(March 7, 2014)-When you are the number one team in the world it can be easy to forget how hard losing can be, especially if you haven’t done it over two years. It took forty-four games but the U.S. Women’s national soccer team suffered their first loss with a 1-0 drubbing by Sweden in their second match at the Algarve Cup.
It was a game that had large ramifications for the U.S. apart from giving them their first loss since losing to Japan 1-0 in the Algarve Cup in 2012. Due to their draw two days ago with Japan and the second win for Sweden in the first two matches, they will be unable to earn enough points to advance out of their group to the championship game.
The lone goal of the match came from Lotta Schellin in the 24th minute and was really one of the few good offensive opportunities that Sweden had during the game. But a huge defensive front by the 6th ranked team in the world kept the U.S. Women at bay and gave their former coach Pia Sundhage a reason to celebrate with her Swedish squad.
A rare missed penalty kick by Abby Wambach awarded to the U.S. early in the first half set the tone as the game was filled with several near misses for the Americans. The last fifteen minutes had two opportunities break down for the U.S. when both Kristie Mewis and Sarah Hagan lost in a one-on-one break away against goalie Hedvig Lindahl. It was an exceptional day for the Swedish goalie as she held off 12 shots by the U.S. who usually find away to sneak in a goal in the late minutes of the game.
Hagan, who plays for Bayern Munich in Germany, earned her first cap with the senior national team. Samantha Mewis, Kristie’s younger sister, also earned her first cap with the team as the two played the last several minutes of the game together.
“You’re always going to lose games in football. That’s how it works,” Coach Tom Sermanni said in an interview after the game. “Sometimes you win games that perhaps you should have lost. Sometimes you lose games that perhaps you should have won. But as I said, today we missed a penalty at nil-nil, and in the last 15 minutes we had four very good goal-scoring opportunities. And if you don’t take those, that makes a difference.”
It was the first loss for Sermanni since he took over the team just a little over a year ago from Sundhage. The past two games have also been some of the toughest competition that the Americans have faced in several months. Sermanni is still obviously tinkering with his lineup as the team is gearing up for World Cup qualifying in the fall and the team is still without striker Alex Morgan who is rehabbing an ankle injury. The U.S. will face Denmark on Monday March 10 and will need a win as well as a loss by Japan to Sweden to possibly earn a spot into the third place match.