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2023 Women's World Cup

Andonovski’s double pivot vs. Sweden was the right call made too late

Emily Sonnett started and thrived, and the USWNT looked its best in the 4-2-3-1. Why wasn’t this the plan all along?

Photo copyright Noe Llamas / SPP.

Reporting from Melbourne, Australia

Faced with the daunting task of replacing a suspended Rose Lavelle and injecting life into a team that stumbled through the group stage, Vlatko Andonovski came up with an unlikely answer: Emily Sonnett. It nearly saved the 2023 World Cup for the United States.

The margins were that of a ball that crossed the line by a nearly indistinguishable amount. “It’s tough to have your World Cup end by a millimeter,” said U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who thought she saved Lina Hurtig’s decisive penalty, only to be told she had not after a delay that felt like an eternity.

The U.S. looked terrible during the group stage and got saved from an even earlier exit by the post in a moment of fine margins that went in their favor against Portugal on Tuesday. Against Sweden, the U.S. put in its best and most complete performance at the World Cup in a game that mattered under Andonovski, but a goliath effort from Sweden goalkeeper Zećira Mušović denied the U.S. from scoring for the second straight match. Mušović made 11 saves, the best of which came in the 53rd minute when she pushed aside a stunning volley by Lindsey Horan.

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