WNT Returns to the Field in January for Olympic Qualifying in Vancouver, B.C.
The U.S. Women’s National Team came from behind to earn a 1-1 tie with Sweden in front of a record crowd of 18,482 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The largest crowd to ever watch a Women’s National Team game in Arizona saw the USA dominate Sweden in possession and shots but the thrilling encounter ended all square following Tobin Heath’s second half goal from a rebound of an Alex Morgan shot.
“I am very happy that we were patient with the system,” said Sundhage, whose team lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. “The most important thing is that we are comfortable with the system and that we did we create chances. It was a great warm-up game for qualification. It was very important that we scored that goal, it was a fantastic goal and we deserved it.”
It was the last international match of the year for the U.S. team, which now earns some additional time off after a busy year that saw them reach the final of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. The team will regroup in early December for a training camp at The Home Depot Center as Sundhage continues to evaluate players for the roster that will compete in CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in January in Vancouver, B.C. The top two finishers in that tournament will earn a berth to the London 2012 Olympics next summer.
The U.S. was looking for its first win against Sweden this year after losing the first two encounters and the WNT started the game on the attack. After eight minutes, midfielder Carli Lloyd played a ball wide to Amy Rodriguez, who is playing at flank midfield in the USA’s new formation rather than her usual forward slot. Rodriguez took a touch and cut the ball onto her right foot before skimming a shot just wide from 12 yards out.
In the 16th minute Shannon Boxx would have a shot from a similar area, bringing the best out of Sweden goalkeeper Kristin Hammarstrom who dove to keep out the low drive.
While the U.S. was controlling most of the ball, Sweden still remained dangerous. Star striker Lotta Schelin, a nominee for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, caused the U.S. defense problems with her physical play and enthusiastic running. In the 19th minute she nearly latched onto a ball over the top but some speedy defending from U.S. captain Christie Rampone and a well-timed clearance from goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart thwarted the attack.
Sweden capitalized on one of their few opportunities in the first half when Sofia Jakobbson opened the scoring in the 28th minute. The forward picked up the ball in the right side of the U.S. 18-yard box before sidestepping Rachel Buehler and curling a beautiful strike around Rampone and passed the outstretched Barnhart.
The goal was against the run of play and, undeterred, the U.S. set out for an equalizer. Midfielder Lauren Cheney, playing in a central role as part of the USA’s 4-2-3-1, was crafting chance after the chance with her excellent range of passing.
In the 35th minute Cheney’s corner was headed back across goal by Boxx and over from close range by Abby Wambach.
Five minutes later Cheney turned her marker in the box before laying the ball off deftly for Boxx, whose shot rattled against the crossbar to send the USA into the halftime break down 1-0.
The second half picked up where the first left off with the USA crafting most of the chances and the excellent play of Boxx and Cheney setting the pace.
In the 67th minute midfielder Heather O’Reilly embarked on a lung-busting run spanning nearly the length of the field after the USA cleared a set play. O’Reilly went end-to-end to force an excellent block from a Sweden defender.
The U.S. was dominant but still unable to find the net. Second-half substitute Heather Mitts overlapped Boxx and lifted a tantalizing ball to the far post to Wambach’s. The target forward leaped over her defender but her header came back off the inside of the left post to keep the score 1-0.
It proved to be her last involvement in the game as in the 74th minute Sundhage sent on forward Alex Morgan to try to stretch the Sweden defense. That tactic worked and almost immediately the speedy striker began to find the space that would eventually lead to the tying goal.
In the 78th minute Cheney again showed wonderful vision to set up Morgan inside the area, but the substitute was so unlucky to see her shot from 14 yards beat the Sweden goalkeeper but not the right upright. The unlucky bounce off the inside of the post meant the U.S. had hit the crossbar and both posts in the game.
But three minutes later the USA’s sustained pressure throughout the game paid off. O’Reilly played Morgan over the top and the forward turned on a dime to free up space in the penalty area. Her left-footed shot was saved well by Hammarstrom, but Heath was lurking to follow up the rebound with a first-time shot from close range in the 81st minute.
There was still time for a few more chances for the WNT, with Morgan again causing danger to the Swedish defense. But with the USA unable to make one more breakthrough, the score finished 1-1 to bring the curtain down on a memorable year.
The U.S. Women’s National Team now looks towards the Olympic Qualifying from Jan. 19-29 in Vancouver, B.C. The USA will face Dominican Republic on Friday, Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. PT and Guatemala on Sunday, Jan. 22 (4:30 p.m. PT), before finishing Group B play against Mexico on Tuesday, Jan. 24 (7:30 p.m. PT).
U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Sweden
Date: Nov. 19, 2011
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Ariz.
Kickoff: 7 p.m. MT
Weather: clear, warm; 68 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
SWE 1 0 1
SWE – Sofia Jakobsson 28th minute
USA – Tobin Heath (Alex Morgan)81
USA: 18-Nicole Barnhart; 11-Ali Krieger (2-Heather Mitts, 46), 19-Rachel Buehler, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (14-Stephanie Cox, 74); 9-Heather O’Reilly, 10-Carli Lloyd, 7-Shannon Boxx, 8-Amy Rodriguez (17-Tobin Heath, 46), 12-Lauren Cheney; 20-Abby Wambach (13-Alex Morgan, 74)
Subs not used: 6-Amy LePeilbet, 16-Lori Lindsey, 21-Jill Loyden
Head coach: Pia Sundhage
SWE: 12-Kristin Hammarstrom; 2-Emma Berglund, 3-Linda Sembrant, 4-Annica Svensson, 6-Sara Thunebro; 17-Lisa Dahlkvist, 18-Nilla Fischer (capt.), 14-Johanna Almgren (22-Louise Fors, 61); 10-Sofia Jakobsson (20-Susanne Moberg, 87), 9-Jessica Landstrom (16-Madelaine Edlund, 75), 8-Lotta Schelin
Subs not used: 1-Hedvig Lindahl, 5-Marina Pettersson Engstrom, 7-Sara Larsson, 13-Emmelie Konradsson, 19-Jessica Samuelsson
Head coach: Thomas Dennerby
Statistical Summary: USA / SWE
Shots: 19 / 6
Shots on Goal: 11 / 4
Saves: 3 / 9
Corner Kicks: 10 / 4
Fouls: 6 / 7
Offside: 1 / 1
SWE – Sofia Jakobsson (caution) 33rd minute
Referee: Kari Seitz (USA)
AR1: Marlene Duffy (USA)
AR2: Veronica Perez (USA)
4th Official: Paul Nothman (USA)
Bud Light Woman of the Match: Shannon Boxx