The USWNT‘s streak of 43 straight matches without a loss came to an end in the Algarve Cup at the hands of Sweden and their former coach Pia Sundhage. Sundhage started the winning streak in 2012 but managed to stymie her old team. The USWNT looked completely out of sorts and were unable to finish. The starting eleven was largely ineffective, and it cost them a chance to defend their title in the Algarve Cup.
Lotta Schelin converted a great header to give Sweden the only goal they would need against an inept U.S. team. Abby Wambach missed a penalty opportunity that was given on a controversial call. Wambach looked sluggish and not up to fitness, and coach Tom Sermanni still let her go 80 minutes. The penalty kick attempt was low and slow and easily read by goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Lindhal was tested more in the second half, but it took the U.S. until the last 15 minutes to mount sustained pressure despite seeing more of the ball. Megan Rapinoe was unsuccessful time and again on searching passes through the midfield that were often picked off. Heather O’Reilly was neutralized but continually tried to get around the defense on the wing. The tactic was sniffed out early by the Swedish defense. Christie Rampone was beaten on the Schelin header after she was unable to match the strength of the Swedish star.
Many excuses could be made on the performance, and there is credit due to Sundhage for knowing how to combat her former team. Still, the performance was unlike any we have seen from the USWNT in years. One of the match commentators remarked that it was like this team had never played together before, and it is hard to argue with those comments.
Sermanni said that this year was about results in preparation for next year’s World Cup, but the performances and lineups in the two Algarve Cup matches signify a continued experiment. Samantha Mewis and Sarah Hagen were given their first caps against Sweden. It was Hagen who had the best chance to equalize late, but the inexperienced forward was unable to beat Lindhal. Meghan Klingenberg started in the back before being replaced at halftime. The finishing was poor as the USWNT outshot Sweden by eight, yet Sermanni waited too long to switch up the forwards. Tobin Heath was an unused sub.
If this year truly is about results it is time for Sermanni to field his best team and make the necessary changes if the team is struggling. All good streaks must come to an end, but this was an emphatic end to a stunning winning streak. It could also be studied by other nations as a way to neutralize the USWNT’s athleticism. The effort was poor, and that is upsetting from such a good team.