For the first time during the tournament, I got up in the middle of the night specifically to watch a match: Sweden-USA. First, hats off to Zecira Musovic, the Swedish goalkeeper who made 11 saves in the 120 minutes that preceded penalties. Amazingly, she didn't make a single save in the penalty shootout that resulted in the Americans' elimination ... each miss by the U.S. came from poorly-kicked balls, Musovic never touched any of them. Swedish coach Peter Gerhardsson offered an interesting theory on what happened to the USA:
I don't know what [Musovic] did, what mental thing that she did to make them put them over the bar and things like that.... She was good in the game. Even if she didn't save any penalties, I think for the other team, maybe they put it outside because they know that if it's not a good penalty, maybe she takes it.
I leave it to others, more expert at soccer analysis, to explain what went wrong for the Americans. It's ironic that the U.S. keeper, Alyssa Naeher, had the best performance of the goalies on the penalties. She saved two, and even stepped to take one for her team, which she made.
The U.S. played their best game of the Cup, and they leave having not lost any matches in regular time. After beating Vietnam 3-0 to start, they had three straight draws, not scoring in either of the last two matches. It's kinda hard to win if you don't score.
Why didn't they score? I have my opinions, but they're not that informed ... I'm just a guy who watches matches. To my eye, the players didn't seem to fit comfortably into the scheme provided by coach Vlatko Andonovski. Alex Morgan is the best example on the offense ... I don't think she played that badly, she was offside a bit too often, but she had her chances, and against Sweden, again you tip your cap to Musovic. Morgan, like a lot of the players, seemed to tire ... she's 34 years old, she played 342 minutes over 4 games. If I take one memory away from the U.S. in this World Cup, it's that Andonovski seemed to forget he was allowed to make substitutions. He made the allowed five subs against Vietnam, then made only one sub against the Netherlands, bringing on Rose Lavelle at the half. He again made all 5 subs against Portugal, but two came in the 84th minute, and two more came in added time. Finally, against Sweden, he subbed in Lynn Williams in the 66th minute, then nothing until the extra time, when he took off Morgan for Megan Rapinoe in the 99th minute. He made no other subs in the 120-minute match, other than to add two good penalty takers in the 120th minute.
Is any of this relevant to why they couldn't score? You got me. The easier explanation is probably the best: the rest of the world has caught up with the USA in women's soccer.
Here is the centimeter that sent Sweden through: