For the first time since 2015, the U.S. Women’s National Team will travel abroad for a pair of friendlies, starting with a stop at Gamla Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg to face Sweden on June 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and UDN. The game will be the first meeting between the two since the heartbreaking quarterfinal loss for the WNT in penalty kicks at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, where Sweden went on to win the silver medal.
Besides the topic of redemption for the U.S. Women, as well as the continuous preparation towards qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, the USA vs. Sweden match also includes a handful of interesting storylines. It brings together a former coach and her former players; a former coach and former assistant coach; a couple of old teammates and a long, competitive history on the field for both programs.
Sweden is coached by former U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, who led the USA to gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Sundhage was also at the helm for the USA’s runner-up finish at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. During her stint as head coach from 2008-12, Sundhage won three Algarve Cup titles and was named the 2012 FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year.
Sundhage worked alongside current head coach Jill Ellis while she was in the USA, however since she returned to her native land to coach Sweden, the teams have met only four times in very close games, with two of them under the leadership of Ellis as the other two were under former head coach Tom Sermanni. The USA has failed to win any of those games, tying three and losing one (the game at the Olympics officially counts as a tie). The teams tied 1-1 at the Algarve Cup in 2013; the USA then lost 1-0 at the Algarve Cup in 2014. Then there was the 0-0 draw at the Women’s World Cup in 2015 (where the U.S. of course went on to win the title), and the 1-1 (3-4 pks) draw at the Olympics in Brazil last August that the U.S. lost in penalty kicks.
Six players on this current roster earned at least one cap under Sundhage. These players are: Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, Meghan Klingenberg, Sydney Leroux, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.
Beyond the coaching ties, a few players on this roster also spent various amounts of time playing in Sweden. Christen Press (Tyresö FF), and Klingenberg (Tyresö FF) both played with and against many of the Sweden National Team players, while a few others played with them in clubs outside Sweden, such as Carli Lloyd and Kosovare Asllani in Manchester City; Asllani and Lindsey Horan at PSG and Hedvig Lindahl and Crystal Dunn at Chelsea.
Sweden is currently preparing for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro that kicks off in the Netherlands on July 16. While the game against 6th-ranked Sweden may be a friendly, the implications are a bit greater, as the WNT players will arrive with a chip on their shoulders and a desire to prove themselves in what is now one of the most competitive rivalries among the world’s top teams in recent years.
The USA has played against Sweden in Sweden just twice before, a 1-0 win in Skelleftea in the summer of 2008 as Carli Lloyd scored the USA’s lone goal and a 3-1 win in Halmstad in the summer of 2012 as Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath scored. Sweden’s all-time leading scorer Lotta Schelin tallied for her country.