USWNT vs Sweden: Why Did They Go for the Win?

USWNT vs Sweden: Why Did They Go for the Win?

With a USWNT vs Sweden Win, They Draw Spain and France

In today’s 2-0 USWNT vs Sweden victory, the US women opted to take the path of most resistance. There was a lot of discussion surrounding tournament schemes and deliberately throwing the match. Because of the 2019 World Cup draw, the USWNT will face Spain in the round of 16 and most likely France in the quarterfinals. Just this January, both Spain and France were difficult opponents for the USWNT. In the two friendlies, the USWNT lost 3-1 to France and won 1-0 against Spain. Neither of those signify ease. While Spain can prove admirable, France is the team with best advantages against the USWNT. Not only is France host nation of the World Cup, it is arguably the best (or second-best) team in the tournament. Compounding those is the fact that France consistently gives the USWNT trouble. 

Recent France vs USWNT Results

The last time the USWNT beat France was in the 2016 SheBelieves Cup. Despite the victory, it was still only a 1-0 win and Hope Solo was in goal. Since then, France beat the USWNT 3-0 in the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, tied the USWNT 1-1 in the 2018 SheBelieves Cup and handily won 3-1 in a 2019 international friendly. Granted, Jill Ellis was experimenting during those years with different rosters and formations, but it doesn’t excuse the losses. France is a strong team with growing confidence and home-field advantage. That’s nothing to mess with.

The Path of 2012 Japan: Merit in Throwing a Match

With sports, merit and honor are always in question. Coaches and management are crucified for throwing games or seasons. But, doing so for positive results is worth considering. Rebuilding teams utilize their losing game-plan to trade away assets for picks, free up salary room, and acquire top picks in the draft. When teams commit to losing and rebuilding with analytical strategy, they experience resurgence. Just look at the Philadelphia Sixers or the Cleveland Browns. It’s unpopular during the escapade, but it works.

Norio Sasaki 2015
Norio Sasaki, 2015 Algarve Cup

Like this, attempting to lose or tie to draw a better tournament schedule is also a valid strategy. In the 2012 Olympics, Japanese coach Norio Sasaki largely changed his lineup against a weaker South Africa team. Then, he told his players to not push for a winning goal. Because of this, his players avoided a five-hour drive to Glasgow for the next match. Ultimately, the Japanese women advanced to the final match. So, there are certainly advantages to giving your team the easiest path to victory. If Jill Ellis instructed the women to lose in the USWNT vs Sweden match today, it wouldn’t be uncalled for.

Losing for Strategy Wasn’t Not an Option for the USWNT vs Sweden

Despite any consideration fans and analysts give losing for tactical advantage, there was no way the USWNT would do this on purpose. Players and coach alike, there was a multitude of reasons against this strategy.

USWNT vs Sweden Revenge Game

First off, these women are proud athletes. The largest stain on their campaign is the 2016 USWNT vs Sweden loss in the Rio Olympics. This loss marked the end of Hope Solo’s career and catapulted the USWNT into uncertainty. Obviously, athletes love to win. But more importantly, athletes and fans feed on rivalries and pride. They don’t want anyone to second guess them.

“We want to freaking play France.” “Fingers crossed obviously. But at the end of the day it’s, like, mind-boggling that people would think we would actually want to lose a game going into the knockout rounds. We want to continue those winning vibes.”

Crystal Dunn

“We don’t have any thoughts like that. We want to take each game — and win each game.”

Tobin Heath

“(Beating Sweden) is huge.” “It makes a huge impact on the world to see that we are not messing around, we are here to win. We are here to win every game, to score as many goals as we can to prove that we are the best team in the world. Each game is the biggest game of our lives. That’s how we are taking it [moving] forward.”

Ali Krieger

In today’s match against Sweden, the USWNT didn’t hesitate to score and erase that stain.

These Women are on Fire

Yes, there is a lot that Jill Ellis could do to stifle the USWNT. She controls the lineup, not the players. But, even if Jill Ellis wanted to stop the USWNT from scoring, this team is on fire. Stopping them, even with a different lineup, was an impossible challenge.

Against Thailand and Chile

  • 65 Shots (30 on Target)
  • 16 Goals
  • 8 Different Goal Scorers
  • Alex Morgan scored 5 goals in a Single Match 
  • Carli Lloyd Scored in 6 Consecutive World Cup Matches (2015 and 2019)
  • 3 Shots Allowed (2 on Target)
  • 75% Possession vs Thailand and 68% Possession vs Chile

Without a doubt, the USWNT is the team to beat right now. They broke records in their win against Thailand and didn’t tilt from the hate. Against Chile, even though they rested seven starters from the Thailand game, they still won handily. It gave Jill Ellis a chance to rest and test. Her stars got a break and her substitutes got playtime. Players like Carli Lloyd got to prove that they’ve got it and should be respected. Young and veteran alike, there were too many talented, scoring options for the USWNT vs Sweden.

The USWNT Doesn’t Show Fear

USWNT group photo (42878126761) (cropped)

Last, everyone needs to remember that this team despises fear. For goodness sake, Hope Solo lost her job because she called the Swedish team “cowards” for sitting back and playing defensively. Think the USWNT players would throw the match and allow anyone to call them cowards? Not a chance. 

Although many argued avoiding France early was the best strategy, it’s not in their playbook. Their best way to win this tournament is to never lose. Obviously. Just like NFL teams that go for it on fourth and two, the US women refuse to punt. Continuing to press into the attacking third and relentlessly strike the ball is the USWNT way. They are in incredible form right now, dangerous as ever. Relenting, even if it is for the “greater good” is not something they will or even can do. 

“I don’t think we would even understand how to play that game.”

Megan Rapinoe

USWNT vs Sweden Match Winners

Winners. These USWNT athletes are winners, through and through. They aren’t afraid to take the difficult path to victory, even if that means taking on France in the quarterfinals or taking on U.S. Soccer in a pay-equity lawsuit. If the USWNT want to win this tournament, they have to keep the gas-pedal to the floor. This isn’t a defensive team, tactically or mentally. They’re out for blood and don’t care who the opponent is. Whether it’s the USWNT vs Sweden or Spain or France, they continue to press and attack. They are fearless, talented warriors, ready for another title.

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