USA-Sweden Wrap: Team USA Building Slowly Main Lesson In World Cup Draw

The United States women’s national soccer team is feeling growing pains en route to its 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup destiny — whatever that may be.

Team USA and Sweden played to a goal-less draw Friday in their second game in Group D play. The game always was going to be both competitive and emotionally charged given the close connections between both sets of players and coaches and the bulletin-board material Sweden coach Pia Sundhage provided her former team in the lead-up to the game.

The teams both banked a point in the group standings, but Sweden emerged from the game with more credit than Team USA after outplaying its well-hyped opponent for the majority of the contest. The margin on balance of play was slim, and scoring chances scarce, but Sweden had advantages in possession and territory in the first half and remained as dangerous as Team USA for the first 15 minutes of the second half and scared the Americans with a late chance.

Team USA controlled the last 30 minutes following the introduction of striker Abby Wambach, who surprisingly watched the first hour from the bench. Wambach gave Megan Rapinoe a target for her crosses but was missing the sharpness required to convert the service into goals. The same can be said about Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan and Team USA’s other misfiring strikers, who now have failed to score in consecutive World Cup outings.

Reason for encouragement came at the back end of the field. Team USA defended well, limiting a talented Swedish attack to less than a handful of scoring chances. Center backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston were outstanding. Fullbacks Ali Kreiger and Meghan Klingenberg played even better, defending with poise and contributing to the attack whenever possible. Klingenberg prevented defeat with a 77th-minute clearing header.

Team USA’s defense was better organized and sharper than it was in Monday’s win over Australia, but its attack remains, at best, a work-in-progress. The midfield seems out of sync with the forward line, as those in the center of the field failed to manage control the tempo of both Team USA’s attacking play and the game itself. Improving on this front will become more important as the tournament progresses.

Klingenberg’s goal-line header saves Team USA (video) >>

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Thumbnail photo via Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports Images

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