USWNT: April friendlies show room to improve before Olympics

USWNT v France (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
USWNT v France (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

In their most recent international friendlies, the USWNT battled Sweden to a tie on Saturday before securing an uninspiring win against France on Tuesday. After pummelling Argentina and Colombia 6-0 earlier in the year, it was crucial that the USWNT faced more formidable opponents leading up to the summer Olympics.

The USWNT met their match with Sweden, a side that is consistently near the top of the world rankings. Sweden outplayed the United States, relentlessly giving them trouble in a way they have not been used to in recent months.

Sweden led the game 1-0 until the 87th minute when the USWNT clawed their way back on a penalty kick given for a foul on Kelley O’Hara that in replays appeared to be outside of the box. One poor call by the referee, and the United States’ unbeaten streak remained intact.

USWNT Kelley O'Hara foul
USWNT’s Kelley O’Hara appeared to be taken down outside the box /

Though a tie undoubtedly felt a lot better than returning home with a loss, it was clear that the USWNT had no choice but to step up their game. Sweden’s play was a welcome reminder that the USWNT is not invincible.

The USWNT made adjustments heading into the game against France.

Vlatko Andonovski made a handful of changes to the starting lineup and no doubt had a few words of constructive criticism to pass along to the team following the Sweden match. The good news is they walked away on Tuesday with a 2-0 win and a restored sense of confidence. The bad news is it was against a depleted French team that was missing a significant chunk of their starters, and the USWNT still managed to look sloppy in their build-up play.

Due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases on the Lyon squad, members of the French National Team playing for Lyon, such as captain Wendie Renard, were forced to stay home. Against, a younger and less experienced (albeit scrappy) French side, the USWNT should have appeared more dominant.

Again the referee played a significant role in the outcome of the game making an offside call against France on a breakaway (that was not offside) and allowing an Alex Morgan goal (that was offside). If the referee makes those two calls differently, the mood on the team bus suddenly becomes much more somber.

The number of incomplete passes was far too high on Tuesday, however, through the tenacious, organized play of the defense and the promising midfield play going forward from Rose Lavelle, the USWNT proved that even when they haven’t quite hit their stride, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Now was the time to beat them. They’re only getting stronger from here on out as they play more games together and finalize the 18 player Olympic roster.

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Somehow, even when they struggle, the USWNT seems to always find a way. And for that, they must be applauded.