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Olympics

How the U.S. Soccer Crew Misplaced to Sweden in Their Olympic Opener

Sweden celebrated after going up 2-0 in the second half. They scored another not long after.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

CHOFU, Japan — 5 years they’d waited for this recreation.

5 years since Sweden had dashed the USA ladies’s soccer group’s hopes for an Olympic gold medal on the 2016 Rio Video games. 5 years since a defeat that compelled the Individuals to look within the mirror and ask onerous questions on their age, their dominance.

5 years of ready, solely to finish up proper again in the identical place.

The US opened the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday simply as they’d ended the Rio Video games 5 years earlier: on the improper finish of a humbling, embarrassing defeat to Sweden. Then it was a loss on penalties within the quarterfinals; this time the outcome was a lot earlier and never practically as shut: Sweden 3, United States 0. However the sting and the assertion baked into the defeat was simply as actual.

“It appears like an enormous deal,” defender Kelley O’Hara had mentioned Tuesday of the rematch on Wednesday. “It feels just like the Olympics. It’s what we’ve waited now 5 years for, to be again right here.”

They simply by no means anticipated it to finish like this.

The defeat was the Individuals’ first in 24 video games beneath Coach Vlatko Andonovski, and their first towards any opponent since a loss to France in January 2019. And it’ll power them to scramble to get better within the Olympic event. Video games towards New Zealand and Australia await in fast succession within the first spherical, and more durable opponents like Britain and the Netherlands may await within the medal spherical.

However first, the Individuals must type out simply what went improper at Tokyo Stadium.

Striker Stina Blackstenius delivered a aim in every half for Sweden on Wednesday, a glancing header within the twenty fifth minute and a point-blank end within the 54th that felt like a simply reward for a dominant Sweden assault that had the Individuals on their heels as early as the sport’s opening minutes.

The US, beneath stress time and again, tried all the things to show the tide. Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz — in her first look in months — got here on at halftime, and Megan Rapinoe entered the sport about 20 minutes later. Even the departure — mercifully, within the Individuals’ view — of Blackstenius within the sixty fourth minute didn’t assist; her substitute merely picked up the place she left off by claiming an open header, and Sweden’s third aim, eight minutes later.

FULL TIME. Sweden notches an enormous upset, 3-0, over the USA! The celebrations are low-key on this empty stadium. The Individuals hold their heads for under a second earlier than lining as much as shake palms with the Swedes.

90′ Press with yet one more probability. She makes a deep run straight by the center of the Swedish protection and will get on the top of a cross from the left facet. However her header drifts too near Lindahl, who fists it away. A minute later Lloyd sends her personal header to the left of the aim and out of bounds.

Credit score…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Occasions

87′ Press chests down a excessive cross from Rapinoe and lashes a right-footed shot towards the far submit. It’s bought a bit an excessive amount of English on it, although, and twists away from the body of the aim. The U.S. is maintaining the stress, however Sweden is sustaining its composure. It’s a very spectacular efficiency from the group in yellow.

Credit score…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Occasions

81′ The Individuals make a few late subs, with defender Tierna Davidson approaching for Crystal Dunn, and midfielder Kristie Mewis getting into the sport for Rose Lavelle.

75′ Two last subs for Sweden, which — given how this has gone up to now — shouid haven’t any bother seeing this out from right here.

73′ Lina Hurtig was being marked by Abby Dahlkemper … till she was not. When Hanna Glas floated a excessive, arcing cross from the suitable sideline, Hurtig was on their own to go it calmly previous Naeher. The celebration was muted; Sweden is in full management, in any case. This feels out of attain for the USA and will likely be a shocking outcome for a group extensively anticipated to win the gold medal.

72′ GOAL! 3-0 Sweden. Woof.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

71′ SO CLOSE FOR THE U.S.! Rapinoe bought free once more on the left facet and threaded a move throughout the mouth of aim to Press, who bought a clear shot off towards aim. However the ball ricocheted off the left submit and finally bounced out of hurt’s manner. They actually wanted that one.

