U.S. soccer looks for a rebound against New Zealand.


The most remarkable thing about Sweden’s 3-0 victory over the United States on Wednesday was not the score or the stage but the nature of it: The United States was bullied and bossed around the field for the entire 90 minutes, the kind of beating this team usually delivers rather than receives.

And even though it knew what was happening, it couldn’t do anything to stop it. Sweden was technically and tactically and physically better.

Saturday night’s opponent, New Zealand, poses a different kind of challenge. The Football Ferns (great name) have become a fixture at the Olympics and the World Cup over the past decade because they are the strongest team in their confederation, Oceania, by a long ways. They are experienced, tactically adaptable and well coached by a former U.S. coach, Tom Sermanni, and are now better equipped to hold their own against the more high-profile teams they face at major tournaments. That does not, however, make them the equal of the mighty United States.


The U.S., in fact, has beaten New Zealand at the past three Olympics. It is 15-1-1 all time against New Zealand. And while New Zealand’s team and reputation have improved as it has exported players to top leagues and A-list colleges in the United States and Europe, it should — should — have trouble matching up against the American stars. Especially now that those stars are mad and embarrassed.

“They’re going to be very, very structured, very organized, and they change what they’re doing within the game,” U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said Friday. “Sometimes we saw that in the last game, they step up and pressure high, sometimes they defend middle block in a 5-4-1 and sometimes they’ll drop even a lower and play low block. So for us to recognize all those moments and position to be able to solve those challenges will be crucial.”

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