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USWNT’s Vlatko Andonovski era starts with a back-and-forth win over Sweden

Carli Lloyd put in a performance worthy of keeping her job under a new coach.

The new era of the United States women’s national team is off to a decent enough start.

In coach Vlatko Andonovski’s first game at the helm of the World Cup-winning team, the Americans started fast against a strong Swedish side Thursday and withstood a second-half onslaught for a 3-2 win.

Although it was merely a friendly in cold and blustery Columbus, Ohio, the match was less about the result and more about the first glimpse of what the Andonovski-led U.S. team will look like.

Andonovski eased into the job, fielding a starting lineup that looked exactly like one his predecessor, Jill Ellis, might’ve rolled out amid a rash of absences, including Alex Morgan, who is pregnant. But 37-year-old Carli Lloyd put in a convincing audition to keep her starting role on the team after recently telling ESPN she’d rather retire than sit on the bench under a new coach.

It took the Americans only five minutes to take the lead. Along the left flank, fullback Casey Short fed a ball upfield for Christen Press to run onto, and Press expertly placed a low, driving cross into the path of Lloyd, who tapped it in.

In the 28th minute, another goal came from the left side via Press. She dribbled her way into the box, cutting the ball back to beat a pair of defenders, and struck past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.

But the USA’s third goal was the stunner of the evening. A long, diagonal ball from Julie Ertz was flicked on into the box by Tobin Heath, and Lloyd took a couple touches wide before coolly chipping Lindahl.

At halftime, Lloyd told FS1 that the Americans were “really fluid” in the attack and, she added: “We’re definitely implementing some of the philosophy Vlatko is wanting and little by little we’re going to keep getting better.”

The Americans, seemingly recognizing Sweden’s tendency to attack on the counter, played compact defensively to force turnovers and stymie the Swedes from getting in behind. In the attack, the Americans tended to play out the back, connecting passes through the lines to feed Lloyd up top.

The second half, however, wasn’t quite so festive for the Americans. In the 75th minute, Nathalie Björn redirected a ball into the box for an Anna Anvegård tap-in. Four minutes later, Anvegård scored again on a miscommunication from defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, bringing the Swedes within one goal of the Americans.

The U.S. nearly extended their lead again in the 81st minute when Short was fouled in the box, earning a penalty, but Lloyd fired the spot kick well over the bar.

Although Andonovski’s starting lineup included players who have been regulars under Ellis, his substitutes signaled that players who had been passed over previously have a new shot with the national team. Lynn Williams, who came on in the second half, got her first cap since March 2018.

Ellis announced her plans to step down from the national team after winning her second straight World Cup in July. Andonovski previously coached for Reign FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, and FC Kansas City before that, and the U.S. job is his first in international soccer.

Up next, the U.S. hosts Costa Rica for another friendly Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida.

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