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USA 1-1 Sweden: Player Ratings

The United States Women’s National Team drew 1-1 with Sweden Tuesday from Morrison Stadium in Omaha, Neb. after an encouraging first half led to a dreadful second half from the Americans.

Sweden found ample space in the midfield in the second half and picked apart the U.S. defense, which was exposed on several occasions, including the 58th minute when Linda Forsberg equalized Amy Rodriguez’s 44th minute goal.  The Swedish midfield had its way in the final 45 minutes and and the U.S. attack – particularly on the flanks – disappeared.

Below is how I saw things Tuesday night.  Player rankings are based on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being a perfect game and one being an absolute nightmare.  While the numbers may seem harsh, they fall in the middle of that range (a.k.a. average).  It was, in truth, an average, pedestrian performance from the U.S. Tuesday night.

USA Starters:
(GK) Nicole Barnhart: 6
– She made a couple of critical saves, including a huge double-save from the cround on Forsberg in the 28th minute and a nice stop late in the game.  Barnhart can take some, but very little blame for the Swedish goal.
(D) Kate Markgraf: 6 – On the day of her 200th cap, Markgraf showed why she was wearing the captain’s armband with some nice overlaps in the first half and showed good speed.  Still part of a sketchy back line.
(D) Amy LePeilbet: 5 – Nothing special from LePeilbet, who left the match in the 79th minute with a sprained ankle.  After that, things really got dicey in the back.
(D) Rachel Buehler: 4 – Buehler was exposed on Sweden’s goal and had a couple of very shaky moments.
(D) Stephanie Cox: 4 – After a great first half that featured some nice overlapping runs, Cox was picked apart in the second half, including on Sweden’s goal.
(M) Heather O’Reilly: 5 – I really liked O’Reilly’s ability to run freely throughout the pitch.  She made some great diagonal runs in the first half that opened up and confused Sweden.  Unfortunately, there was not much service coming from the flank.
(M) Shannon Boxx: 6 – Boxx provided a couple of spectacular through balls to Wambach and it was her signature tackle that created Rodriguez’s goal.
(M) Lori Lindsey: 4 – Lindsey was really quite invisible throughout the match.  Nothing much to say.  This was not the Lindsey from the Algarve Cup.
(M) Megan Rapinoe: 7 – Rapinoe was the most dangerous of the United States’ flank players in this match, producing a couple of good shots and some dangerous crosses.  She was certainly missed in the second half.
(F) Amy Rodriguez: 6 – Rodriguez looked agile and dangerous at times throughout this match, but she did disappear at times.  Credit her for the goal and the 57th minute diving header that went off the crossbar….which led to Sweden’s counter attack and goal.
(F) Abby Wambach: 7 – More and more, Wambach is showing she is not just a goal scorer.  Her ability to hold up the ball and distribute – as she did on Rodriguez’s goal and several other occasions – will be critical for the U.S. going forward.

Reserves:
(M – 46th minute sub) Sarah Huffman: 4
– She did provide the cross that led to Rodriguez’s header off the crossbar, but otherwise struggled to do much more than Lindsey.
(M – 46th minute sub) Kelley O’Hara – 4
– Pretty much invisible on the evening.  Her work-rate is always there, but she didn’t do much dangerous.
(D – 79th minute sub) Ali Kreiger – 4 – Things got even more hectic in the back with Kreiger in, though that cannot all be put on her.
(M – 83rd minute) Kristine Lilly – N/A – Not really enough from Lilly to give a fair rating, but she immediately served a great corner kick on her first touch of the game.

Special Recognition:
Morrison Stadium on the campus of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. deserves a lot of credit for Tuesday night’s display.  6,500 fans turned out to see the U.S. take on Sweden in a gorgeous soccer-specific stadium that was full and looking good.  I give the setting a nine out of 10, with the drawback being it is turf and not natural grass.

What We Learned:

These ratings are not as negative as some may interpret.  They simply indicate a pretty average performance.  Keep in mind that while the United States is No. 1 in the world, Sweden is No. 4 and a very formidable opponent.  What we have learned is that the U.S. needs to come out with a solid 90 minutes of good play Saturday against Sweden in East Hartford, Conn.  We have also learned the U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage should really try to schedule more friendly matches before CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying begins in late October (which has been confirmed to be in Cancun, Mexico).

The back line was clearly troubling, and I think a healthy Christie Rampone can help that.  Some combination of LePeilbet, Rampone and Markgraf can man the center of defense, which would allow Rachel Buehler to slide to the outside and (presumably) help solve the outside back dilemna.

Stephanie Cox is a solid option but she lacks pace and I don’t see her as a starting XI player in a World Cup.  I do see a healthy Heather Mitts as a dependable option at outside back and I think any neutral fan would pray for her to be healthy for 2011 after missing the 2003 and 2007 Women’s World Cups due to injury.

The real Lori Lindsey needs to stand up as well.  She has been extremely impressive in 2010, but not so much Tuesday night.  Will a healthy Carli Lloyd be a better option in the middle of the park?  The U.S. Women’s National Team version of Lloyd is much more appealing than the Chicago Red Stars/Sky Blue FC version we have seen, but there are questions there.

Heather O’Reilly should roam one flank and based on tonight’s performance (as well as previous ones, of course), Rapinoe is making a case for herself.  Using Rapinoe on one flank with Kristine Lilly as a super-sub would be a solid option in qualifying and the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup as well.

On Sweden’s end, Caroline Seger was impressive and controlled the midfield much better than Lindsey, her Philadelphia Independence teammate, and even Boxx.  Kosovare Asllani was impressive and even Jessica Landstrom managed to create some chances.

Give Stina Stegerstrom some credit for the assist on Sweden’s goal.  That was a really great through-ball.  On the other hand, Sweden’s back-up goalkeeper Sofia Lundgren was terribly shaky in net and the U.S. should have tested her more.

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