. midfield was thoroughly outplayed in the first half, and the defense sliced and diced amid uncharacteristic games from the likes of Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper. Pointed halftime subs by Andonovski—bringing in Ertz for Sam Mewis and Carli Lloyd for striker Alex Morgan—did little to change the match trajectory and failed to stop the bleeding as the Swedes tacked on two more.
Back in 2016, Sweden received plenty of attention for the defensive style of play that successfully led that game to penalties and cracked the U.S.’s code, including then-U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo’s famous postgame remarks.
“We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today … They didn’t want to open play. They didn’t want to pass the ball. They didn’t want to play great soccer,” Solo said that day.
No one could make a similar accusation this time. Sweden was brave and assertive, discombobulating the U.S. in a way few opponents can and consistently applying attacking pressure on the Americans and GK Alyssa Naeher. And while Naeher made a series of highlight-reel saves early—and kept the game from being an even worse blowout than 3–0—there was little she could do to stop an onslaught that grew increasingly inevitable.
The United States’s chances, meanwhile, were few and far between, summed up by the fact that it took nearly an entire half for the team to earn its first corner kick. Attempts by Rose Lavelle and Christen Press that clanged off the post were about as riveting as it got for the U.S. attack, normally so potent and unyielding but held to five shots on goal by the Swedes, who were playing without star center back Magdalena Eriksson.
“We need to learn from our mistakes this game and then we need to move on. We need to forget about it,” Morgan told Telemundo. “We need to take each game as it comes and then obviously it's taking care of our bodies because it's a shorter tournament than a World Cup, so the turnaround is a lot faster.”
The U.S. arrived in Japan with a clear expectation—anything less than its fifth gold medal will be a disappointment. Andonovski opted for a battle-tested—and also older—roster filled with experience; of the original 18 that made the cut before rosters expanded to 22, only 30-year-old Kristie Mewis was not a part of the 2019 World Cup-winning squad. This is a team that has long embraced and prided itself on its ruthlessness, its confidence and its will to win. It has felt defeat just four times since that 2016 Olympic exit, three of which came during a five-month period in 2017 when the team’s seeming invincibility displayed real cracks and had then-coach Jill Ellis on thin ice.
The response to that rough patch—losing just once in the four years since—is a testament to the group’s mentality and resiliency. Those traits will now be fully tested in Japan, where the U.S. still controls its own destiny but has complicated its path to the podium.
Sweden is now in the driver’s seat of Group G with two group-round games for both (vs. New Zealand and Australia) remaining. The winner of the group will face a third-place team from one of the other two groups in the quarterfinals, while the runner-up gets a difficult draw with the Group F winner, very likely to be the Netherlands or Brazil (third place would not necessarily doom the U.S., either, as eight of the tournament’s 12 teams advance to the knockout rounds).
Brutal draws are nothing new for the USWNT—look no further than its ’19 World Cup run, when it took down host France in a raucous quarterfinal atmosphere before winning a slugfest with England in the semis—but it hasn’t had to answer to such an early disappointment at a major tournament in quite a long time. And aside from Lloyd and Tobin Heath, the current roster is in uncharted waters.
“2008 Olympics, I was part of that team, we lost our first game as well and came away with a gold medal,” Lloyd told Telemundo after Wednesday’s defeat, recalling the U.S.’s 2–0 opening loss to Norway in the Beijing Games. “It's really, really important for us not to dwell too much on this game.”
There won’t be much time to, with New Zealand waiting on Saturday before a group-stage finale vs. Australia on Tuesday. The U.S. will be favored to win both, and New Zealand in particular presents an excellent opportunity to bounce back nicely and get itself on track. With the need for lineup rotation, it will have to be a true team effort on Saturday after Andonovski put what was seemingly the U.S.’s best foot forward against Sweden.
Ultimately, the U.S. women will be judged by one thing in these Games—whether or not they bring home the gold medal that they failed to in Rio. To get there, they might not be done with the Swedes, either. Presuming they finish 1-2 in the group one way or another, when is the next time these two sides could possibly meet, and further add to their decorated rivalry?
The Olympic final.
You want story lines? Nothing could quite beat that.
More Olympic Soccer Coverage:
'We Got Our Asses Kicked, Didn't We?' USWNT Reels After Olympic … Wed, 21 Jul 2021 04:00:00 -0700-Broadcast: USA, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, Telemundo Deportes App Broadcast Time: 4:00 a.m. ET on USA and Telemundo Official Kickoff Time: 4:30 …
2020 Tokyo Olympics – Group G
Date: July 21, 2021
Venue: Tokyo Stadium; Tokyo, Japan
Broadcast: USA, Telemundo, NBCOlympics.com, Telemundo Deportes App
Official Kickoff Time: 4:30 a.m. ET
Starting XI vs. Sweden: 1-Alyssa Naeher; 5-Kelley O’Hara, 17-Abby Dahlkemper, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (Capt.), 2-Crystal Dunn; 9-Lindsey Horan, 3-Samantha Mewis, 16-Rose Lavelle; 7-Tobin Heath, 13-Alex Morgan, 11-Christen Press
Available Subs: 6-Kristie Mewis, 8-Julie Ertz, 10-Carli Lloyd, 12-Tierna Davidson, 14-Emily Sonnett, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 18-Adrianna Franch
U.S. WNT Starting XI Cap Numbers (including this match): Sauerbrunn (189), Morgan (181), Heath (172), Press (150), O’Hara (141), Dunn (117), Horan (99), S. Mewis (78), Naeher (74), Dahlkemper (72), Lavelle (57)
Today’s Starting XI features four different players from the starting lineup that played Sweden to a 1-1 draw on April 10 in Stockholm: Dahlkemper for Davidson in the center of defense, Samantha Mewis for Ertz in the midfield, and Morgan and Heath for Lloyd and Williams up top.
