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March 7, 2014
USWNT loses to Sweden, fails to reach Algarve Cup final

ALBUFEIRA, Portugal – For the second straight match at the Algarve Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team dominated in possession and scoring chances, but fell short in a 1-0 loss to Sweden that knocked the USA out of contention for a place in the championship game of the tournament.

Coming off a 1-1 draw against Japan, the USA needed a victory against Sweden to stay on track for the berth to the championship match, which goes to the group winner. However, Sweden star Lotta Schelin’s header in the 24th minute proved to be the only goal.

The loss ends the USA’s 42-game unbeaten streak that started two years ago to the day with a 4-0 victory against Sweden in the third-place match of the 2012 Algarve Cup. It also marked the first loss under head coach Tom Sermanni, who moved to 16-1-4 since taking over in January of 2013. Up next for the USA will be Denmark on March 10 in Albufeira (10:40 a.m. ET), in the final Group B match for both teams. Denmark lost to Japan 1-0 today, so the USA will be hoping for a win against Denmark, coupled with a loss by Japan to Sweden, and will need to end with a superior goal differential over Japan to earn a spot in the third-place match.

The USA outshot Sweden 12-4 and had seven corner kicks to Sweden’s one, while Schelin’s goal was Sweden’s only dangerous chance of the match. Still, Sweden was solid in its defensive organization and made it difficult for the U.S., which had the majority of possession, to create quality chances, especially in the first half.Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl made several world-class saves, including a penalty kick, and also slapped away a few dangerous crosses to help her side to relieve the U.S. pressure.

The USA missed a golden chance to take an early lead after Amy Rodriguez sprinted into the penalty area on a semi-breakaway, slowed down and then burst toward goal again before she was cut down. Referee Yemi Martinez immediately pointed to the spot and Abby Wambach stepped up to take the penalty kick in the 15th minute. In the first of several spectacular stops she would make, Lindahl guessed correctly, diving to her left to save Wambach’s low strike that was headed toward the lower right corner.

Schelin’s goal came after Sofia Jakobsson blocked a clearance attempt from Ali Krieger in the left corner and managed to swing in a cross. Schelin was flashing across the goal and got her head on the ball and past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo into the lower right corner.

The U.S. was the aggressor in the second half, pressuring Sweden into numerous giveaways and causing havoc inside the Sweden penalty box on numerous occasions. The USA produced an attacking flurry between the 56th and 62nd minutes that included two occasions in which balls were bouncing inside 12 yards in front of the Sweden net.

The U.S. also had a series of three consecutive corner kicks. The first two were pushed away by Lindahl and Carli Lloyd headed the third hard, but wide right of the goal. Sermanni sent on both Mewis sisters – Samantha and Kristie – in the 68th minute, soon followed by forwards Christen Press in the 70th and Sarah Hagen in the 81st, and all contributed to close calls in front of the Sweden net. It was the first cap for the 21-year-old Samantha Mewis and the 24-year-old Hagen.

In the 83rd minute, Kristie Mewis had a one-on-one chance when she ran under a flicked pass inside the penalty area, but Lindahl was quick off the line and saved the half-volley with her legs. Just after that, a fine U.S. build-up sprung Lloyd into the right side of the box. She hit a bullet cross on the ground that flashed through the middle, but a Hagen slide at an open net was just a step too late. Lindahl saved the game for her team in the 88th minute after Hagen got in behind the defense on a breakaway, but once again the Swedish goalkeeper came up huge, coming off the line and making a chest save against Hagen. Sweden’s only shot of the second half came in the 90th minute as Solo gobbled up a header from Nilla Fischer.

U.S. captain Christie Rampone earned her 290th career cap and is now just 10 away from 300, a mark achieved by only former teammate Kristine Lilly in the history of international soccer.

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