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Anaylsis

Sweden frustrates American attack, eliminates U.S. from Rio Olympics quarterfinals.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Friday, August 12 2016) - In a shocking result, the three-time defending United States women were ousted from 2018 Summer Olympics 4-3 in a penalty kicks tiebreaker after drawing 1-1 after 120 minutes in a quarterfinal this afternoon at Mané Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil.

After 30 minutes of extra time, the world No. 1 Americans failed to reach the medal round since women's soccer became an Olympic sport 1996, having reached at least the semifinals in the previous five interations, winning gold four times and silver once.

In the shootout, U.S. Striker Alex Morgan had her weak attempt saved by Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl on the first try. On the fifth U.S. attempt, Christen Press skied her shot high left. American keeper Hope Solo kept the U. S in the shootout with a magnificent save on an attempt by Linda Sembrant, but that was the only stop she made.

Sweden, coached by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, came out playing defense and hoping for quick counter-attacks. American coach Jill Ellis predicted this and gave U.S. defender Meghan Klingenberg permission to move up and be an attacking wing midfielder when she was able.

Sweden countered by playing five in the midfield, clogging up the middle, but leaving only a lone attacker.

The U.S. dominated the match, not just controlling the ball, but taking a total of 27 shots, to Sweden's six. Yet, once again, the Americans were bedeviled with poor finishing, Of their 27 shots, only six were on target, five of those were saved by Lindahl. Sweden also tried to out-muscle the U.S., taking 15 penalties to five for the Americans.

After a scoreless first half, Sweden drew first blood on a textbook counter-attack. In the 61st minute, Stina Blackstenius collected a pass out of the back and was off on a long run with U.S. defender Julie Johnston, who had been caught out of position, in frantic persuit. Just as Johnston launched a tackle, Blackstenius hit a shot for the far left corner beating Solo, who was protecting the near post.

With pressure mounting, the Americans drew level in the 77th minute when forward Crystal Dunn headed a long pass, which deflected off the face of defender Jessica Samuelsson. It rebounded to Morgan, whose left-footer beat Lindahl.

The overtime was frantic. In the 115th minute, the U.S. appeared to take the lead when midfoelder Carli Lloyd headed in a shot from the right side. It was disallowed because of a American.

A minute later, Lotta Schelin, placed a shot past Solo, but she was guilty of a questionable offside call.

The result means the U.S. has never beaten a Sundhage-coached Sweden, going 0-2-2 in four meetings. The Americans probably deserved better today, but results like this often happen when the better team goes home.

Solo said she thought the U.S. "played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today, I strongly and firmly believe that."

In response, Sundhage said: "It's OK to be a coward if you win."


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Hope Solo - 5.5: She saw few shots, but handled her area well. She cannot be blamed for the regular-time goal, which was perfectly hit. Her save in the shoot-out was magnificent, but in the end, she was sent the wrong way on the first two Swedish tries and then finally beaten by a hard shot she might have gotten to.

Defender Meghan Klingenberg -5.5: She handled her assignment of pushing forward well. She managed to get back and make one spectacular block on Olivia Schough, who came in for the overtime and made a dangerous run.

Defender Becky Sauerbrunn - 6.5: She won through and high balls, and was everywhere in the back in the three-defender set.

Defender Julie Johnston - 5: After missing two matches with a groin ailment, she had some problems pushing forward without losing contact with the Swedish front line. She probably was at fault for the Swedish goal, but did make her share of fine stops.

Defender Kelley O'Hara - 5.5: She made few errors and had one long shot that was just inches high. She Came out for a more offensive player.

Midfielder Allie Long - 5: She did fine defensively, but added almost nothing to the attack.

Midfielder Morgan Brian - 6.5: She had a lot of responsibility. She made some good passes in the first half and then shifted to a more defensive role after Long left. She handled both very well. Shs should have had an early goal, but her hard shot was tipped over the crossbar. She added a successful penalty kick in the tiebreaker, ripping the ball high in the net.

Midfielder Tobin Heath - 6: She was dominant on the right side, causing Sweden all kinds of problems. She came close on several shots, including one that hit a post. In overtime, she dropped back to augment the defense.

Midfielder Carli Lloyd - 6: No one can question her effort. Her problem was woeful finishing. She had multiple chances, any one of which she should have put in the net. She ran herself ragged, but to no avail.

Forward Mallory Pugh - 6.5: For most of the first half and into the second, she was the dominant attacking American. She had several efforts on goal and bounced off defenders or otherwise didn't reach the goal. She had a high work rate and with a little more luck, she might have been a hero.

Forward Alex Morgan - 5.5: What a good and bad day. Scored a very nice and desperately needed goal in regulation, then badly shot her penalty kick, allowing for it to be saved. In the 120th minute, she had a clear shot on goal, but hit the side netting. Other times, her finishing was off. She too might have been a hero.

Reserves

Forward Crystal Dunn (65th minute for Long) - 7: She was the best player on the field almost from the moment she entered. It was her point-blank header that bounced to Morgan for a goal. She made any number of good passes and set up plays that should have done more.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe (72nd minute for O'Hara) - 5.5: She made several good passes and a couple of interceptions on defense, but showed she still is not fit after her long absence after surgery and had to come out.

Midfielder Christen Press (99th minute for Rapinoe) - 4: She seemed not to be able to do much right. She made one good shot that was blocked by a defender and a few good passes with little to show for them. She skied her tiebreaking penalty kick to send the U.S. home.

Midfielder Lindsey Horan (114th minute for Pugh) - 6: In a very short appearance, she had one good chance and was active holding the ball in the offensive end. She easily scored her tiebreaking PK.

SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Crystal Dunn.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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