The United States Women’s National Team successfully kicked off the Vlatko Andonovski era at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, OH, beating Sweden, 3-2. A crowd of 20,903 braved the cold to see Carli Lloyd score a first-half brace and set up a Christen Press goal.
Sweden capitalized on a pair of late mistakes by the U.S. to make things interesting but the Yanks held on. Anna Anvegard scored a second-half brace for the visitors on one U.S. mistake and a moment of tragic comedy and Lloyd missed a hat trick bid from the penalty spot.
Alyssa Naeher took her customary spot in front of goal, with a back line (left to right) of Casey Short, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Emily Sonnett. Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle flanked Julie Ertz in the midfield of the 4-3-3, with Lloyd up top between Press and Tobin Heath.
It took until only the sixth minute for the United States to draw first blood. Horan passed to Short on the left flank and the Chicago fullback beautifully fed Press to send her into the left side of the penalty area. Press centered the ball for Lloyd, who buried it to make it 1-0.
Lloyd had a shot at an early brace with a free header off a corner kick but she couldn’t get much power on the shot and it was a comfortable save for Hedvig Lindahl.
Kosovare Asllani sent a shot at Naeher in the 11th minute for the first Sweden shot of the evening and Lina Hurtig was denied an easy goal a minute later when Sonnett made a vital clearance right in front of goal.
The game settled down a bit for the next 15 minutes as Sweden won a couple of corners but couldn’t do anything with them. The USWNT then nearly doubled the lead in the 26th minute when Heath slipped Press down the right. Press cut back a cross just a tad behind Horan who went down under contact in front of goal but the referee didn’t see anything in it despite the Portland star’s protestations.
Two minutes later, the Yanks did double the lead. Lloyd flicked a ball through for Press to run onto down the left. Press faked right, went left, then beat Lindahl with a shot that the goalkeeper got a touch on but it got through for the Utah Royals forward’s 50th career international goal in the 28th minute.
Lloyd made it 3-0 in the 31st minute. Heath took a beating to get a flicked header in behind and Lloyd timed it perfectly to collect the ball before sending a gorgeous chip shot over Lindahl.
There were a few half chances from the U.S. after that but that was it for the scoring in the opening period. The Yanks took the 3-0 lead to the break and it looked easy at times against FIFA’s fifth-ranked team.
The second half was a bit sloppier owing to both teams substituting liberally. The U.S. got a few decent looks but kept firing them right at Lindahl. Sweden didn’t get many opportunities but finally did pull one back in the 75th minute.
Off a corner kick, the U.S. looked to break out on the counter after a clearance by second-half sub Andi Sullivan. But the Yanks couldn’t maintain possession as they came out of their defensive third and Sweden took advantage, getting a numbers advantage in the area and Anvegard pulled one back for the visitors.
Anvegard scored again just moments later. A long ball out of the back should have been no trouble for the U.S. but Naeher and Sauerbrunn completely flubbed their communication and the Swedish substitute completed her brace to make it 3-2 in the 78th minute.
The United States had a chance for an insurance goal in the 81st when Short intercepted a ball and ran into the Sweden penalty area. Sofia Jakobsson fouled her from behind and the ref pointed to the spot. Lloyd stepped up to complete her hat trick and skied her shot over the bar.
After a few more half-chances for each team the whistle ended things at 3-2. The U.S. improved to 19-1-3 in 2019 with one game remaining in the calendar year and 23-6-11 in the all-time series against the Swedes.
The USWNT will be back in action Sunday night in Jacksonville against Costa Rica.