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USWNT set for pre-Olympics friendly with 5th-ranked Sweden on April 10

Colorado’s Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith available, Mallory Pugh running out of time to return, and Jaelin Howell returns to FSU.

Argentina v USWNT Photo by Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) will face off against top-ranked Sweden in Stockholm’s Friends Arena on Saturday, April 10 at 11 a.m. MT. It will the team’s first match on foreign turf this calendar year. In FIFA’s most current ranking of women’s national teams, Sweden is in 5th place.

The U.S. is coming off of their fourth SheBelieves Cup title, which they won with relative ease in Orlando just two months ago. The Stars and Stripes are the first back-to-back champions in the tournament’s six-year history and the first team to not allow a single goal over the course of the competition.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has been using sequential winter/spring camps and friendlies to evaluate invited players ahead of the Summer Olympics in Japan. During the next three months, he and his staff will whittle down the candidates to an 18-player roster that will head to the Olympics. An additional four alternates will also travel with the team.

On March 23, Andonovski called in 23 players to his European-based camps ahead of the two challenging matches against Sweden and France.

His invitees included Colorado Rush Soccer Club alumni Lindsey Horan and Real Colorado product Sophia Smith. Both are teammates with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Portland Thorns.

Mallory Pugh and Jaelin Howell were not invited to join the senior team and travel to Europe.

After participating in several of the recent U.S. camps, Howell has returned to her college studies and women’s soccer program at Florida State University.

Meanwhile, Pugh continues to miss out on key opportunities to regain both visibility and star status with the team. With so few remaining opportunities to train and play with Lady Yanks, it now appears that she will be a long shot to make the final 18-player plus four-player alternate squad that will represent the United States in the Olympics.

According to a story published recently in the Chicago Tribune, the forward is still on the mend after she sustained an injury at the last USWNT camp. She is currently rehabbing with her NWSL side, the Chicago Red Stars. Her head coach Rory Dames told the Tribune, “Mal’s injury at the last national camp was a severe one. It was a muscle injury, but it was probably as bad as it could be. I don’t know if we have a specific time frame other than when the medical staff and performance staff, and Mal all feel like she’s not a risk, and she is good to go.”

With Pugh out, rookie Sophia Smith has stepped in and has impressed the coaching staff. She is expected to see plenty of playing time during these two matches.

When asked by the Burgundy Wave about what impresses him and his staff about Smith, Andonovski said, “At every camp, we see (her) progress, which is very promising for us. Her ability to create goal-scoring opportunities in the attacking third is impressive.” He added that the staff is has been focusing on helping Smith “learn how to use her teammates.” Smith will turn 21 years old this August and will be the only USWNT player on the field born in 2000s.

USA vs. rival Sweden

The USA has played Sweden 40 times dating back to 1987. According to the USWMT, the team is 7-3-5 in their last 15 matches, making for one of the most competitive rivalries among top teams in recent years.

This will be the first meeting between the teams since Vlatko Andonovski’s first match in charge of the USA. That came on November 7, 2019, in Ohio and the USA won 3-2 on two goals from Carli Lloyd. The veteran forward is close to achieving a historic milestone, as her next cap will be her 300th in a Team USA kit.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

During a virtual press conference from the team’s hotel, Alex Morgan raised an unpleasant memory from the Rio Brazil Summer Olympics in 2016 when the U.S lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals. Her blunt comment was “it still stings.” Morgan went on to add, “I think a lot of the players who were there in 2016, it’s in the back of our minds, and those who weren’t there, we’ll be sure to remind them.”

Very late in the game, Morgan tied up the score on a powerful goal. The match moved to stoppage time and then to a round of high-stakes penalty kicks. Morgan and Christen Press missed both of their shots. Sweden won 4-3 and moved on in the Women’s Olympic Tournament. For the USA, it was their worst finish in an Olympics outing.

With the rough and tumble history between the two teams, Andonovski has been pushing his side during closed training sessions in Friends Arena.

Asked what are the Blue and Yellow strengths, Andonovski noted how well-organized and disciplined the Swedes are. “Their creativity, too — they are very fluent in their attack. We chose to play Sweden for that reason. We knew they will present challenges that maybe some other teams will not be able to do.”

He added, “and in getting ready for the Olympics, we want to play some of the best teams in the world, some of the best players in the world, and Sweden checks those boxes for us.”

Andonovski is 16-0-0 in his first 16 games — two at the end of 2019, nine in 2020, and five so far in 2021 — setting a record for the best start for a head coach in USWNT history.

How to Watch: USWNT vs. Sweden

Match Date/Time: Saturday, April, 10 at 11 a.m. MT

TV Information: Fox

Venue: Friends Arena, Stockholm

Follow along on Twitter @USWNT, @AODenver, @AOSprings, Instagram @USWNT and/or USWNT on Facebook

USWNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 5), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 67)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 65/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 28/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 109/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 134/2), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 6/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 182/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 51/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 108/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 91/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 51/14), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 21/4), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 16/0)

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 299/124), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 173/108), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 142/60), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 173/57), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 3/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 33/10).