Friday, September 14, 2007

US Women Shut Out Sweden

USA v Sweden - Women's World Cup report by du Nord reader Adam

Group Stage Match 2:
USA 2-0 Sweden

In their second group game of the Women’s World Cup, the United States recorded their first win of the competition, blanking Sweden 2-0. More importantly, the victory gave the US team three valuable points (four total after the tie against North Korea) and put them in a good position to qualify for the quarterfinals.

With another slow start, the Americans didn’t put on the dominating performance they’d hoped for after a lackluster showing in their first match. Team USA had to survive an early onslaught that saw Sweden earn four corner kicks in the first five minutes of the match. Hope Solo did well to punch two of those attempts out of her box, quickly putting to rest any doubt that she should be the starting keeper after her unfortunate blunder in the North Korea game.

The Swedes kept the US pinned into their defensive end for the first 20 minutes of the match, as the Americans struggled to clear the ball past midfield. So far, teams in this tournament seem to have adopted the same tactic to beat the United States: throw numbers forward and try to sneak in a goal as early in the game as possible. But, against Sweden, the US weathered the storm.

In the 20th minute, the United States began to calm down as defender Cat Whitehill floated a free kick into the Swedish penalty box that Sweden’s keeper, Hedvig Lindahl, had to tip wide at the last moment. Lindahl looked shaky each time the US players tested her in the first half and made a mistake that led to the USA’s first goal.

Lindahl misjudged a ball Kate Markgraf sent into the Swedish box in the 33rd minute. The ball looped over the keeper’s head toward goal, and Swedish defender Stina Segerstrom brought down Lori Chalupny in the box as the US midfielder tried to redirect the ball into the Swedish goal. Abby Wambach converted the ensuing penalty kick, giving the United States the lead before halftime.

To start the second half, US coach Greg Ryan subbed defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx in for Carli Lloyd, trying to protect his team’s one goal lead. Boxx’s presence calmed the United States and enabled them to maintain possession. In a passing sequence in the 58th minute, Kristine Lilly freed herself on the left flank and played a ball in the air behind the Swedish defenders. Wambach chested the ball down to her left foot and hit a beautiful half-volley into the Swedish goal.

After the second goal, Sweden couldn’t maintain the high energy they had throughout the first half and resorted to sending long balls at the US backline. The best chance of the second half for Sweden came in the 79th minute when Hope Solo had to punch an errant cross from Victoria Svensson over the US goal.

Coach Ryan’s decision to start Leslie Osborne paid off; Osborne won tackles and aerial duels all over the field. Lindsay Tarpley, getting her first start in this World Cup, sent her best chance of the match wide of the Swedish goal and was subbed off for Heather O’Reilly in the 67th minute.

The US did well to thwart the Swedes in the second half and keep the dangerous scoring duo, Victoria Svensson and Hanna Ljungberg, quiet for most of the match. But, the Americans looked vulnerable in the early going and had trouble winning 50-50 balls, much like they did against North Korea. With their first two group games finished, the US has relied too heavily on numerous long passes out of their defensive end. Bypassing the midfield is an atypical style for the Americans, who are at their best when they play a possession-based game. If they want to continue to progress in the tournament, the midfield needs to become more of a factor.

In the other game from group B, North Korea beat Nigeria, 2-0, and now sit tied with the US in first place with 4 points and an identical goal differential. The final two group games, to be played Tuesday, September 18, will determine which two teams reach the quarterfinals. The Sweden-North Korea match should be brutal since anything less than a win for the Scandinavians will send them packing. And while the US would still mathematically have a chance to advance with a tie against Nigeria, they’ll be gunning for a big win to overtake North Korea on goal differential.

FIFA match reports, video highlights and much more.

Post-game quotes from USA coach Greg Ryan & USA players.

And tons more great official USA Women's team stuff (blog, audio, video, photos, news & stories) from US Soccer.

See the third and final group stage match for the USA.
USA v Nigeria
Tuesday September 17 at 7:00am central time, live from Shanghai.


Blogger mamacita chilena said...

Great write up! Between the highlights and this article I ALMOST feel like I was able to watch the game.

I tried to order a special package of cable last night to try and get ESPN2 down here in Chile, but it turns out that channel isn't offered in South America. Dang, I'm stuck.

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out myp2p and see if anyone is steaming the game. i use sopcast and it works quite well.

5:31 PM  
Blogger mamacita chilena said...

what is myp2p? give me a link or tell me where to find it and I'll be forever grateful!

12:02 AM  

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