Carli Lloyd celebrates one of her two goals. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Vlatko Andonovski era kicked off on a winning note as the U.S. women held off Sweden, 3-2, in an international match at MAPFRE Stadium Thursday night.
Andonovski became the sixth of eight USWNT head coaches to win their debut match.
Carli Lloyd led the way, scoring twice and assisting on Christen Press’ goal in front of 20,903 chilly spectators. The Delran, N.J. native has 15 international goals this year and 120 in her career.
The Women’s World Cup champions did their damage during a 25-minute span in the first half.
As was the case this summer’s World Cup when the USA needed only three minutes to score against Sweden in the teams’ final match of group play, the USWNT grabbed the early lead when Lloyd, captaining the U.S. in her eighth start of the year, slotted home in the sixth minute.
After a brief retaliation from Sweden that generated a few chances, one of which required a last-second tackle from Emily Sonnett, the hosts broke the game open. In the 28th minute, Lloyd fed Press, who rounded a defender for finishing for the 2-0 lead.
Lloyd sent the USWNT into the break with a 3-0 advantage with a world-class chip over goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Andonovski turned to his bench in the second half, bringing on Lynn Williams and Andi Sullivan for Press and Julie Ertz, respectively, as the USA continued to dominate the run of play while forcing Lindahl into three of her seven saves inside the first 10 minutes.
At the hour mark, Andonovski wrung more changes, sending Mallory Pugh on for Tobin Heath and Samantha Mewis for Ohio native Rose Lavelle. After generating a few more chances, the U.S. was stunned to give up two goals as the final 15 minutes.
Anna Anvegard stabbed home in the 75th minute in one of Sweden’s few dangerous moments of the second half before a mix-up between U.S. center back Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher gifted Anvegard a second four minutes later, cutting the U.S. lead to 3-2.
The U.S. shook off the shock of conceding twice to seize control of the final 10 minutes. Casey Short’s determined run into the Sweden area in the 81st minute drew a foul from Sofia Jakobsson that referee Ekaterina Koroleva whistled, handing the USA a penalty kick opportunity.
Lloyd stepped to the spot to take the kick but put her shot over the bar.
Determined to make amends and earn a hat trick, the two-time world player of the year nearly danced her way through the Sweden defense in the final minutes, only to be put off as she angled to shoot.
The USWNT ends its 2019 schedule against Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Fla. at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 8 p.m.