The US Women’s National Team came up against their old foes Sweden in the final group game of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Questions swirled around the team going into the match - what would be the impact of Julie Ertz sitting due to injury? How would the defense fare after some shaky performances leading up to the tournament? Would the changes that Jill Ellis made after the elimination from the 2016 Olympics pay off three years later? Had anyone given Carli Lloyd a reason to do a madness?
In the end the answers to those questions can be found in the 2-0 scoreline for the US. The team had a decent performance against a tough side that was organized and looked to take its chances on the counter. Ultimately, the US perhaps caught Sweden a little unprepared at the start of both halves as goals from Lindsey Horan and Own Goal would carry the day for the Americans.
Oscar Niemeyer’s Revenge
The seven changes that Sweden made following their 5-1 win against Thailand was called shocking by one Swedish outlet. Perhaps the Swedes were already looking to the next round or didn’t want to tip their hand should they face the US again in the competition with their first choice XI. Whatever the case, it would be a lot of changes...
Här är Sveriges chockelva mot USA – gör sju ändringar • Följ gruppfinalen härhttps://t.co/MF7mhpbpYS— Expressen (@Expressen) June 20, 2019
They may have had good reason to be worried. It would not take long for the US to make their intentions known in the game as Lindsey Horan scored on a corner kick in the 3rd minute.
#WWCTelemundo ¡No perdonan una! apenas inicia el encuentro y la primera oportunidad que tienen y no la desaprovechan, @LindseyHoran abre el marcador— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) June 20, 2019
Suecia 0-1 Estados Unidos pic.twitter.com/R7MXwmzUlg
Attention world, the near post is not safe when the US takes a corner. The goal would open things up in the match a bit as Sweden tried to come upfield looking for an equalizer, but the US would continue to dominate as the team searched for a second goal.
It seemed like the possession based tactics that the US began adopting in recent years was paying off. The team was dangerous as the half wore on pushing down the flanks and pinning the Swedes back in their final third. Still, the final ball was lacking and the US struggled to trouble keeper Hedvig Lindahl. Here, Heath pushed forward and a nice bit of technique beat her marker(s), but she failed to get anything out of it other than a corner - however her persistence would pay off later.
Just @TobinHeath doing Tobin Heath things https://t.co/tggkYxJVbo— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 20, 2019
Sweden would ask questions of the US backline as the half wore on. They were’t exactly dangerous, but when the pushed forward with numbers it seemed like the Swedes at least had ideas. In the 40th minute, it seemed like the team would have a good chance as Sofia Jakobsson would find space on the right at the top of the US 18 yard box. Luckily the pass was behind her and Crystal Dunn had time to retreat back to her wide position and make a play. After a long cross to nobody was pushed away by Alyssa Naeher, the half would end at 1-0.
The second 45 would begin with the US making a change at striker seeing Alex Morgan come off for Carli Lloyd. Morgan had come up slightly limping once or twice in the first half.
It would again be a quick score for the US as play got underway. I have one word for this: Tobiñhoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. I have more words for this - Heath took a touch, another touch, another touch, found a few inches of space and then fired a shot over Sweden’s defense and keeper.
Magic from @TobinHeath. ✨#ThornsInFrance | #FIFAWWC https://t.co/6MSySMfazL— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) June 20, 2019
After a review of Carli Lloyd being offside it was apparently not clear and not obvious enough that she impacted the play and the goal stood... though it would later be credited as an own goal as apparently it was clear and obvious that Heath tried a cross.
The US would further dominate in the match as the Sweden chances became fewer and further between. Still, the US didn’t seem to want to let up. Holding a 2-0 lead Jill Ellis made another sub in the 63rd minute as Christen Press came on for Rose Lavelle. The change didn’t quite translate to more chances as the Stars and Stripes would hold possession but fail to break through for a third time.
After a tough game where she struggled to make an impact, Megan Rapinoe came off for Mallory Pugh in the 83rd. To be fair, it seemed like the gameplan was for the focus of the attack to come from the right so Rapinoe was fairly isolated on the left. That with Dunn perhaps caught between two minds with her attacking and defensive responsibilities as a no. 10 playing left back meant that the US had issues all over the left side of the field perhaps limiting Rapinoe’s effectiveness.
Short of a one v. one with Carli Lloyd firing a shot into the keeper, the US wouldn’t create much more and after 7 minutes of stoppage the game ended in a 2-0 win.
American Hero of the Game: Hope Solo
SHE WAS RIGHT THEY PLAYED LIKE COWARDS.
No, really come on, it’s Tobin Heath. She was absolutely electric on the night forcing an own goal and drawing defenders to her throughout the match. Heath has finally started reaching her potential in recent seasons. She’s always had technique in abundance but putting it together with a final product is an obvious step up in her game. Own goal or not, she was the player of the match and her second goal showed her ability and growth.
Le Volcan - Scène nationale du Havre
The box scored shows how much the US had possession. Outside of a few iffy moments in defense, it never seemed like Sweden was going to do much to trouble the US goal. Still, the play by Jakobsson might give Ellis reason to start Tierna Davidson against more attack minded sides.
The player stats show that Lindsey Horan would not get a yellow card, meaning she’s still a yellow away from missing the game after the team takes on Spain should she pick one up here. Thanks FIFA.
Phase one of Operation Fourth Star is complete. Things get less forgiving from here on out if the WNT should slip up as a flawed but exciting Spain team awaits in the next round.