The U.S. Women’s National Team earned a 1-0 win in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Thursday evening, with the lone goal coming on a beautiful finish from midfielder Rose Lavelle in the 56th minute.
While the final score reflects a positive result for the WNT – beating the world’s sixth-ranked team, a country honing in on the European champions, on the road after long travel and short recovery – how the team achieved it may prove even more valuable for the future.
The game was physical – Sweden committed 14 fouls to the USA’s four – fast and end-to-end. Most importantly, it was the first time this group of players had played a road game against one of the world’s best teams. Sweden outshot the United States 13-7 and earned 10 corner kicks compared to the USA’s two, but the U.S. team played with an excellent mentality, put together enough good soccer to earn more shots on goal than Sweden and scored an goal in transition before locking the game down the rest of the way.
“I’m really proud of our team,” co-captain Becky Sauerbrunn said following the 1-0 win. “We probably defended for 40 minutes in that second half but I think that’s a mentality that we need and that we found tonight. Sometimes, we have to grit it out and find the mentality that will allow us to keep a one-goal lead. We did that and it was tough but we got the result and that’s what matters.”
Coming up against those kinds of challenges is the reason why U.S. WNT head coach Jill Ellis continues to schedule games against the best teams in the world. As the level of competition gets higher, there are more problems to solve and lessons to learn.
It becomes crucial for the players to find ways to make something happen, keep cool under pressure and avoid any critical mistakes. All while being tested mentally, physically and tactically.
Lavelle, who was playing in her first game abroad with the WNT, scored the game-winning goal.
The kind of difficult game the U.S. played in Gothenburg is one that some of the younger players on the roster have never experienced and the kind of game necessary to mold a team that can win the big tournaments down the road.
“It was a fast game,” midfielder Samantha Mewis, who played all 90 minutes, said. “Sweden is physical and they pressed us high. It took a lot of effort to pull that one out, but on the road, it’s great to get a result. We have things to work on but I’m glad we got the win. It was definitely a challenge.”
While it was mostly Sweden on the attack for the first 15 minutes, the U.S. settled in and gained control of the tempo as the first half was coming to an end. U.S head coach Jill Ellis then made a couple of modifications to open the second half, and 11 minutes into the period, the U.S. created the winning goal.
“We definitely grew into this game,” Ellis said. “Sweden generates a lot of pressure and they’re a tough team to break down. We grew in terms of our build up and adjusted. It’s not easy to get into their final third. It was a good gut check in terms of a result. The goal was a great ball played through from Crystal Dunn and just the perfect finish from Rose Lavelle. It was a tough angle and she picked it out.”
For Lavelle, the game was the first of her career outside the USA with the senior Women’s National Team, but it’s bound to be one she remembers for a long time.
“I pulled out wide and Crystal [Dunn] popped in that pocket,” Lavelle said when describing her game-winning goal. “She was running out the back line and played an awesome ball in to me. I was debating if I should play it across the face of the goal or if I should shoot it. I decided to be a little selfish and it was a good choice... this time.”
The U.S. WNT will conclude its European trip in Sandefjord when the team faces Norway on Sunday, June 11 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX. The nationally broadcast match will be the 50th meeting between the historic rivals.