U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski offered his harshest evaluation yet of his squad’s performance at the 2023 World Cup.

The two-time defending champions played World Cup newcomer Portugal to a scoreless draw Tuesday, finishing the group stage with just one win for the first time ever. The result also sealed the USWNT’s status as Group E runner-up, setting up a Round of 16 battle with world No. 3 Sweden at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

“The performance was crap,” Andonovski told FOX Sports on Thursday. “We all know that. We have to own it. We have to take accountability. And we have to focus for the next game. Let’s make sure that we don’t have the same performance again.”

With the blunt assessment, the head coach struck a different tone then in the immediate aftermath of the match, when he acknowledged the USWNT’s flawed execution but focused more on Portugal’s skill. He also expressed confidence in his players and their ability to right the ship, a confidence that has not been unshaken in the days leading up to the elimination match against Sweden.

“I think it’s been great actually,” he told FOX Sports. “I was a little bit worried after the Portugal game [about] how they’re going to feel and where they stand, but the group has been incredible.

“Some of the more experienced players actually from the get go were very energetic and very positive about the fact that we have [another] game.”

Co-captain Lindsey Horan and forward Lynn Williams reiterated that message during media availability on Thursday, saying the USWNT is “not panicking” despite their group stage results. The players instead are focused on rediscovering their “joy” ahead of the Sweden matchup.

Portugal nearly did the unthinkable Tuesday, coming just inches from knocking the U.S. women’s national team out of the 2023 World Cup in the group stage.

Just one thing stood between the World Cup debutante and the Round of 16: A goalpost.

Portugal striker Ana Capeta took a shot in second-half stoppage time that ricocheted off the post. The close call preserved the scoreless draw that sent the USWNT (and not Portugal) to the knockout stage.

“It was by mere centimeters that we didn’t make another dream come true,” Capeta told Portuguese media after the draw. “We had already achieved the biggest dream of all football players by being the first Portuguese team to play at the World Cup. I think we were competent and deserved more, not only for what we did today but also for what we produced in all three matches.

“Every time I take to the field and take a shot I’m dreaming. I dreamed that we could make history and eliminate the United States in the group stage for the first time. I think anyone who watched this match at home and didn’t know the United States were world champions, they still wouldn’t have known it afterwards. We were far superior.”

She also said that what her team might lack in technique and tactics, “we make up for in spirit and desire. They will never beat us in that.”

All in all, she called it a “positive” first World Cup for Portugal, capped off by what Portugal coach Francisco Neto called the team’s “best game” of the tournament.

“I will be honest with you, when Ana hit the ball I was thinking it would be a goal and about what Vlatko would do and what I would have to do to stop him,” he said. “I swear, I truly believed it was going to be a goal. I told the girls I was very proud. Of course, they are very sad because we have huge expectation on ourselves.

“They felt that we were probably going to be the first team in the world that would eliminate the US in this stage. It was a huge opportunity for us but unfortunately we go home tomorrow.”

After rolling out the same starting lineup for the first two group-stage matches, U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski made several changes Tuesday against Portugal: Rose Lavelle started at midfield, and Lynn Williams started at striker.

Former players and coaches had been calling on Andonovski to give Williams, in particular, more of an opportunity. The 30-year-old World Cup debutante did not play in either of the USWNT’s first two matches, even as a substitute. While Williams didn’t score in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw, she did record six of the team’s 17 shots, including a promising header in the 14th minute that was saved by Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira.

Carli Lloyd, the former USWNT captain turned Fox Sports analyst, had called for Andonovski to use Williams as a reserve in the second half of the 1-1 draw against Netherlands as the team’s offense stagnated.

“I would’ve liked to see Lynn Williams come in — I think she’s been having a really great NWSL run this season,” Lloyd said. “And sometimes making subs puts the other players on their toes a little bit — you’re coming off, the next person’s coming in and they’ve got to perform.”

Former USWNT midfielder Tobin Heath echoed that sentiment on her podcast, “The RE-CAP Show,” after the Netherlands match.

“Vlatko raved about Lynn Williams being the best 15-minute player he could put on this roster, and in that moment we needed a 15-minute player to come in,” Heath said.

Andonovski had said Williams likely would have been the first substitute used against the Netherlands, if he had opted to change things up. Instead, he used just one substitute, swapping Savannah DeMelo for Lavelle at halftime.

On Tuesday, he avoided at least that vein of criticism by starting Williams in place of 21-year-old Trinity Rodman — but it remains to be seen if the lineup will take that same shape in the Round of 16 after the team’s underwhelming performance against Portugal.

Following the U.S. women’s national team’s disappointing draw with Portugal, the first person to address the team was not head coach Vlatko Andonovski. Instead, it was Kelley O’Hara, who gave a spirited speech in the postgame huddle.

The USWNT will advance out of Group E, albeit in a limping fashion. While the Netherlands blew out Vietnam 7-0, the U.S. looked lackluster in its 0-0 draw with Portugal. The second-place finish for the USWNT likely means a Round of 16 meeting with Sweden, another World Cup title favorite.

When asked about what she told the team, O’Hara stressed the importance of looking forward to the Round of 16 rather than back at the disappointing group stage.