70′ Bjorn goes down (fairly simply) after successful a header towards Lloyd at midfield and takes her time getting up. Sweden is in full-on protect-the-lead mode now.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

69′ Crystal Dunn, excessive up the sphere on the left wing, slips a intelligent ball by the protection to launch Megan Rapinoe to the left of Sweden’s aim. She tries to tear a shot, however the angle feels a bit too tight, and it’s saved simply by Lindahl.

64′ Two subs for Sweden, which (mercifully for the U.S. protection) withdraws Blackstenius.

On the opposite facet, Megan Rapinoe comes on for Heath and takes up a place on Lloyd’s left.

61′ Lavelle blasts a left-footed bomb from deep contained in the U.S. half into the open house behind the Swedish protection, the place Carli Lloyd collects and dribbles right-to-left contained in the field towards the aim. Lloyd’s lefty shot deflects off her defender’s foot, although, and dribbles away harmlessly.

60′ A lot of chatter and hand-clapping from the USA gamers now as they attempt to pin the Swedes deep for a change. However Lavelle and Horan get crossed up on an change, and again the opposite manner we go. Inside a minute, Blackstenius is wheeling within the space for yet one more shot.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

54′ Amanda Ilestedt rose up highest out of the pack to knock a nook kick towards the U.S. aim. The shot bounced off the far submit and dropped to the ft of Blackstenius, who blasted it into the roof of the web from point-blank vary. Naeher was helpless, flailing her arms to no avail. That’s Blackstenius’s second aim, and once more, it feels very a lot deserved for Sweden. The Individuals should scramble now.

54′ GOAL! Sweden doubles its lead! 2-0!

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

54′ Sweden wins a nook, and practically a free header off it, after which one other on the far nook.

If this half is feeling lots like the primary, that’s as a result of it’s enjoying out precisely like the primary.

51′ Kelley O’Hara was trying up at a ball in midair when she acquired a forearm from a Swedish participant between her shoulder blades. She was on the bottom, holding the again of her neck in ache for a few minutes, however seems to be positive.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions
Credit score…Alexandra Garcia/The New York Occasions

48′ Ertz is muscled off the ball by an Asllani and Rolfo sandwich, and the Swedes are in. The shot that outcomes is a screamer however soars simply over the bar.

Lloyd and Ertz approaching.

Ertz is on for Sam Mewis, and enjoying the deep midfield position. That is her first look since sustaining a leg harm in a membership recreation months in the past. Lloyd has changed Alex Morgan within the central striker’s position.

All seven of Sweden’s subs stayed out at halftime, loosening up for potential work within the second half. The US, in the meantime, retreated to the locker room en masse to debate what went improper.

Two gamers have instantly returned, although, to loosen up forward of the others, and they’re an intriguing pair: Carli Lloyd and Julie Ertz.

If it feels uncommon to observe the USA get bossed round for a half, effectively, it ought to. It doesn’t occur typically. However Sweden’s techniques — pressuring Crystal Dunn’s facet with Sofia Jakobsson and others time and again, after which utilizing slashing cuts and main balls down the middle to separate the stretched protection — have left the Individuals on their heels time and again. Naeher has come up huge just a few occasions, however the U.S. assault has been invisible, and due to that the protection simply can’t appear to get its footing and shrug off the stress, which has been relentless.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

HALFTIME. That whistle is likely to be a reduction for the USA, which was on its heels for practically your complete half and — regardless of Lavelle’s late header off the submit — might be fortunate to go in at 1-0.

Megan Rapinoe, who watched the primary half from the bench, bolted out of her seat and sprinted to the mouth of the tunnel to intercept the American starters as they walked off the sphere. She then stood there and high-fived each as they headed for the locker rooms. Might she come on and make a distinction within the second half? It’s clear the U.S. must make some tweaks.

