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Draw with Sundhage’s Sweden puts U.S. in Algarve Cup final

Mar 11, 2013, 5:21 PM EDT


It was a tale of two halves in Lagos, appropriate given who was on the opposing bench. Under Pia Sundhage, the U.S. Women’s National Team garnered a reputation for late match theatrics, and while the same level of drama wasn’t required in Monday, the U.S. were still forced to come from behind against their former coach.

Pulling back a fourth minute goal from Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist, Alex Morgan secured the U.S.’s spot in the Algarve Cup final, heading home a 56th minute corner kick from Megan Rapinoe. The 1-1 draw gave the U.S. first place in Group B and a spot in Wednesday’s tournament final against Germany.

That’s the good news. A more critical eye would point to the first blemishes of the U.S.’s tournament. Dahlkvist’s score was the States’ first goal allowed in three games, an ignominious start to goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’s senior team career. Though the Washington Spirit keeper did well to come out and thwart Swedish star Lotta Schelin, her goal was left unattended as Dahlkvist one-timed the opener from near the center circle.

With the lead, the Swedes frustrated the Americans through halftime, their physical play perhaps leveraging knowledge Sunhage accumulated during five years on the U.S. bench. Against a Swedish side that had drew earlier in the tournament with China (a team the U.S. defeated 5-0 on Friday), it was a disappointing start for the world’s No. 1 team.

But the U.S. recovered in the second half. Morgan’s equalizer gave the States over half an hour to chase a second goal, with Rapinoe coming close to a second in the 88th minute.

Ultimately, the U.S. outshot their former coach’s team 18-5 and put six shots on goal to Sweden’s two. True, they’re the type of numbers you’d expect when an underdog takes an early lead against a favorite, but they’re also indicators that if this match were played again, the U.S. might get a better result.

That doesn’t mean the draw wasn’t discouraging. The U.S. stumbled, and they did so in way that feeds into common complaints. Whether criticism that chasing matches will eventually catch up to the U.S. is well-grounded or not, their recent history of falling behind in games and relying on comebacks leads some to ask when the U.S.’s luck will run out.

But Monday’s wasn’t a big game. It was a group stage match at a low point in the game’s four-year cycle. With the stakes so low, there’s little evidence to bolster any criticisms, and with the World Cup more than two years away, there are only so games where the U.S.’s results will lead to solid conclusions.

Wednesday’s may be one of those games, with the States facing world No. 2 Germany in the tournament final. It’s the first of two games between the rivals in less than a month, with the teams set to meet in Offenbach on April 5.

Currently the game’s best international soccer rivalry, a U.S.-Germany match for the Algarve Cup title should provide the stakes today’s match lacked. While the teams have played recently, drawing two U.S.-based friendlies in October, Wednesday match will likely feature a level of intensity last fall’s matches lacked.

If the U.S.’s problems resurface against Germany, then it’s time to talk. But against a team whose coach has an intimate knowledges of the U.S.’s strengths and weaknesses, a draw with Sundhage’s Sweden can be written off.

  1. hsus90 - Mar 11, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Germany didn’t finish perfectly. They drew their first game with Denmark (a team that the USWNT beat 4-1 in a pre-tournament scrimmage).

    • Richard Farley - Mar 11, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      Thanks for the correction! One of the great things about this outlet: When I go too fast, I get corrected. Thank you, very much.

  2. starcityfan - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    And Ashlyn Harris now plays for the Washington Spirit, though she did play for the Washington Freedom in 2010.

    • Richard Farley - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      Technically, I beat you to that correction :). Jokes aside, thank you for that, too.

      As I was catching the previous correction, I was like “oh, man” and tried to get that fix in.

      I’m clearly still getting used to the new names (something that should speed up now that teams are training).

      Thanks, everybody.

  3. soccertaxi - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Not that it changes anything, but wasn’t the Sweden/China game a tie?

    • Richard Farley - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:14 PM

      It does change something! The post.

      Thanks for the corrections, all. It’s embarrassing to have these small errors, but better they be pointed out and corrected. I appreciate the help, because clearly I went too fast.

      This is the kind of thing I do every once in a while. I think to myself “I want to get something up on how the U.S. kind of struggled and it was no big deal” but then skip over the details, and ultimately come close to undermining the post.

      So I appreciate that help! It’s a reminder not to take things for granted.

      • soccertaxi - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:24 PM

        It doesn’t change that we hoped the US would do better against Sweden. Especially after the US u23 team basically wiped the floor last week with Sweden’s u23 side…

      • Richard Farley - Mar 11, 2013 at 7:28 PM

        True, though I obviously dwelt on that point more than those little things called fact, amirite?

        Early goals always skew games, but in the same light, the U.S. had 86 minutes to get two goals. And they didn’t do it.

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