Philly Sports Live

USWNT Draw Sweden, Secure Place in the Final

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Monday saw the group match for the US Women’s National Team that fans have been waiting for; playing a Pia Sundhage coached Sweden. How would the US do against their former coach? Would Sweden have an advantage? What was the US out to prove? The game certainly lived up to it’s hype. As the final whistle blew in Lagos, Portugal the US had fought back to earn a draw against former coach Pia Sundhage’s Sweden.

The game didn’t start out exactly as the US would have hoped when in just the fourth minute, Lisa Dahlvkist sent a bomb from 40 yards out into the back of the US net behind ‘keeper Ashlyn Harris. Harris had just stopped Sweden forward Lotta Schelin on a breakaway, just to see the ball skip out to Dahlvkist, who stuck it into the top right corner for an early 1-0 lead. The US had to shake off the early goal and find a way to get themselves back in the game. In the eighth minute, Abby Wambach saw her header go just wide of the Sweden goal. Shortly after, midfielder Shannon Boxx blocked a goal bound shot from Sweden’s Caroline Seger at the top of the penalty area. The US had another shot go just wide in the 18th minute when Megan Rapinoe put her shot just wide of the Sweden goal from about 20 yards out. Sweden frustrated the US in the first half, while producing dangerous counter-attacks of their own. Kelley O’Hara made a great run down the left hand side and took a shot at goal, just to see her effort go wide. As the first half was winding down, the US seemed to be putting Sweden on their heels.

The US regrouped at the half and came out ready to take control of the game. The breakthrough goal for the US came in the 56th minute when Alex Morgan headed a Megan Rapinoe corner-kick past Sweden keeper Kristin Hammarstrom. Morgan was able to find the back of the net for the first time in a young 2013, but certainly has made her presence felt in other ways. Morgan has posted four assists in just four games this year for the National team, making play after play to disrupt opposing team’s defenses.

The US wasn’t ready to give up on the attack just yet. Just one minute later, in the 57th minute, Abby Wambach sent a sliding shot just wide off another Megan Rapinoe cross. In the 60th minute, Heather O’Reilly made a trademark run down the right side of the field that Kristin Hammarstrom pushed clear. Alex Morgan’s follow up was blocked by a Sweden defender and never made it on goal.  Sweden kept the pressure coming, but was unable to unlock the US defense to really test Harris in net. Desperate to maintain the tie, the US defense rose to the occasion and kept Sweden from scoring a vital second goal. The US was also looking for that second goal that would definitely send them into the Algarve Cup finals, but it never came. The draw was enough to see the US advance to the finals of the Algarve Cup for the 10th time in the past 11 years.

This year’s final will see the US take on number two ranked Germany for the title. The last time that the US faced Germany in an Algarve Cup final was in 2006, when the US lost on penalty kicks. You can imagine that they will be looking for a different outcome this time around. This will certainly be an important game for the US as they are set to face Germany on April 6th in a pre-Women’s Euro friendly. Tom Sermanni will certainly get a good look at his new team, when they take the field against Germany; the team that is chasing them in the world rankings for the coveted number one spot.

While Ashlyn Harris had a solid game in goal for the US earning her first National team CAP, expect to see veteran Nicole Barnhart suit up for the title game. Sermanni certainly has his work cut out for him when selecting the team that he will field for the final. He will be without the services of goalkeeper Jill Loyden, who broke a bone in her left hand during training before the China game, and midfielder Carli Lloyd who sustained a broken bone in her left shoulder against Iceland. There is certainly no lack of depth in the US midfield, but the challenge that Sermanni faces is which combination will be the best fit against Germany. We shall certainly see on Wednesday when the US squares off against them in the Algarve Cup final.

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