COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The match between Sweden and the U.S. Women’s National team was supposed to happen before an early November friendly at MAPFRE Stadium. Sweden was expected to play the U.S. in the 2019 World Cup Final in July. That was until Sweden was upset by The Netherlands, who then lost to the U.S. in the World Cup final.
There wasn’t a World Cup title on the line in Columbus, but the excitement was still there for a team that hadn’t played in this city since March 2018. A lot has changed since then. The U.S. won a record fourth World Cup and said goodbye to head coach Jill Ellis. In her place is Vlatko Andonovski, a longtime head coach in the National Women’s Soccer League.
In his coaching debut, the U.S., without several of its usual starters, beat Sweden 3-2. It took the U.S. less than six minutes to score with Carli Lloyd burying a beautiful cross from Christen Press.
Press then got a goal of her own 22 minutes later giving her 50 goals with the U.S. national team, a feat only 11 other players have accomplished.
Lloyd added another goal in the first half, and despite allowing two goals in the second half, the USWNT was still able to hold on for the win.
Andonovski is originally from Yugoslavia, and while no fans came that far to see the game, there were still plenty of people who drove several hours to see this team play.
“It’s exciting to watch them,” Buffalo resident Melanie Moats said. “A lot of them we’ve watched since they started with the national team so just to watch them grow and win.”
“It took us about six hours [to drive here],” Nashville resident Chrissy Webb said. “We’re standing in 33 degree weather right now to cheer on these women.”
She’s part of the American Outlaws, a group of fans all across the country to travel from near and far to cheer on both the men and women’s national teams.
“No matter where you go you’re home,” Jackson, Mississippi resident Cody Deer said about the American Outlaw fan section. “You’ve got family and friends all over the country whether it’s in California, Washington, New York, Florida; you’ve got friends and family there.”
“My first game was two years ago. I’ve been to 18 of them since,” Tyler Mazey said. “I can go all the way across the country regardless of where it is and be able to find someone to hang out with just from this.”
Fans from Ohio also came out in full force, including most of the Bluffton University women’s soccer team.
“Literally a two hour drive and we get to see them play,” freshman Frankie Hamilton said. “They’ve been our inspiration since we were little girls. Now I get to watch them play right here!”
Shannon Trick and her daughter Olivia traveled from Wilmington, Ohio to see the USWNT in person for the first time.
“She [Olivia] plays for Warren County soccer Academy so it’s neat to come see something to aspire to,” Shannon Trick said about her daughter, Olivia. “It’s pretty surreal. It really is.”
The USWNT has one more match in 2019, which will be played against Costa Rica on Nov. 10 in Jacksonville.