FOOTBALL: Vlatko Andonovski Era opens with 3-2 win over Sweden; Lloyd scores twice

Two more goals for U.S. star Carli Lloyd! (Photo: USSF)

The U.S. women’s National Team started their friendly with no. 5-ranked Sweden in chilly, near-freezing conditions in Columbus, Ohio, but it didn’t take long for them to warm up and score the first goal for new coach Vlatko Andonovski.

In the sixth minute, defender Casey Short popped the ball forward to Christen Press on the left side of the field, as multiple American players moved toward the goal. Press’s cross to the front of the Swedish goal whipped past keeper Hedvig Lindahl and to the right foot of Carli Lloyd, who tapped it in with her right foot for a 1-0 lead.

So far, so good. But the Swedes were on the attack shortly thereafter and only an Emily Sonnett clearance in the 12th minute prevented a Lina Hurtig shot from point-blank range on U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher.

The Swedes controlled most of the possession and kept the heat on the American defense, but couldn’t get a good finishing shot at Naeher. Then a pass to Lloyd in the midfield in the 28th minute led to a pass to Press moving down the left-hand side again.

This time, she dribbled past two defenders and blasted a shot that went off a shocked Lindahl for a 2-0 lead; it was Press’s 50th career goal for the U.S.

The roof fell in for the Swedes just three minutes later after a clearance to Julie Ertz in midfield; she popped the ball forward to Tobin Heath, who managed to head a contested pass forward to Lloyd. She moved into position and seeing Lindahl coming out to cut down the angle, chipped the ball over her and it rolled in for a 3-0 lead and the issue was (almost) decided after just a half-hour.

Sweden ended the half with 51% of the possession, but the U.S. had a 6-4 edge in shots, and most importantly, all three goals.

Quite a start for the Vlatko Andonovski Era!

The second half started with more U.S. pressure and six shots on goal in the first 15 minutes. Lloyd had another chance in the 66th minute, but her shot went past the goal.

While the Swedes had a hard time generating any meaningful offense in the first 30 minutes of the second half, they finally got a break in the 75th minute. The U.S. failed to clear the ball out of their own end and sub Hanna Bennison moved the ball to the right side of the U.S. goal. Nathalie Bjorn ran onto it and crossed it to the front of the U.S. goal and Anna Anvegard popped it into the net past Naeher.

The U.S. defense then fell apart again just four minutes later. Defender Becky Sauerbrun was unable to clear a loose ball and get it to Naeher, who was standing next to her. Swedish striker Sofia Jakobsson sent the ball in front of the U.S. goal and Avegard sent it into an empty net and the game was suddenly 3-2.

In the 81st minute, Short was tackled in the Sweden’s box by Jakobsson, and called for a penalty. Lloyd took the shot, but powered it over the top of the Swedish goal.

The game, with four subs playing for each side in the second half, was more wide open at the end, but the Americans held on for the win and sent the 20,902 in attendance home happy.

Sweden ended the game with 51% of the possession, but the U.S. created 16 shots to seven for the visitors.

Essentially, the U.S. first team stomped the Swedish first 11, 3-0, and the Swedes dominated the match after four substitutes for each team got involved. Andonovski got his first win, but the game showed that there is room for improvement … a coach’s dream scenario.

The American women will have their final game of 2019 on Sunday vs. Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida.