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SportsUSWNT already in robust spot after dropping to Sweden in Olympics

USWNT already in robust spot after dropping to Sweden in Olympics

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Vlatko Andonovski coached the ladies’s nationwide soccer crew for 21 months and 24 video games earlier than experiencing what he skilled Wednesday.

A loss.

And not simply any loss, as a result of the 3-0 defeat to Sweden within the opening recreation of the Tokyo Olympics leaves the Americans with no room for error in its subsequent two group-stage video games with New Zealand and Australia.

“It’s not something we expected,” Andonovski stated.

“Obviously, we put ourselves in a big hole. But we’re the only ones that can get ourselves out of it.”

Forward Megan Rapinoe was equally as stark.

“You drop points in the beginning of the tournament, now you’re in sort of do-or-die mode,” she stated. “You’ve got to pick up points. Otherwise, we’re going home real quick.”

The U.S. went dwelling from the 2016 Rio Games early after being eradicated by Sweden on penalty kicks within the quarterfinals, marking the primary time the Americans didn’t play within the gold-medal last. But even that loss wasn’t as surprising as Wednesday’s outcome, which ended a 15-game unbeaten streak in Olympic play and a 44-game unbeaten streak total.

The three targets the U.S. gave up in 72 minutes had been one fewer than it had given up in 24 video games mixed beneath Andonovski. And with the Americans failing to get a aim of their very own for the primary time in 4 years, Wednesday’s defeat was the worst since a 4-0 beating by Brazil within the semifinal of the 2007 Women’s World Cup.

That’s not the type of historical past Andonovski hoped to make in his first worldwide event as coach.

Sweden defender Jonna Andersson, proper, tries to manage the ball whereas beneath stress from U.S. ahead Tobin Heath throughout Wednesday’s match.

(Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press)

“I don’t remember the last time we gave up a goal,” Rapinoe stated. “So, to give up three is not great. But it is what it is. Now we know exactly what we need to do. We need to win these games.”

They received’t do this taking part in like they did Wednesday, after they appeared to cross the ball to Sweden extra typically than they did to their very own teammates, defended lazily and failed to complete quite a lot of scoring probabilities within the second half.

“They were capitalizing on our mistakes,” captain Becky Sauerbrunn stated. “We were giving the ball away, and they were capitalizing on it.”

But the outcome wasn’t the one factor uncommon concerning the recreation.

There was no visitors round Tokyo Stadium, no followers milling about inside or exterior the cavernous bowl. The participant introductions had been greeted with silence, not cheers. The nationwide anthems performed to 48,000 empty seats.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games logo is seen in Tokyo on January 28, 2021.

Tokyo Olympics Coverage

If there had been any doubt that these pandemic-delayed Games can be completely different, it was dispelled within the first half in opposition to Sweden.

The gamers had been audible from the second stage as they shouted at each other. Goals and nice saves had been acknowledged by no matter applause the seven substitutes on every crew’s bench may muster — and by Andrés Cantor, whose signature cry of gooooooolllllll might be heard as clearly within the stadium because it was on Telemundo.

It was an eerie tableau.

“The atmosphere sucked a little bit,” Rapinoe stated.

“You go to a major tournament, that’s one of the best parts, just the buzz that we get. We should be thankful that we even have a tournament, but, yeah, definitely changed the dynamic a lot.”

If Sweden, ranked fifth on the planet by FIFA, was bothered by that, it didn’t present. Playing off the entrance foot from the beginning, the Swedes compelled U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher into 4 sprawling saves within the opening 24 minutes earlier than a well-marked Stina Blackstenius lastly beat her, stepping in entrance of defender Abby Dahlkemper to nod dwelling an ideal right-footed Sofia Jakobsson cross from the sting of the penalty space.

It was the primary aim that the top-ranked U.S. had allowed in seven video games and 592 minutes — or for the reason that final time it performed Sweden. But it wouldn’t be the final, with Blackstenius doubling the lead within the 54th minute, pouncing on a nook kick that had struck the far put up and utilizing her left foot to put it into the highest netting.

The final time the U.S. allowed two targets in the identical recreation was in Andonovski’s debut as coach, a time when the coronavirus was nonetheless months away from altering the sports activities panorama. And when second-half substitute Lina Hurtig added a aim within the 72nd minute, it marked the primary time the U.S. had given up three targets since a 5-3 win over Australia in April 2019, three months earlier than it received the Women’s World Cup.

The U.S. examined Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl 5 instances, however the left goalpost stopped its two greatest probabilities, a Rose Lavelle header within the last minute of the primary half and a close-range shot from Christen Press halfway by the second half.

With the highest two groups in every of the three teams, plus the 2 greatest third-place finishers, advancing to the quarterfinals, the U.S. has a transparent street forward if it wins its subsequent two video games. And the Americans have been right here earlier than, getting shut out by Norway of their Olympic opener in Beijing earlier than rolling by the remainder of the event unbeaten to win the gold medal.

But that was 13 years and 4 coaches in the past. It received’t be as straightforward this time, not in a 12-team subject that features eight of the world’s prime 10 groups and the 4 semifinalists from the final World Cup.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Sauerbrunn stated.

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