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Match recap: USA escapes Sweden game with 1-1 result

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It took a penalty for the US to get a result.

Sweden v USA - Women’s International Friendly Photo by Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams

The United States started off their game against Sweden absorbing early pressure as Sweden came out kicking in a 3-4-3, getting bodies up in midfield and putting three to four players on the US back line.

The United States responded by looking for mistakes and pouncing. They pushed back and applied their high line of pressure on Sweden’s back line through their forwards when they could. But Sweden gave as good as they got for the entire half, doing some absorbing of their own while probing forward.

The US eventually began backing off their high line of confrontation, inviting Sweden to make the first pass into US territory, pushing them wide and swarming them there. The US certainly had the most of the middle of the pitch, with all of Ertz, Horan, and Lavelle circulating or carrying the ball out of the middle. Lavelle certainly had some moments to shine in the middle of the half, either taking advantage of a ball through breaking Sweden’s first line and eating the ensuing space to pick out a target, or trailing behind to pick up a late ball in a deeper position. She had the best US chance in the 21’ when Williams drove hard at the Sweden defense, pushing back two defenders and opening up a nice pocket behind her, where Lavelle was lingering. Williams dropped the ball back and Lavelle blasted a great left-footed shot that the goalkeeper was forced to tip wide.

Sweden responded with quick attacks, striking hard at speed, but the US was able to collapse together and contain them, with everyone compressing in front of Sweden. The US followed this pattern of compress, then break the first and second Sweden lines, followed by an inability to pick out the final pass or finish in the final third. Either it was Williams not breaking with Lloyd, or Lloyd skying the ball, or Press with a turnover, or a cross with no head to find it, or a player running onto a ball over called for offside, and on it went.

Finally, Sweden got their chance on a set play in the 38’ as Asllani delivered a corner kick. Hurtig beat everyone around her as she rose for the ball, and Naeher compounded things by coming off her line but not making it to the ball for the punch. Hurtig’s header opened Sweden’s account to make it 1-0. The US mostly recovered, but they did look slightly frazzled trying to close out the half and perhaps equalize to get the momentum back. The half ended with a bad giveaway from Horan, which allowed Rolfo to fight off her defender and get in one-on-one with Naeher. Naeher went low and got a big body block on Rolfo’s shot to at least keep it 1-0 going into the halftime.

The United States started the second half with no changes to the lineup.

The Us tried to get their wide players engaged, with Dunn looking for the ball in. They had a nervy moment in the 55’ as Sweden once again broke towards goal. Naeher came off her line to challenge as the last defender couldn’t keep pace, but got juked. Davidson scrambled to the line to cover, while Sweden somehow wasn’t able to pass back to their late-arriving players in a way that let them shoot one time, and so the US had a narrow escape from another goal.

In the 57’ Megan Rapinoe came on for Lynn Williams, taking up the left forward position with Christen Press switching to the right. Rapinoe looked to make an immediate impact, trying to open up the game with her presence in that high wide space. Lloyd and Horan were able to work the ball to her with one-touch ball and Rapinoe was able to get in and fire off a hard shot, but it was directly at the keeper at the near post.

The game slowed down somewhat after that, with the US trying to spread out and stretch play. In the 65’ Alex Morgan came on for Carli Lloyd. It wasn’t Lloyd’s best game; she wasn’t quite calibrated on target for this one. Sam Mewis also subbed on for Rose Lavelle, which is slightly frustrating for those who really like them as a midfield duo, but also if you’re keeping Horan on, is a very reasonable decision.

Morgan similarly looked to inject the game with some energy, once again bringing that higher line of pressure and working as a target for balls over. The US felt like it perked up in the last 10 minutes of the game, trying to ratchet up the energy for the equalizer. She and Mewis made for a good combo, with Morgan either holding up play and looking for Mewis to arrive late, or Mewis trying to set up Morgan in return.

Horan also tried to open up room for Mewis to work, drawing off defenders to open up the space, but Sweden stayed organized and tough on defense. The US had to do their fair share of defensive recoveries here too, with Horan certainly earning that box-to-box mantle.

In the 85’, Kristie Mewis came on for Christen Press, which pushed Horan into the forward line. Immediately after, O’Hara got taken down on the very edge of the box, making for a dubious penalty call. But the US took it, and Rapinoe scored to make it 1-1.

Sweden kept up their attack on the US right side, but Tierna Davidson stayed steady, cutting off Sweden’s last real look with some smart body work. The game ended at 1-1. There will no doubt be questions; the US having trouble in the final third has been a recurring issue. Press, Lloyd, and Williams all had a substandard game, Morgan is obviously working her way back to full strength, and Rapinoe doesn’t seem to be a 90-minute player in Andonovski’s eyes. The team wasn’t really able to engage Dunn and O’Hara from the wings either, and O’Hara had a bad game on top of that. But it was good for the US to hit this Swedish wall now, rather than in the thick of the Olympics. We’ll see how they respond against France.