Coming off a 4-1 late-May drubbing of China, the United States will open their run in the Sweden Invitational Saturday against the host country.
The Sweden Invitational is a pre-Olympic round robin group of friendlies between the U.S., Sweden, and Japan – three of the world’s four best teams.
After recent victories over Scotland and Canada, Sweden moved up in the FIFA World Rankings to No. 4 and will be looking to take down the U.S. three games before Olympic play starts.
Where: Örjans Vall Stadium, Halmstad, Sweden
When: Saturday, June 16 at 10 a.m. ET
Considering they are two of the top teams in the world, the United States and Sweden have met on a few occasions recently, including the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Algarve Cup in Portugal.
In the 2012 Algarve Cup (an international women’s invitational tournament), the United States reached the third-place game against a good Swedish squad. However, it wasn’t really any contest, as 22-year-old phenom Alex Morgan netted a hat trick and Abby Wambach added a goal to help the U.S. earn a 4-0 victory.
This match was following a 1-0 semifinal defeat at the hands of Japan—a game in which the United States had major trouble finishing opportunities on net. That certainly wasn’t a problem against Sweden on March 7, and the U.S. hopes it to be the same today.
However, we can’t see a United States team like the one that was defeated by Sweden in the group stage of the 2011 World Cup.
The Swedes defeated the U.S. physically and skillfully that game, which is something that the United States can’t afford to let happen.
Can Alex Morgan keep up this form?
In a clash between the United States (No. 1 in FIFA World Rankings) and Sweden (No. 4), young American superstar Alex Morgan must keep up the attacking attitude that she’s played with recently.
In the 4-1 victory over China a few weeks ago, she opened the scoring after collecting an errant cross and curling a shot into the back of the net in 34th minute.
In the second half, Morgan netted yet another goal, this time beating one defender with a fine finish at goal after running onto a long pass from Christie Rampone.
Alex Morgan is so deadly in one-v-one opportunities, and when the United States’ attack is clicking, so is her precision.
If Sweden comes out playing to the top of their capacity, expect Alex Morgan to return the favor and make the most of her opportunities considering the way she’s playing of late.
What will this tournament tell us about 2012 Olympics?
This round robin tournament features matches against world-class opponents Sweden and Japan.
Considering this is the third-to-last game before the U.S. embarks for the Olympics, this game and the overall tournament will be a solid measuring stick for where the United States team is at.
While there have been no questions involving the offense led by Morgan and Abby Wambach, the now-shaky defense is something to keep a keen eye to.
The Olympics allow only 18 players on your roster as opposed to the World Cup, which allows 21 per roster. With this, U.S. manager Pia Sundhage had to cut three players, two of which were defenders.
The first was star rightback Ali Krieger, who is still recovering from an ACL injury, and the other is veteran Stephanie Cox.
After those drops, the U.S. have only six defenders on their roster, including recently converted midfielder Kelley O’Hara.
These recent drops and moves defensively showed against China a few weeks ago as they were able to give the Americans fits with a speedy attack.
Even though they only have one goal to show for it, the Chinese squad made the U.S. defense look dazed and confused out there at some points – something that simply cannot happen against better opponents.
With the Olympics almost a month away, it should be interesting to see how the United States defense pans out against the likes of Sweden.
Prediction: 3-2, USA
While the defense had a poor showing in the first half of that game against the Chinese, they came back in the second half of the game and played cohesively and possession-oriented.
I think that the same thing will happen in Sweden as it may take halftime adjustments from Sundhage to confront the Swedish's physical approach.
However, one thing that won’t need adjusting is the United States’ attacking play.
I think that the Morgan-Wambach tandem will strike multiple times today and, for me, three goals is a safe bet out of them.