The United States Women’s National Team returned to MAPFRE Stadium on a frigid Thursday evening to take on Sweden for the first match in the Vlatko Andonovski era. With temperatures dipping to 31 degrees, and a 25-degree wind-chill, fans braved the elements to catch a potential last glimpse of the Stars and Stripes in Columbus, Ohio.
Those in attendance at MAPFRE were not disappointed, as the U.S. earned a convincing 3-2 victory.
It took the United States just six minutes of play to find the back of the net. Defender Casey Short played a through ball down the left side of the pitch that found the feet of forward Christen Press. She took a touch and unleashed a cross to the foot of captain Carli Lloyd for an easy tap-in to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.
Press continued to harass the Swedish defense and grabbed a goal of her own in the 28th minute. The forward took a touch out wide, cut back inside the penalty area to finish with her left foot, beating Sweden goalkeeper Hedviq Lindahl to extend the lead to 2-0.
Just three minutes later, Lloyd collected her brace on a goal that was setup by midfielder Tobin Heath. A flick from the midfielder allowed the U.S. captain to find open space on the field. Lloyd took a touch and arched a shot into the back of the net for a 3-0 advantage before halftime.
Sweden began the second half with a noticeable emphasis on defense. The Swedes proved content to slow down play as much as possible and limit scoring chances from the U.S. The visitors did this by committing professional fouls and stopping the fluid movement that Andonovski encouraged from his squad.
Looking for a spark on offense, the American’s head coach began the half by inserting Andi Sullivan and Lynn Williams into the lineup. The change yielded results, as the Swedish defense focused its attention on the substitutes and effectively freed up midfielder Rose Lavelle. Unfortunately, the Cincinnati native didn’t find the scoresheet but she did dazzle fans by demonstrating her creativity and creating quality scoring chances when she was on the ball.
Sweden pulled a goal back in the 75th minute when forward Anna Anvegard intercepted a pass, thwarting a U.S. counter attack and beat Alyssa Naeher to cut the lead to 3-1.
Four minutes later, Anvegard struck again by pouncing on another turnover and hitting the ball into an uncontested net, creating some nervy moments as thee USWNT lead shrunk to 3-2.
Looking to halt the momentum of the visitors, the Stars and Stripes mounted another attack as Short continued to attack the Swedish defense. The outside back made a threatening run into the penalty area and was fouled to earn a penalty kick for the U.S. Lloyd stepped up to take the kick but she uncharacteristically put it over the cross bar.
The visitors continued to press as the U.S. began to commit numbers backward to assist on defense. After a shaky second half, the Stars and Stripes held on to earn a hard fought 3-2 victory at MAPFRE Stadium.
It was another stellar performance from the U.S. captain as she gathered a brace before halftime, but there’s not doubt she wants that penalty kick back.
Forward Christen Press continued her tremendous run of form for club and country, earning a goal and an assist. With the absence of Alex Morgan for the foreseeable future, the U.S. will lean on the Utah Royals striker during Olympic qualifying.
The U.S. head to Jacksonville to take on Costa Rica on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET