MELBOURNE, Australia — The U.S. women’s national team’s run as Women’s World Cup champions is over. The Americans fell to Sweden in the round of 16 via a penalty shootout, 5-4, after extra time finished goalless.
The loss on penalties marks the U.S. team’s earliest exit from a Women’s World Cup in their history.
This was a match the U.S. could have and should have won several times over, only to be denied by the brilliance of Sweden keeper Zecira Musovic and their own inability to convert under pressure in the shootout when one more kick would have won it. Sophia Smith had a chance to win it, but missed her target with her attempt. There was doubt as to whether U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher kept out Lina Hurtig’s attempt, but VAR ruled that the shot crept over the line, and now the U.S. is out.
The irony is that U.S. delivered their sharpest performance of the tournament, dominating possession and creating the best chances. Lindsey Horan came closest to scoring, hitting the bar in the first half and forcing a fine save from Musovic in the second. Horan wasn’t alone on that count. Musovic was the Player of the Game, making 11 saves and helping Sweden withstand some withering U.S. pressure. Now she walks away as the hero as Sweden moves on.
Here’s how the individual U.S. performances stacked up.
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Manager rating (Scale of 1-10)
Vlatko Andonovski, 8 — Andonovski largely stuck to his guns in terms of starting XI, making just two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Portugal. Emily Sonnett was brought in for the suspended Rose Lavelle, while Trinity Rodman replaced Lynn Williams on the right flank. Sonnett was deployed in a double pivot alongside Andi Sullivan. The move carried with it some risk. Sonnett has played mostly outside back for the USWNT, though she played holding midfielder when she came on as a sub against Portugal. She has also logged heavy minutes this season in that role with club side OL Reign.
The move worked a treat, as the U.S. looked much better in all facets. The passing was sharper, the pressing more cohesive. All that was missing was a goal.
But once again he seemed reluctant to use his bench, making just one sub in regulation, and another early in extra time before making another two late. Would using his bench earlier and more often have made a difference? We’ll never know, and now the Women’s World Cup is over for them.
Player ratings (0-10; 10 = best; 5 = average)
GK Alyssa Naeher, 7 — Didn’t have a ton to do, but commanded her box well in dealing with corners, though she was fouled on one of those sequences. Made a sharp save late in regulation from Sofia Jakobsson. Was a little bit too aggressive on set pieces by the end, but no harm done. Did her bit in the shootout, scoring and saving.
DF Crystal Dunn, 6 — Struggled with her footing at times, but connected her passes when she kept her feet.
DF Naomi Girma, 8 — Played a lot of long balls in a bid to soften up Sweden’s defense. Was her usual lockdown self on the defensive side of the ball. Her reads are superb.
DF Julie Ertz, 7 — Had a critical block of a Stina Blackstenius shot in the 30th minute, and was steady throughout.
DF Emily Fox, 7 — Saw a lot of the ball, and also helped keep the U.S. attack going with some solid tackles and hustle plays.
MID Emily Sonnett, 8 — Just what the U.S. needed. Got her tackles in and was composed on the ball. Just made a huge difference in terms of the overall U.S. performance.
MID Andi Sullivan, 7 — Really benefited from having Sonnett by her side, looking sharper on the ball, and more confident stepping to it. Converted her shootout attempt.
MID Lindsey Horan, 6 — Seemed like she could have been better with her passing, but she had the best U.S. looks at goal, rattling the bar with a header in the 34th minute, and then having her rocket saved by Musovic in the 54th minute. Was one of the U.S. players to score in the shootout.
FW Sophia Smith, 4 — Seemed a step slow to everything early on, but then picked up her game. Still needed to be sharper on the ball though. Looked more comfortable in the middle. Missed her shootout attempt that would have won it.
FW Alex Morgan 4 — Pressed hard, and made some unselfish runs, but the U.S. still needed more in attack. Nearly won it with a header late in regulation, only to be denied by Musovic.
FW Trinity Rodman, 6 — Very active in the first half, shaking free for several shots, which forced sharp saves from Musovic. Faded a bit after half-time.
Substitutes (Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
Lynn Williams, 6 — Made some incisive runs after coming on. Needed to be more aggressive clearing a corner kick, but was a real handful overall. One of several U.S. players to be denied by Musovic.
Megan Rapinoe, 2 — Continues to be a shadow of her former self with shaky touches and poor set pieces. Redeemed herself a bit on the defensive end but was ineffective in attack. Her missed attempt in the shootout was a big momentum changer.
Kelley O’Hara, NR — Her shootout attempt that hit the post set up Sweden’s winner.
Kristie Mewis, NR — Buried her penalty.