Defense was key to both sides as they drew 0-0 in Winnipeg in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
In Match Day 2 of Group D fixtures, the USA stays on top of the group with 4 points followed by Australia with 3 points gained by defeating Nigeria 2-0 on June 12. Sweden is third with 2 points and Nigeria sits last with 1 point.
In preparation for writing these match reviews, I always type down my thoughts and notes as I watch a soccer match. I noted after about 10 minutes of the first half of USA-Sweden that I could see the match ending 0-0. A common theme in sports, so they say, is that the tone of the game is set very early on. While that seems to be the case in most sports, soccer is special because the entire script of a match can be flipped in an instant. Moments of magic can happen when least expected, and is one of the reasons that I (and many others, I’d imagine) love soccer so much.
Nevertheless, looking at the two teams on the field and seeing how the game began in those first few minutes, it seemed like the game was going to be very defensive, and it would be difficult to make an offensive breakthrough. And this would be the story of the game; the game yielded a total of only 2 shots on target (both for the USA) out of a total 21 shots (12 USA, 9 Sweden).
For the USWNT, the defensive work of Meghan Klingenberg and Julie Johnston solidified the US back four, and stopped many of Sweden’s attacks. Sweden’s back four also gave the US attack a lot of trouble, not allowing any space inside the box and forcing the US outside on many occasions.
USWNT manager Jill Ellis started Christen Press up front with Sydney Leroux, not bringing on Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan until the second half. Abby Wambach had a very good headed chance late in the second half that went over the Sweden crossbar. Another close call involving the crossbar happened at the other end late in the game-- a shot by Sweden’s Caroline Seger was headed away on the goal line by Meghan Klingenberg up into the crossbar and out, which was by far the closest opportunity of the game.
The referee possibly helped to keep things scoreless in the first half, as a Sweden shot deflected off an extended forearm of Sydney Leroux, but a penalty was not given.
In the week leading up to the match, Sweden manager and former USWNT manager Pia Sundhage caused a bit of controversy. An article by The New York Times earlier this week featured some harsh comments by Sundhage against some of her former American players, particularly Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo, saying that the pair were a “challenge” to coach. Sundhage apparently backpedaled on some of those comments in a pre-match interview (which I was not able to see) and pointed to the fact that the interview in question was done two months ago in April. Regardless of when she made these remarks, comments like those are made to ruffle some feathers and get into the heads of her former players—adding fuel to the fire leading to what could be an emotional match depending on how players react.
To be fair, Sundhage did have good things to say about other players, like Christie Rampone. Still, Sundhage knew that her team would be soon playing against the USA in the World Cup, so those comments take on a heavier weight.
The USWNT plays their final Group D game against Nigeria on Tuesday, June 16 in Vancouver, and the US will hope to top the group when all is said and done.
--Brandon Addeo (@baddeo95)