FOOTBALL Preview: Vlatko Andonovski Era begins as U.S. women face Sweden Thursday

Carli Loyd leads the U.S. front line vs. Sweden (Photo: FIFA)

A new era in U.S. women’s football opens on Thursday at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, as the American women take on Sweden in a friendly in the first game with Vlatko Andonovski as coach.

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time and will be shown on FS1 and TUDN.

It’s the first of two friendlies to close out 2019, with the U.S. women facing Costa Rica on Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida.

The match against Sweden is an immediate test as the American team begins to retool for its drive toward the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The U.S. will host the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament to begin on 28 January at venues to be announced on Thursday. Against Sweden, 17 veterans of the World Cup-winning team are on the roster, including Carli Lloyd, Tobin Heath, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh as strikers and midfielders Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis in the midfield.

Scoring stars Alex Morgan (maternity) and Megan Rapinoe (injuries) are out, as are defenders Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson and Ali Krieger.

This has been a magical season for the U.S., winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup and compiling a 18-1-3 record (and a 21-game unbeaten streak). But Sweden has always played the U.S. tough. Over the last four years, Sweden defeated the U.S. at the 2016 Olympic Games, then the U.S. won in 2017 at 1-0 in a friendly and won again, 2-0, in the final group play match at the Women’s World Cup earlier this year.

Through this decade, the U.S. is 6-3-5 vs. Sweden, one of its worst records against any opponent from 2010-19.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s match, the U.S. women are 14-0-0 vs. Costa Rica.