American Ladies Fall to Swedes


United States 1 : 2 Sweden

The United States entered their last group fixture with the game to lose, and that’s unfortunately exactly what happened. Sweden capitalized on two defensive errors and set pieces to take top seeding in Group C.

The US had a 15-0-2 record for all time group play, and had never lost to Sweden in World Cup play. The two oldest teams in the tournament were playing to see who would draw Brazil for the quarterfinals this weekend. So going forward the US will have to focus on taking down Marta and Rosana to advance to the semi-finals.

US coach Pia Sundhage made two changes to her line-up to start, replacing Lori Lindsey with the experienced Shannon Boxx at center midfield, and finally giving Megan Rapinoe her much fought for starting spot at right midfielder taking out an injured Heather O’Reilly.

Lauren Cheney started her dominance of the left side of the field early, serving several balls from the outside across the field and into the penalty area.

Hope Solo, largely untested so far in this World Cup, was called into early action in the 7th minute. Lotta Schelin received the ball off of an error by Carli Lloyd, who headed the ball backwards allowing the Swede to run onto it without fear of an offside repercussion. Defensive errors were a prevailing issue for the favored US side. Solo faced down Schelin in a one-on-one and blocked the shot with her feet from the upper part of the penalty area.

In the 15th minute, Amy Le Peillbet recklessly jumped into Schelin, earning a yellow card and giving the Swedish side a penalty kick. The attempt was taken by Lisa Dahlkvist to the high left side, grazing the fingertips of Solo’s injured arm into the back of the net.

The penalty kick took a lot of wind out the Americans’ play, they had difficulty afterwards in launching counter attacks and regaining their trademark field position and shape.

However, in the 20th minute Abbie Wambach received a great cross from Amy Rodriguez’ on the left side. She laid it off to Cheney running in at the top of the box, but her shot went wide. A few moments later Cheney got another powerful shot that buzzed the crossbar.

The one real bright spot of the American’s game was their left side. Between Cheney and Rodriguez, most of the offense originated from this side. Rapinoe on the right side struggled to be a target player. She had several free kicks and crosses, but lacked the control in placing the ball, often going over and wide.

Sweden’s speed and love of through balls in the air put tremendous pressure on the US defense, used to cutting plays off when they played against Colombia and Korea, and not running down play after play. Sweden utilized their center very well against the American side, most of their most dangerous plays threaded through Boxx and Lloyd. The US was not as adept today in moving the ball to their strongest areas: the wings.

In the 32nd minute, it looked like Rodriguez was going to equalize after running onto a through ball, beating defender Charlottte Rohlin and forcing goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl to come strong off of her line. Rodriguez tipped the ball over the keeper, but it hit the crossbar and went out of bounds.

The US gave up many dangerous balls from fouls and poor clears. In the 35th minute, a free kick from outside the penalty box taken by Nilla Fishcer curved around the American wall and bounced off of Le Peillbet’s thigh to take a hard deflection towards the opposite post away from Solo. Le Peillbet, while a definite force for good on the offensive half of the field, struggled closer to home and was eventually pulled in the 59th minute.

The game continued to be choppy, punctuated by careless arms and legs leading to lots of fouls. In the first half alone, Sweden tallied 10 fouls and the US 5. The US actually held more possession in the first half (54%) and outshot the Swedes 12-5, but were cursed with not being able to get the ball on frame.

The second half started with a surprising sub by the trailing side as Sundhage replaced Rodriguez with Alex Morgan up top instead of choosing Wambach to take a rest in light of their quarterfinal game this weekend.

The US had been a second half team in both of their other matches of the tournament, and they certainly restarted play with a new attitude of urgency. Cheney and Boxx continued to create opportunities. Rapinoe also had more to do in the second half, but still the US was held scoreless. Sweden was not very dangerous in the second half until the 57th minute when Fisher bulleted a shot from the top of the penalty area that went wide right.

Finally though, the US were able to get on the board. A corner kick in the 64th minute found Wambach’s, who put it just inside the left post. This was the first goal for Wambach and also the first goal scored on Sweden in this tournament.

A quick attempt after kick off almost gave Cheney a much-deserved equalizer, but her header went wide.

Even all of Cheney’s efforts couldn’t lift the US team, and the Americans fell to a surprise second seeding in Group C after outshooting Sweden 20-9. They will thus face Brazil on Sunday in the quarterfinals and Sweden will take on Australia, who also won their last fixture earlier today against Norway.


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