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U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

January 21, 2011
OPENING LOSS
U.S. women fall to Sweden at Four Nations


Carli Lloyd’s goal was not enough to help the U.S. Women avoid a 2-1 loss to Sweden in Friday’s Four Nations Cup opener.
Carli Lloyd’s goal was not enough to help the U.S. Women avoid a 2-1 loss to Sweden in Friday’s Four Nations Cup opener.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
CHONGQING, China – The U.S. Women's National Team kicked off 2011 with a 2-1 loss to Sweden in the opening match of the Four Nations Tournament on a cold Friday afternoon at the Yongchuan Sports Centre Stadium.

U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd headed home a corner kick in the 11th minute, but Swedish defender Stina Segerstrom answered back six minutes later with an equalizer, also off a corner. Midfielder Kosovare Asllani, who played for the Chicago Red Stars (Women's Professional Soccer) last season, tallied the winning goal for Sweden with about 30 minutes remaining.

“Our speed of play wasn’t good enough,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “One thing as a team that we need to get much better at is moving without the ball. This game today tells us many things that we need to work on, but I am confident that we have enough time and enough games to prepare for the World Cup. This was just the first one.”

The U.S. team played with better rhythm that it displayed in the latter matches of Women's World Cup qualifying, but the attack broke down too often allowing the Europeans to repeatedly unleash dangerous counters which put pressure on the U.S. backline throughout the game. The U.S. also struggled to create chances in the attacking third and put just four shots on goal. In a rare occurrence, the Americans were outshot as Sweden accrued 11 total shots to the U.S’s seven.

U.S. midfielder Shannon Boxx said said she was "very, very disappointed."

"We don’t have the excuse of a long (club) season," she added. "We had good rest, and coming back into our first tournament we need to step it up. I think everyone knows what we need to do. It’s mainly coming together as a team and the attitude that we present every game needs to be better. It’s going to come we just have to keep our heads up, which is what we said after the game. We have two more games in this tournament and we just have to focus on ourselves.”

The match marked only the seventh time since the end of the 1995 Women’s World Cup, and first time in more than seven years, that the U.S. women lost a match in which they had taken a lead.

“We need to improve communication in the lines, from the midfield to the forwards and defenders to the midfield," U.S. defender and captain Christie Rampone said. "We need to make the game a bit simpler. I think we’re trying to do a bit too much out there.”

The U.S. took the lead on its first corner kick as Megan Rapinoe struck a ball to the near post that was flicked on by Lauren Cheney to Lloyd, who powered a header into the upper corner from five yards. It was Lloyd’s 23rd international goal.

Sweden equlized about five minutes later off a corner kick by Therese Sjogran from the right side. The ball evaded a pack of defenders and skidded through the penalty area on the ground to Segerstrom, who turned before striking a low shot from 16 yards past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart into the lower left corner.

The winning goal came from the right side as Lina Nilsson played a ball on the ground into the penalty area. Asllani dug it out of a pack of players and deposited her shot into the lower left corner from about 10 yards.

Sundhage changed out her center midfield at halftime, replacing Shannon Boxx with Yael Averbuch and Lloyd with Lori Lindsey, and until Sweden’s goal, the U.S. looked to be in control of the match.

The U.S. had its best chance for an equalizer in the 84th minute, after a corner kick led to a scramble inside Sweden’s penalty area. Rampone's on-frame volley was deflected by a mass of players. The ball bounced to Lindsey, who had a chance to poke it in from close range, yet goalkeeper Hedvig Lindhal came out with the ball.

Forward Sydney Leroux, 20, the U.S.’s all-time leading scorer in FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup competition, earned her first cap with the senior team when she came on in the 86th minute for a final push. Striker Alex Morgan, 21, the top pick in the 2011 WPS Draft, entered the game in the 72nd minute for Amy Rodriguez and put some pressure on the Sweden back line with her running down the left wing.

Both sides played without their top attackers. The Americans' Abby Wambach is recovering from a minor injury, while Sweden’s Lotta Schelin is playing club soccer in France.

“They had a pretty wicked counterattack," Rapinoe said. "They got at us in the moments we turned the ball over. I thought we had the majority of possession, but we just weren’t able to finish the goals. They were definitely a good side, but they weren’t full strength either, so we are going to look to improve on what we did today.”


   
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