The United States entered the Olympics as the clear favorite to win their 4th straight gold medal. While the USWNT made easy work of New Zealand, they weren't playing at their best against France and Colombia. Still, they emerged as Group G winners and are still viewed as the team to beat in the women's tournament.
Now, it's the quarterfinals, and this is the time for the USA to put it all together and they start today against Sweden and former coach Pia Sundhage. Sweden finished 3rd in Group E, beating South Africa 1-0, losing to host Brazil 5-1 and drawing China 0-0. Sweden, a team that is always a tough out, will be looking for the major upset and they have a strong team that is capable of putting pressure on the Americans. Players like Lotta Schelin, Kosovare Asllani and Nilla Fischer have some skill and will make this match anything but a cakewalk for the 3-time World Cup champions.
USA Projected Starting XI: Despite Hope Solo's errors against Colombia on Tuesday, there's no doubt she's the woman between the posts today for the Americans. Julie Johnston, who sat out the past 2 matches resting a groin injury, will hopefully be good to go and the preferred back line of Kelley O'Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Johnston and Meghan Klingenberg will be on the field. In the middle, I think head coach Jill Ellis will go with the four that started against New Zealand: Allie Long, Carli Lloyd (C), Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath. Finally, the forward pairing will likely be Mallory Pugh and Alex Morgan, but there's a possibility that Ellis will prefer Christen Press as the woman to pair with Morgan. There's also the option of having Crystal Dunn on the wing and taking the pace straight to Sweden from the opening whistle.
Match Previews: Over at Stars and Stripes FC, their preview discusses that focus is the key to a U.S. victory today, as they seemed to not have that against Colombia. Here, our own caitlinbuckley points out that while Sweden is not the team they once were, they did give the USWNT fits last summer during the 2015 Women's World Cup. This is still a tough matchup, but it's one that the U.S. is still favored to win.
What Are You Drinking?: I'll be on a flight to Nashville during most of the game, so my weapon of choice will be the strongest drink a Southwest drink voucher can get me. I guess that's straight bourbon.
Prediction: The lack of focus that was apparent against Colombia will not be something you see today. This team seems to get better as they progress in major tournaments and now that they know they are shooting for that 4th consecutive gold medal, they know that they have to do everything to take out a Swedish team that is looking to pull off the upset. The United States is the stronger team and they prove that today. 3-0 USWNT, goals by Lloyd (2) and Dunn.
This is your place to discuss today's game. You know what to do...the comments section is your virtual pub. Head on over and grab a seat.