Welcome to your open thread for freedom.
The United States Women's National Team looks to clinch a spot in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup knockout round today with a victory over Sweden, perhaps the toughest opponent in the so-called "Group of Death." If you thought Australia offered some resistance on Monday, wait until you get a load of the Swedes.
A FIFA Top 10 team, Sweden will be a stiff test for Jill Ellis's team. They are resolute defenders and have multiple attackers that can create problems up top. Sweden is FIFA's fifth-ranked team, compared to the U.S. at No. 2 (Germany is No. 1). Australia entered the tournament at No. 10. The other team in the group is Nigeria, ranked only 33rd but it is the top team in Africa and blessed with lots of speed and athleticism, which created problems for Sweden on Monday.
The Americans are coming off a 3-1 win over a game Australia side in the tournament opener. In truth, the USWNT did not play very well at times in the match. Abby Wambach didn't receive much service and wasn't effective the few times she did. The midfield gave the ball up too cheaply, and the defensive coverage was spotty at times. Even Megan Rapinoe, who will be lauded by many for her two goals, had numerous bad passes, often ignored midfield partner Lauren Holiday, and tried some pretty ambitious shots that didn't come close.
But Hope Solo was amazing in the U.S. net, and she sometimes had to be, particularly early in the match. Solo could do nothing about Australia's lone goal, as it came on some beautiful build-up play and quick movement by the Matildas, and no one bothered to mark Lisa De Vanna at the back post.
Ellis will want to see more chances taken from the likes of Christen Press and Sydney Leroux, who combined for the game-winning goal, but were otherwise extremely quiet against the Aussies. Carli Lloyd was nearly invisible. With the talent the USWNT has in the midfield, they must assert themselves more in the game for the U.S. to play at optimal levels.
When Tobin Heath came on in the second half, the midfield looked completely different, controlling the game, stringing passes together and generally looking more like the United States we've come to expect. It will be interesting to see if Ellis makes any lineup changes. Morgan Brian played very well in the lead-up to the World Cup and Alex Morgan could be ready to start after getting some game action in the latter stages Monday.
Led by former USWNT coach Pia Sundhage, Sweden drew 3-3 in its opener against Nigeria -- one of the more exciting matches of the tournament so far.
Sweden took a 2-0 lead on a Nigeria own-goal and defender Nilla Fischer's tap-in off a corner kick scramble. The Nigerians pulled level just after halftime with goals three minutes apart by Ngozi Okobi and Asisat Oshoala, but second-half substitute Linda Sembrant bundled in the go-ahead goal at the hour mark to restore Sweden's lead.
The Super Falcons weren't done though, as Francisca Ordega rescued a point when she beat keeper Hedvig Lindahl through the five-hole in the 87th minute.
Sundhage knows the USWNT's personnel very well. She will know the strengths and weaknesses of virtually every player Jill Ellis can put out there. It will be an interesting chess match between the two coaches, but Ellis had better have her team marking striker Kosovare Asllani, a 25-year-old with 21 international goals in 78 matches.
Sweden can be aggressive here, having picked up no yellow cards in the opener, while Americans Rapinoe and Holiday will have to be careful not to pick up a second, which brings a one-game suspension.
Cheer your team to victory today. Do it for your country. Do it for freedom. Have a hot dog and some apple pie and BE America today.
And don't forget to vote in our poll below.
U.S. Women's National Team (4-4-2):
This could be a different looking side, but I'll err on the side of caution and predict the same starting XI as Monday.
Goalkeeper: Hope Solo
Defenders: Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg
Midfielders: Megan Rapinoe, Lauren Holiday, Carli Lloyd, Morgan Brian
Forwards: Sydney Leroux,Christen Press
How to Watch:
Match time: 8 p.m. (ET)
Venue: Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg, Canada
TV: FOX, NBC Universo
Live Stream: FOX Soccer 2GO USA
Twitter: For rapid reaction and live updates, follow along with @StarsAndStripesFC or via @ussoccer.
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