United States vs. Sweden live updates: USA threatening early

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The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup continues Sunday (on FOX and the FOX Sports app) with the United States taking on longtime foe Sweden in the round of 16 at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Australia.

After a tougher-than-expected battle to get out of the group stage, the USWNT, which fell to No. 7 in our latest World Cup power rankings, faces a win-or-go-home scenario as it enters the knockout stage of the tournament. The Swedes are responsible for the Americans’ most recent major tournament loss — a 3-0 defeat in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics. Sweden also handed the U.S. its most recent non-penalty shootout loss in the World Cup, which came back in 2011.

‘World Cup NOW’ crew gives keys to victory for USWNT vs. Sweden

‘World Cup NOW’ crew gives keys to victory for USWNT vs. Sweden

Sunday’s tilt marks the sixth consecutive World Cup in which these two countries have faced off and the seventh World Cup meeting all-time between these two squads. The USWNT has a 4-1-1 record against Sweden in those matches.

The winner of this match will face red-hot Japan in Friday’s quarterfinal (3:30 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app).

Check out our live coverage below, featuring live analysis from FOX Sports’ Michael Cohen!

Sweden vs. United States

29′ — Smith, Rodman proving dangerous on wings

Impressive directness from wingers Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman thus far. Plenty of questions have been asked about those two in this tournament, especially given their struggles to defend/press, but they’ve flown out of the gates with confidence. Rodman in particular has shown a willingness to take players on down the right side and already has three shots, two on goal. The U.S. is also doing a nice job of isolating Smith 1v1 on the left side by using Crystal Dunn to occupy a second defender.

26′ — ANOTHER Trinity Rodman shot on goal saved

21′ — Naeher steady in net

Another set piece opportunity for Sweden. This corner kick from the left side was strongly bent toward goal, where GK Alyssa Naeher batted it away off the line. Impressive start for Naeher after she was shaky at times in the group stage.

20′ — Changes have had an impact on possession

As for what the USWNT is doing to address its struggles in possession, there are a couple of noteworthy changes thus far. The first is the double pivot of Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan, which immediately gives the U.S. defenders another option when building out of the back. The second is what seems like an instruction for the strong-side fullback to push high up the field and join the midfield/attack. In other words, when the ball is worked down the left-hand side, LB Crystal Dunn is offering a more advanced passing option. And when the ball is worked down the right, we’ve already seen Emily Fox make a couple of forward runs. Expect Dunn, who has done this at times throughout the tournament, to be the more offensive presence than Fox as the game continues.

18′ — Trinity Rodman shot on goal saved

14′ — A different look to the formation

A tweak to manager Vlatko Andonovski’s defensive shape to help combat his team’s problems in midfield: He’s asking them to defend in a 4-2-3-1 formation by dropping Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith into a line with Lindsey Horan. This effectively gives the USWNT five bodies in midfield (along with Andi Sullivan and Emily Sonnett) to match Sweden’s identical 4-2-3-1 formation. The U.S. is still attacking in a 4-3-3 look.

9′ — Dangerous in the air

Here we go, the first corner kick/set piece opportunity for Sweden, which has been lethal in the air all tournament. GK Alyssa Naeher comes off her line for a bold punch that did just enough to clear the ball from danger. A nice job by Naeher to free herself from the swarm of bodies in the 6-yard box, a staple of Sweden’s set pieces in the group stage.

7′ — USWNT’s first shot goes wide
A nice run from Trinity Rodman created a chance for her midfield teammate, but Sullivan sent the ball wide left from the top of the box.

6′ — Sweden is big and physical

One thing to watch in today’s match: This is the first time the USWNT will be the smaller side physically. Sweden’s roster has eight outfield players measuring 5-foot-9 or taller. The Swedes have built their playing style of set pieces, plentiful crosses and aerial prowess around their height advantages. Before the game, coach Vlatko Andonovski talked about Sweden’s physicality, and how his team would deal with it.

‘It’s nothing new to us’ – USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski on dealing with Sweden’s physicality

'It's nothing new to us' - USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski on dealing with Sweden's physicality

2′ — USA sticks with same formation

It’s a 4-3-3 for the USWNT, as expected. Julie Ertz remains at center back, and newcomer Emily Sonnett slides into midfield. Sonnett is playing alongside Andi Sullivan in what appears to be a double pivot. That leaves Lindsey Horan as the lone attacking midfielder.

PREGAME

Will USA change its tactics?

— Despite debuting just one new starter for the round of 16 against Sweden, the change by manager Vlatko Andonovski has prompted significant discussion in the buildup to today’s match. The addition of Emily Sonnett, who makes her first start of the tournament in place of the suspended Rose Lavelle, comes with numerous possibilities in terms of who lines up where for what is expected to be a continuation of the 4-3-3 formation the USWNT has used throughout the World Cup.

— The simplest option is to make a like-for-like change by sliding Sonnett directly into Lavelle’s spot in midfield, pairing her with Lindsey Horan and Andi Sullivan, both of whom have started all three games thus far. But even this kind of swap comes with a potential caveat: There’s a chance Andonovski inverts his triangle in midfield to play with two holding midfielders — Sullivan and Sonnett — and just one attacking midfielder. This would be the opposite of what the United States has done throughout the tournament.

