By Mary Cunningham
The United States women’s national team lost to Sweden today 3-0 today at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, ending its 44-match unbeaten run.
Fifth-ranked Sweden put the pressure on almost immediately with three shots in the first eight minutes, before Stina Blackstenius headed them into the lead on 25 minutes from a Sofia Jakobsson cross.
Alyssa Naeher, in goal for the USWNT, had to make five saves in the first-half to stop Sweden increasing their advantage. Midfielder Rose Lavelle nearly equalized with a header in minute 45 off a corner kick from Christen Press but hit the post.
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski reacted to his side’s poor first-half showing by making two changes at the break. Julie Ertz and Carli Lloyd were introduced in place of Alex Morgan and Sam Mewis.
However, the four-time Olympic gold medalists fell further behind on 54 minutes when Blackstenius scored her second of the game, scoring from a rebound off a corner kick.
A third change was made by the USWNT after 64 minutes as Megan Rapinoe came on for Tobin Heath. Soon after Rapinoe forced a save from Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Press struck a post for the USWNT on 72 minutes as they tried to rally but Lisa Hurtig added a third goal for Sweden moments later, with a header into the roof of the net, to secure victory.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Andonovski rolled the dice one last time, replacing Crystal Dunn and Lavelle with Tierna Davidson and Kristie Mewis.
The Rio defeat in 2016 marked the USWNT’s earliest exit in Olympic history, after previously reaching the final of every edition of the Games since 1996, when the women’s event was introduced.
The two sides drew 1-1 in an April friendly, the only blemish to the United States’ 2021 record of 11 wins in 12 matches and a prescient warning of the challenges the team would face in their 2020 Tokyo kickoff.
The defeat was the United States’ first under Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis in 2019.
Next up for the USWNT in Group G is New Zealand on Saturday before they finish their group fixtures off against Australia on Tuesday.