45′ Oooooh that was shut! O’Hara drives a screamer from simply inside Sweden’s half, a hopeful ball that turns into a greater and higher one with each inch nearer to Rose Lavelle. Lavelle, streaking in on the left submit, meets it because it falls with a robust header that beats Lindahl — after which dings off the left submit and again out.

That’s the perfect U.S. probability of the half by far.

Sofia Jakobsson of Sweden tackled Kelley O'Hara of the United States in Sweden’s game against the US in April.
Credit score…Linnea Rheborg/Getty Photographs

This recreation feels, oddly, lots just like the groups’ assembly in April in Stockholm, when Sweden scored on a near-post header within the first half and managed the sport for many of the evening. That’s, till Megan Rapinoe arrived within the nick of time (from the Individuals’ perspective) to grab a late penalty and a 1-1 tie.

Sweden certainly left the stadium that evening feeling good about its efforts towards a group nearly as good as the USA — simply because it should about its first half as we speak — and maybe a bit of aggrieved that it didn’t end off its win.

That recreation is the one one beneath Vlatko Andonovski, out of 23 matches, that led to something however a U.S. victory. The Individuals haven’t misplaced to anybody in any respect since January 2019.

43′ Blackstenius gallops into open house behind the U.S. protection, glides beneath a fantastically delivered lengthy ball from the suitable facet and controls it along with her chest into the field. It regarded like a certain aim, however her last contact within the field was not notably clear. The ball will get caught beneath her foot, giving Naeher a gap to swoop in and seize it earlier than any harm may be performed. It may have been 2-0 there.

38′ Some delicate footwork by O’Hara on the high of Sweden’s penalty space leaves her defender chasing shadows and O’Hara a free have a look at a cross. Lindahl, nonetheless, gobbles it up earlier than it may possibly trigger bother.

37′ Alex Morgan was in a great deal of ache after being worn out from behind by a Swedish participant. She had her face in her palms, earlier than her teammates helped peel her off the grass. She appears to be OK now.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

31′ A hydration break could also be precisely what the physician ordered for Vlatko Andonovski and the U.S. He’s in the course of his gamers gesturing with each palms, and now’s in a back-and-forth dialog with Heath.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

31′ Sofia Jakobsson, who had the help on Sweden’s aim, has been a handful for defender Crystal Dunn and the U.S. up to now. Carrying No. 10, she’s discovering all kinds of house to work on the suitable wing, continuously calling for the ball, repeatedly getting it and charging aggressively into house. Dunn needed to slide to disclaim one other golden probability for Jakobsson, who had dribbled all the way in which to the mouth of the aim at full velocity.

It’s been waaaay too simple for Sweden on the suitable facet as we speak. The aim confirmed that, however the usually unflappable Dunn is de facto having it tough.

26′ Naeher, to be clear, had no probability there. Level-blank header, and an early gap for the USA.

25′ That’s a well-deserved aim for Sweden, who had been creating one probability after one other. It was solely a matter of time. Jakobsson sliced a cross from the suitable facet to Blackstenius, who let the ball look off her brow and into the web.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

25′ GOAL! Sweden takes the lead!

24′ And one other! It’s Rolfo this time, sprung up the middle in a fast change. Naeher once more dives proper to palm away her shot. However the U.S. certainly is aware of it’s enjoying with fireplace right here. Too many probabilities.

23′ Asllani forces yet one more diving save from Naeher with a curling shot from outdoors the field.

21′ And identical to that Heath drops right into a deep-lying midfield position and Mewis pushes a lot increased, alongside Morgan.

20′ We’re 20 minutes in and it feels as if the U.S. must discover a method to get Mewis and Horan a bit extra of the ball, if solely as a result of which may imply Sweden’s midfield would have rather less of it.

How quiet is it on this stadium? You possibly can hear just a few particular person gasps in response to Alyssa Naeher’s save.

Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

The US closes its warm-up with a little bit of cheering because the starters take one final dash. Possibly they do it each time and nobody hears it, nevertheless it’s nonetheless jarring to listen to gamers’ voices that clearly, even after so many months of the pandemic.

Environment will likely be a problem as we speak, the U.S. defender Kelley O’Hara admitted in a convention name this week. And she or he mentioned that she and her teammates would do their greatest to create a bit of of it — to get “loud” was her phrase.

“If we may be loud and communicative and simply deliver power with our voices, as a result of we’re going to have the ability to hear one another — which usually doesn’t occur if you step onto a pitch in a significant event — I feel that that may contribute to our power and the vibe of the sport,” she mentioned.

We’ll see what we are able to hear: They’ve already examined the pumped-in crowd noise this night. (Faux cheers! Not only for TV viewers anymore!)

The U.S. women’s national soccer team plays Sweden in its first match at the Olympics on Wednesday.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

Kelley O’Hara remembers all of it: the recent steamy day in Brasília, the resolute Swedish protection, the celebrations its gamers loved and the despair of her personal group, its dream of a second consecutive gold medal vanishing in a single, irritating afternoon.

That match, a quarterfinal on the 2016 Rio Olympics gained by Sweden in a penalty-kick shootout, was the final recreation the USA ladies’s group performed within the Video games. For 5 years, O’Hara mentioned, she and her teammates have been itching to make it proper.

“It appears like an enormous deal,” O’Hara mentioned Tuesday. “It feels just like the Olympics. It’s what we’ve waited now 5 years for, to be again right here.”

It’s maybe becoming that the USA will open its newest pursuit of Olympic soccer gold on Wednesday with a recreation towards Sweden. There isn’t any group, the truth is, that the Individuals have confronted extra in world championship competitors: six conferences within the World Cup, together with the previous 5 tournaments, and two extra on the Olympics. These collisions embody the 2016 defeat in Brazil, which was the primary time an American ladies’s group had returned from the Video games with out a medal.

“It’s a recreation and a loss that I’ve considered lots during the last 5 years,” mentioned O’Hara, who began the sport however watched its denouement helplessly from the bench after being substituted. “How are we going to get revenge? Hopefully we’re going to beat them.”

With video games towards Australia and New Zealand to return, the USA faces doubtlessly its sternest check of the event towards Sweden on opening day. The Swedes, the world’s fifth-ranked group, are the one facet to disclaim the Individuals a victory since January 2019, and the groups’ 1-1 tie in Stockholm in April is the one blemish on the unbeaten file of United States Coach Vlatko Andonovski (22-0-1). Solely an 87th-minute penalty kick by Megan Rapinoe, the truth is, prevented defeat that day.

But even for a veteran United States group with voluminous championship expertise — 17 of the 18 gamers on the present squad lifted the World Cup two summers in the past — nearly nothing else about this yr’s event will really feel acquainted: not the venues, and positively not the pandemic situations, which embody the absence of household, pals and followers within the stands.

One factor that by no means modifications is the stakes. The US is making an attempt to win the Olympic event for a file fifth time. Nevertheless it is also making an attempt — once more — to develop into the primary reigning Girls’s World Cup champion to say the Olympic gold. That was the aim in 2016, after all, however Sweden despatched the Individuals residence empty-handed.

“I’d be mendacity if I mentioned I hadn’t considered that, and I feel most individuals on the group have,” O’Hara mentioned. “On the similar time, I do know what it takes to win a significant event. For me it’s about specializing in the sport proper in entrance of me and the opponent that I’m going to play, so I don’t get too caught up in, ‘Oh, we’re going to make historical past, or do that or try this, or break this file or that file.’ To me it’s simply, win the sport.

“However that being mentioned,” she rapidly added of the potential World Cup-Olympic double, “it’d be very cool.”

Preparations for Wednesday’s match at Tokyo Stadium.
Credit score…Doug Mills/The New York Occasions

Wednesday’s recreation is being broadcast by USA Community and Telemundo in the USA, and it’s also obtainable on the NBC Sports activities and Telemundo Deportes streaming platforms, and at NBCOlympics.com.

If you happen to missed the match, will probably be replayed on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. Jap time and 6 p.m. Jap.

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