Stu Holden and Heather O’Reilly discuss lineup changes

Stu Holden and Heather O'Reilly discuss lineup changes

— A second option relies on the same formational concept but alters the personnel to get there. It’s possible Andonovski would swap Sonnett for center back Julie Ertz, who is a defensive midfielder by trade, and slide Ertz into the midfield spot vacated by Lavelle. This could allow Sonnett to play at her more natural position of center back and Ertz to play at her preferred position of holding midfielder. But a change like this is not without risk, either. The center back partnership of Ertz and Naomi Girma has been one of the lone positives for a U.S. squad that has drawn plenty of scrutiny from fans and analysts alike. Ertz and Girma have performed solidly in defense for a team that’s allowed just one goal in its first three matches.

— Then there’s the most radical option which, admittedly, is unlikely to happen but would certainly represent a massive swing. Andonovski could opt to insert Sonnett as a third center back — alongside Ertz and Girma — and change his formation to some version of a 5-4-1. In this scenario, LB Crystal Dunn and RB Emily Fox would serve as wingbacks and flank a central midfield grouping of Sullivan, Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman. This would leave FWD Alex Morgan to play as a lone striker. There’s a very slim chance Andonovski would make a move this drastic, but it’s worth mentioning given the USWNT’s struggles to maintain possession and control the middle of the park. A 5-4-1 formation would give the U.S. more bodies behind the ball and offer more chances to clog the midfield passing lanes.

Lindsey Horan leads players to watch vs. Sweden

Lindsey Horan leads players to watch vs. Sweden

Lineup change

— Fans who hoped for wholesale lineup changes from manager Vlatko Andonovski were likely disappointed when they saw his selections for today’s match against Sweden. Andonovski made just two alterations to the lineup that played poorly in the final group stage match against Portugal: He reintroduced right wing Trinity Rodman, who replaces Lynn Williams; and he brings defender Emily Sonnett into the mix for the second time at this World Cup with Rose Lavelle suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

— At 21 years and 78 days old, Trinity Rodman is the youngest USWNT player to start a women’s World Cup knockout match since Cindy Parlow in the 1999 Final (21 years, 63 days). With an average of 83.7 caps entering today, the USWNT’s starting 11 today is its least experience starting lineup for a major tournament knockout match since the gold medal match in the 1996 Olympics (82.0).

— The 29-year-old Sonnett, who plays for OL Reign in the NWSL, is making her first career start at the World Cup while earning her 77th CAP overall. She’s appeared in two previous World Cup games, both as substitutes: in 2019 against Chile and the USWNT’s most recent match against Portugal.

— GK Alyssa Naeher, LB Crystal Dunn, MID Lindsey Horan and FWD Alex Morgan all started the last time the Americans faced Sweden in a World Cup. That game, which occurred in 2019, finished as a 2-0 win for the USWNT. Horan scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 3rd minute. The same quartet also started for the United States’ most recent match against Sweden in the delayed Tokyo Olympics on July 21, 2021. The Swedes prevailed 3-0.

By the numbers:

6 — The number of 10-plus pass sequences for the USWNT in this tournament, which is tied for the 11th fewest among the 32 teams at this year’s Women’s World Cup. By contrast, Sweden has 25 sequences with 10-plus passes thus far.

7.8 — The expected goals (xG) total for the United States through three games. That the Americans have converted those chances into just four actual goals speaks to the squad’s poor finishing in the group stage. This includes a staggering 2.1 xG against Portugal in a match that finished as a 0-0 draw.

108 — The number of touches the USWNT had in the final third against Portugal, their lowest of the tournament. The U.S. finished with 267 touches in the final third against Vietnam and 191 against the Netherlands in a reflection of how its attack deteriorated throughout the group stage.

1.94 — The expected goals (xG) total for striker Alex Morgan, which ranks 11th among all players in this year’s tournament and leads the USWNT. But Morgan is without a goal at the World Cup and missed a penalty kick in the opening match against Vietnam. Her poor finishing and suspect shot selection has been a problem for the USWNT. By comparison, Sophia Smith ranks second on the team with 0.99 xG through three games.

Setting the stage

The “World Cup NOW” crew previewed the match live on social media ahead of kickoff.

GOAT SIGHTING!

USWNT legend Mia Hamm is on hand to take in the game.

And speaking of legends, USWNT supporters ran into basketball star Sue Bird, who is on hand to support her partner Megan Rapinoe.

Sophia Smith’s journey

USA’s Sophia Smith reflects on overcoming injuries, meeting Abby Wambach and more.

USA’s Sophia Smith’s path to the World Cup

USA's Sophia Smith's path to the World Cup

Soccer Dad

Mike Morgan never misses a game for any team his daughter Alex plays on, a habit that dates back to when the USA star was 14 years old.

“He racked up an incredible amount of Southwest [Airlines] miles within those four years,” Alex says.

Tom Rinaldi shared the story ahead of Sunday’s match.

‘He’s just the ultimate soccer dad’ – Alex Morgan on father Mike

'He's just the ultimate soccer dad' - Alex Morgan on father Mike

Check out the full Women’s World Cup schedule and how to watch each match live here. Find the latest scores here.

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