Seven of the players in the Starting XI featured in the 2016 Olympic Quarterfinal matchup against Sweden. Sauerbrunn, O’Hara, Heath and Morgan all started the match while Dunn, Horan and Press saw action off the bench.
Today’s Starting XI vs. Sweden has an average of 121 caps per player, including six players with 100+ international appearances.
Becky Sauerbrunn will earn her 189th career cap as she captains the USWNT for the first time at a senior world championship event. Sauerbrunn, who will be making her fifth career start and eighth appearance overall at the Olympics, leads the USWNT in minutes played in 2021.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is set to make her Olympic debut in what will be her 74th cap overall with the USWNT. Ranked third for goalkeepers in USWNT history in both caps and shutouts (43), Naeher was on the Olympic roster in 2016 but did not see game action as the back-up.
Kelley O’Hara will earn her 141st cap for the USWNT and will make her 11th consecutive start for the USA at the Olympics. The 23rd player in USWNT history to reach 140 caps, O’Hara played every minute of the USA’s run to the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in Tokyo and started all four matches in Rio in 2016. O’Hara drew the foul that led to the equalizing penalty kick in the USA’s 1-1 draw vs. Sweden on April 10 in Stockholm.
Abby Dahlkemper will make her Olympic debut in what will be her 72nd appearance overall for the USWNT. Dahlkemper has been a stalwart on the USA backline and led all field players in minutes at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which marked her first senior world championship event. Dahlkemper led the team in minutes in both 2019 and 2020 and has started 65 of her 72 career caps.
Crystal Dunn is set to earn her 117th cap for the USWNT in what will be her third career Olympic start and fifth Olympic appearance overall. Dunn played in all four of the USA’s matches at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, making two starts and tallying both a goal and an assist in the final match of the group stage against Colombia.
Lindsey Horan will be making her 99th international appearance today against Sweden. Horan has appeared in all 12 games for the USA so far in 2021 – a distinction she shares with Carli Lloyd – and has tallied a goal or an assist in 12 of her last 20 appearances for the USA, with ten goals and seven assists during that span. This will be Horan’s second career start and fifth appearance overall at the Olympics, going the full 90 minutes against Colombia at the 2016 Games in Rio. Horan scored against Sweden in the group stage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
An alternate for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Samantha Mewis will make her Olympic debut in what will be her 78th cap for the USWNT. The 2020 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, Mewis is tied for second on the team in scoring with five goals this year and has either scored or assisted in four of the USA’s last five outings.
First-time Olympian and Bronze Ball winner at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Rose Lavelle will make her Olympic debut as she earns her 57th career cap for the USWNT. Lavelle has accounted for three of the USA’s 12 game-winning goals (two goals and one assist on game-winners) since the resumption of play in November 2020.
Tobin Heath will earn her third cap of 2021 and make her second consecutive start for the USWNT in what will be her 13th appearance overall at the Olympics. Now a four-time Olympian, Heath scored in each of the USWNT’s Send-Off Series matches vs. Mexico, which marked her first game action for club or country since December 20, 2020. She has tallied five assists in her previous 12 Olympic matches – three in 2012 and two in 2016.
Earning her 181st cap overall, Alex Morgan is set to make her 11th appearance and 10th start for the USA at the Olympics. In her previous 10 games at the Olympics, Morgan has tallied five goals and four assists and she still owns the record for the latest goal in Olympic, FIFA and U.S. history, tallying after 122 minutes and 22 seconds against Canada to notch the game-winning goal in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics. Morgan has three goals on the year and has now scored in 76 career games for the USA. In those matches the U.S. team has never lost, going 66-0-10.
Christen Press will earn her 150th cap tonight and will make her tenth consecutive start, the longest streak of consecutive starts in her USWNT career. The 23rd player in USWNT history to reach 150 caps, Press will be making her second career start and fifth appearance overall at the Olympics. An alternate in 2012, this is the second Olympics for Press, who is in the middle of one of the finest stretches of her career as she has been involved in 37 goals in her last 37 games for the USWNT.
Press has either scored or assisted in 17 of her last 21 games for the USA, including five matches in a row before not getting a goal or an assist vs. Mexico on July 5, though she did have a goal wrongly called back due to an inadvertent whistle and helped force an own goal by Mexico. Since the start of 2019, Press leads the USWNT with 19 assists and is third in scoring with 17 goals over that span.
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– July 21, 2021
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