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Why the USWNT lost big to Sweden: six reasons behind the Olympic football debacle

By the standards of the United States Women’s National Team, a 3-0 loss in a major competition borders on embarrassment. Not only have the United States never lost by that margin at the Olympics, the idea is that it should never happen to the number one team in the world, tournament favorites and defending Cup champions. of the world, who are on a 44-game unbeaten streak. This caused consternation in the fan base.

The 3-0 loss to 5th-ranked Sweden was not good, but it was also an anomaly and the product of several factors that all contributed to the USWNT’s heaviest loss in 14 years.

New coach for his first big tournament

The broadcasters were calling for it and you were probably shouting the same thing on your screens: “Can the United States hold the ball?” Can someone keep it? It was the viewer’s natural reaction to what was going on in the game: the United States was rushing in attack, spitting quickly, and Sweden coming straight back down their throats in the other direction. The pattern repeated over and over again. It may have been productive for Sweden, but it sidelined the United States and the Americans desperately needed to stop the cycle.

DECOURCY: Losing to Sweden a wake-up call, but USWNT can always win it all

Admittedly, this was head coach Vlatko Andonovsky’s first appearance in a major tournament. Maybe he was reluctant to change some things just 15-20 minutes into that first game in response to some adversity. Still, it was fascinating that neither player felt the need to try to calm things down, deal with the situation and give the team a chance to settle down. As the minutes went by, it was as if the United States got more and more impatient, ran faster at Sweden, threw longer balls and took more risks in the attack.

One of the themes of preparing for the Olympics was Andonovsky’s experiences: his implementation of tactical in-game adjustments and system changes to challenge his players to adapt to situations on the fly. America’s players and coaches faced one of these situations in the first half against Sweden, and we didn’t see any visible adjustments that would have helped change the dynamic or slow down Sweden’s momentum. .

Head scratching replacement

Sam Mewis (below) has consistently been one of America’s top three players leading up to the Olympics. Even when she wasn’t the star, she still did enough on the pitch to make her irreplaceable. But the first adjustment Andonovski chose to make 1-0 against Sweden brought him out with Alex Morgan at half-time. Neither had a great first half, but Mewis has had those barren spells before and is coming out of it eventually.

The thought was probably that keeping Lindsey Horan’s creativity in midfield was necessary since the United States was playing from behind. But Mewis contributes to the attack in other ways with his work pace, runs and ability to combine. It would have been interesting to see what she could have done in a better second half for the United States.

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Obviously the team missed Julie Ertz

The reason the United States were better in the second half was Julie Ertz’s long-awaited entry into the game. We saw how much of a game-changer she can come back from the injury layoff. Sweden’s knife attacks have dissipated – fewer cases of wave after wave of Swedish attacks – and Ertz’s quality has increased the midfielder’s build game. And that’s not necessarily a criticism of his replacement Horan, who complements Ertz well, but doesn’t play the role in the same way.

Sweden boxed Horan to start the game and overwhelmed her with numbers in the first half. This begs the question: if Ertz (below) was fit enough to play for a full half, was she fit enough to start the game and maybe play for 60-70 minutes? Andonovsky will be asked about her a lot in the coming days, especially in light of the next two matches which will become even more important after the loss to Sweden.

Too many players haven’t played

Better to say: there were players who had a game in which their bad games outnumbered the good ones. Crystal Dunn had too many presents and Abby Dahlkemper had defensive gaps; to be fair, they were under constant pressure from the demanding and often pressing Swedes and they were rarely comfortable.

On offense, Tobin Heath had no impact, Alex Morgan did not make a good play on the one chance at a head she had, and Christen Press appeared to be on an island for long stretches of the season. first half, with his involvement resuming in the second half with the improvement of the American game.

MORE: Completing the Women’s Olympic Football Matches and TV Show

Submarine shoal

Since Olympic football coaches have to select a roster of 18 players for the match day from among the 22 available, this gives rise to an interesting debate about who does not take part in these games. Catarina Macario (below) was one of those players who were not selected for the United States team against Sweden and her exclusion was surprising.

Coming into the game, it was not unfathomable to see Sweden take the lead in the game. It is the No. 5 team in the world and the Swedes already did so in the April exhibition against the USA. Macario’s playing ability and 1v1 skills are special enough to have earned a spot on the roster in that event the team usually needs some ideas. Looking back, she would have made an interesting option, but Kristie Mewis (Sam’s sister) was chosen before her. At these Olympics, it’s Macario against Mewis for the substitute midfielder place on the bench. The other is the odd player.

USWNT needs better competition

The tale already goes around that this is the “wake-up call” the USWNT needed to bring it back from the heights of a 44-game unbeaten streak. And while there is some truth to this, it’s not because of any superiority complexes that might have developed over time.

That’s more than the USWNT needed to remember what it was like to play against an elite opponent. They haven’t often faced the top 5 FIFA ranked teams outside of official competitions and as we have seen with Sweden these teams present totally different issues to solve. Since the end of the 2019 World Cup, the United States has played a total of two in friendlies (including Sweden in April, a 1-1 draw on the road), and the COVID-pandemic 19 certainly didn’t play a small part in that. .

After the pandemic, it is clear that the US women’s team must return to more frequent matches against European powers – No.2 Germany, No.3 France, No.4 Netherlands, No.5 Sweden, No.6 England. They have only faced these teams three times since the World Cup final in July 2019. While playing football also solves problems on the pitch, American players have to face problem teams more often.

The end result was bad and the apparent lack of composure was not positive, but it was not the worst performance for the United States. It might sound worse than it actually was due to Sweden’s dangerous effectiveness in slicing the United States, seemingly at will. But the USWNT also created a similar number of opportunities and hit the post twice. However, this match will remain like the one Sweden dominated.

And that could be the byproduct of that game. Sweden has shown that if you can hit the seams of American defense and do it quickly and with numbers, even Americans will succumb: they can be pulled out of position and stretched. in all directions. “They found a lot of space on us,” Megan Rapinoe said twice in the post-match press. And American attackers are not coming back to help defend those spaces during these rapid transitions.

Attack space? Attack the USA? Many opponents, including the low-ranking Olympic tune-up variety, don’t even care. They know they don’t have the athleticism, power, speed and strength to keep up with the USWNT. But the handful of countries that do – and they’re all elite – might try to be a little more daring in the near future. Just like Sweden.

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