Sweden snaps USWNT's 44-game unbeaten streak to open Olympics, raising questions about this American team

·Columnist
·3-min read

TOKYO — At least a step slow. Incapable of holding possession. Little production from the midfield. Outplayed from start to finish.

The United States women’s soccer team didn’t just lose their Olympic opener to Sweden 3-0 here on Wednesday. They were dominated in the kind of shocking fashion that rarely happens to the Americans.

“We got our asses kicked, didn’t we?” Megan Rapinoe said after.

Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius scored in the 25th minute to set the tone and then added another goal in the 54th off a corner kick. Midfielder Lina Hurtig added insult to injury with a header in the 72nd minute.

It was part of an overwhelming effort that made the U.S. look awful. They entered this event as heavy favorites (-185 on BetMGM) to take gold. They were riding 44-game unbeaten streak, including seven straight wins to capture the 2019 World Cup.

Stina Blackstenius (11) and Sweden dominated the USWNT in their Olympic opener. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Stina Blackstenius (11) and Sweden dominated the USWNT in their Olympic opener. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The loss in the opening game of group play doesn't eliminate the Americans from medal contention, but it leaves them with a razor-thin margin for error. In just a 12-team field, the U.S. needs to finish second in its group or be one of the top two third-place finishers to advance to the quarterfinals, when the tournament becomes single elimination.

The Americans face New Zealand on Saturday and Australia on Tuesday.

More notably, this performance calls into question just what kind of team this is, and whether it’s even capable of winning gold. Give Sweden credit, but the U.S. doesn’t get pushed around like this often.

Coach Vlatko Andonovski chose a veteran-heavy group to come here and become the first team to ever follow a World Cup title with Olympic gold. But with experience comes age, and the Americans started five players over 32 years old. Two of the first three players Andonovski brought off the bench were 39 and 36.

Some of it showed. And almost nothing worked. Quality chances were at a minimum as the Americans seemed incapable of handling Sweden’s pressure.

By halftime, Alex Morgan was off in favor of Carli Lloyd, while Sam Mewis, who many consider the best player in the world, was replaced by Julie Ertz. Megan Rapinoe subbed Tobin Heath in the middle of the second half.

The U.S. was on its heels from the start — a far cry from the World Cup squad that were rarely in even a tight spot while cruising to the title.

The USWNT had lost by three goals just four times in its history. This was the worst loss since a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil at the 2007 World Cup.

The Americans lost to Sweden in the 2016 quarterfinals in Brazil and had sought a measure of revenge on Wednesday. That 1-0 Swedish victory, though, wasn’t nearly as decisive as this one.

This was a show of force by the Swedes, who have to be considered favorites for gold at this point. And a sign of rare disarray for the Americans, who have little time to figure things out.

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