The United States women's soccer team has extended its 2021 unbeaten streak to six games after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Sweden in an international friendly in Solna, Sweden.
Megan Rapinoe saved the U.S. from defeat when she scored on a penalty kick in the 87th minute to tie the score.
Sweden's Sofia Jakobsson was called for a penalty on Kelley O'Hara, but it appeared as if the foul occurred outside of the box.
The USWNT returned to the pitch for the first time since winning the SheBelieves Cup with a 6-0 victory over Argentina on Feb. 24. The U.S. also defeated Canada and Brazil in the tournament and didn't concede once.
Saturday was the squad's first game outside of the country this year. Sweden (No. 5 in the FIFA rankings) is also the highest-ranked team it has played so far in 2021.
Even though the final result wasn't what the U.S. women were hoping for, it should be considered a positive because they were outplayed for most of the match by a terrific opponent.
U.S. Struggles in Return Match
Team USA is accustomed to dictating the pace and tempo, but it was apparent for most of the first half that Sweden was the more aggressive and attacking team.
The Swedes had one fewer shot attempt (six) than the U.S. in the first half but a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal.
Lina Hurtig's header off Kosovare Asllani's corner kick in the 38th minute put Sweden up 1-0 before halftime.
Things could have been worse for Team USA if not for a terrific save by Alyssa Naeher after Fridolina Rolfo got behind the defense:
Hurtig's goal put the Americans in an unfamiliar position. It was their first deficit in any match in 18 months:
Caitlin Murray @caitlinmurr
The #USWNT did briefly trail in Jill Ellis' last friendly as coach in October 2019 but quickly equalized 2 minutes later. Before that, last time they trailed was prior to the 2019 World Cup, which... we all know how that turned out. They didn't trail for even a second there. https://t.co/fn20LbVbN1
Team USA came out in the second half with a greater sense of urgency. It had three shots on goal in the first 20 minutes and finished with six for the game.
Carli Lloyd nearly came up with the equalizer on a header of her own off a terrific setup by Lindsey Horan, but she hit the ball straight ahead into Sweden goalie Jennifer Falk's waiting arms to preserve the 1-0 deficit.
In the 82nd minute, Alex Morgan had a small opening to tie the score. She was unable to get her feet set and attempted to swipe the ball with her left foot. Falk made an easy save and cleared the ball for the Swedish side to reset.
Nevertheless, Rapinoe's penalty kick helped the U.S. salvage a draw against a quality foe.
This was a good test for the Americans, who will take on an even stronger opponent in their next friendly on Tuesday. France is the No. 3 team in the FIFA rankings and hasn't lost since a 2-1 defeat to the U.S. in the 2019 World Cup quarterfinals.
Sweden's Defense Shines in Draw
Even though the U.S. entered this matchup as the favorite, Sweden has done as good a job as any team in recent years against the powerhouse American squad.
Despite not having a win to show for its efforts, Sweden had only lost by one goal in two of the previous three matches between the two sides. The most recent meeting was a 3-2 final at a friendly in Columbus, Ohio, in November 2019.
Since March 2020, Sweden has been unbeaten in its last nine matches, including Saturday's result. Manager Peter Gerhardsson's squad has outscored opponents 36-3 during this stretch with six shutouts.
Team USA had only been held to one goal twice in its previous 16 matches. It took a controversial call Saturday for the Americans to get on the board, which is a testament to how well Sweden's defense played all day.
Gerhardsson has a veteran-laden roster that has proved capable of competing with anyone in the world. Falk was excellent in goal and stifled a potent U.S. offense for most of the day.
Sweden will walk away from Saturday's match with a moral victory, but there's no doubt this squad is a threat to the U.S. next time these two square off.
The U.S. women's national team will wrap up its two-game international friendly schedule Tuesday against France at Stade Oceane in Le Havre, France, at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Sweden will take on Poland in a friendly on Tuesday.