U.S. women face tough test for Vlatko debut match

A new era in the U.S. women's national team begins on Thursday when the world champions play their first game under new head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

Less than a week after his selection as the replacement for Jill Ellis, Andonovski gathered 24 players in Columbus, Ohio, in preparation for Thursday's match against Sweden.

The USA enters the game with a 18-1-3 record in 2019 and is riding a 21-match unbeaten streak since it began the year with a 3-1 loss to France in Le Havre.

The match will be the toughest for the USA since it won its fourth world title in July. It beat Sweden, 2-0, in their final group match, but the Swedes went on to finish third behind the USA and the Netherlands in France, beating England, 2-1, in the consolation game in Nice.

The Swedish squad includes goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl, midfielder Kosovare Asllani and forwards Sofia Jakobsson and Stina Blackstenius, all key contributors in France.

The match will be a chance for veterans to show Andonovski they deserve consideration for the 2020 Olympics when the roster will be 18 players, five less than went to the World Cup.

With defenders Kelley O'Hara, Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson and Ali Krieger all absent due to injuries, Emily Sonnett (38 caps) and Casey Short (30) should see action. Short did not make the World Cup team but was arguably the best defender in the NWSL in 2019.

Alex Morgan is on pregnancy leave, so Carli Lloyd should start at up front. Also available are the North Carolina Courage pair Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams.

The match will be a chance to get a look at new faces. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and defenders Alana Cook and Imani Dorsey have never been in a senior national team camp; Midge Purce has never been capped.
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