“I told the team: Listen, we did what we had to do. We’re moving on. Group stage is done. This is over, it’s in the rear view,” she told Fox Sports after the match. “We have our next game in front of us, and that’s the only one that matters. Maybe we didn’t do it the way we wanted to or planned on doing it, but we’re dancing, and this is the World Cup and that’s all that matters. We’ve got to be looking forward and only focused on that.”

The 34-year-old defender echoed that sentiment in the mixed media zone, noting that the team will need to take what it can from the group stage and learn from it moving forward.

“We did what we had to do. We advanced out of our group,” she said. “And that’s the World Cup, and that’s the name of the game. … It’s not gonna be pretty. It’s not gonna be perfect. It’s not gonna go exactly how you planned, but that’s what makes [the World Cup] so exciting and so unique.”

Even still, finishing as Group E runner-up is a tough pill to swallow. The USWNT last finished as group runner-up in 2011, when the team lost to Sweden in the group stage. And it makes road to a World Cup three-peat that much tougher.

“It’s tough to be second. We wanted to go through first,” veteran striker Alex Morgan said. “This team gave everything, we just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net and in the last few minutes we just had to hold it down, we had to get the result and move on. Now we look forward.”

Lindsey Horan and Alex Morgan are two of the most prolific U.S. women’s national team goal scorers of the past decade. But in the team’s 0-0 draw against Portugal, neither player found the back of the net.

The lackluster offensive performance was the continuation of an unsettling trend for the USWNT, which finished runner-up in Group E to advance to the Round of 16. The team attempted 17 shots against Portugal, including six on goal, but could not finish.

“We had our opportunities in front of the goal, even like two yards out,” Horan said. “We have to finish them.”

Added Morgan: “We could’ve made other decisions or been a little bit more patient on certain crosses.”

Horan has scored twice in the World Cup, once in the team’s 3-0 victory over Vietnam and again in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands. Morgan, who scored six goals in the 2019 World Cup, has yet to score, and missed a penalty against Vietnam — the first U.S. penalty to be saved at a World Cup since 2003, when Mia Hamm was denied against Norway.

The USWNT finished with 28 shots (seven on goal) against Vietnam and 18 (four on goal) against the Netherlands. After the Portugal game, Horan was asked if the USWNT’s team effort would be good enough against Sweden, its likely opponent in the next round.

“We always want to be better, we always want to improve,” said Horan, who recorded six goals and five assists in 22 matches for the USWNT in 2021. “This result was good enough to put us through to the next round, but it’s not good enough for us, and we know that. We have to move forward, and we learn our lessons from the few things we can take away from this game.”

In the wake of the U.S. women’s national team’s 0-0 draw against Portugal, former captain Carli Lloyd, now an analyst for FOX Sports, said the team’s play was “uninspiring,” among other harsh words. Coach Vlatko Andonovski took exception to the criticism.

“To question the mentality of this team, to question the willingness to win, to compete, I think it’s insane,” Andonovski said.

The USWNT advanced to the Round of 16 with the draw, but just barely: Portugal substitute Ana Capeta nearly scored in second-half stoppage time, but her shot pinged off the right post; a loss would’ve knocked Andonovski’s team out of the tournament. After the draw, USWNT players were seen dancing and smiling.

“I have never witnessed something like that,” Lloyd said of the players’ celebration. “The player of the match was that post. You are lucky to not be going home right now.”

Andonovski took over the USWNT in October 2019 after his predecessor, Jill Ellis, led the program to consecutive World Cup championships. Ellis had endured criticism for some of her tactical decisions, among other things, and the hope was Andonovski could be a steadying presence as the team continued to chase greatness.

Then the USWNT finished third at the 2021 Summer Olympics, leading some to question Andonovski’s leadership. On Tuesday, after narrowly avoiding disaster, Andonovski defended his team.

“This team wanted to win this game more than anything else,” he said. “I’ve never seen this team step on the field and not try hard, or not compete. Everyone is entitled to (their) opinion, they can say whatever they want, but I just know how this team feels.”

Andonovski added: “It’s not like we played well by any means. We owned it. We know it’s not good enough. We’re not happy with our performance. But we qualified for the next round, we’re moving on.”

United States women’s soccer has a catalog of heroes — players like Abby Wambach, Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm.

They inspired generations of soccer fanatics, many of whom are playing for the U.S. women’s national team today. The 1991 and 1999 World Cup champions forged a legacy to be proud of. But instead of beaming with joy, when the camera panned to Hamm in the crowd during the USWNT’s 0-0 draw with Portugal on Tuesday, the former player was visibly nervous. With her mouth formed into a tense grimace, Hamm wrung her hands.

And in households across the United States, in the cover of night, fans likely did the same.

This wasn’t the dominant U.S. women’s soccer we’ve grown accustomed to. That team has yet to appear at the 2023 World Cup. Instead, after the Netherlands outdid them with a 7-0 win over Vietnam in the other Group E finale, the USWNT finished as runners-up and eked out a spot in the Round of 16.

There was a savior in the draw, just not one that can ever join the former players in a World Cup crowd. It was a goal post.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Ana Capeta got behind the defense and fired a shot that nearly eliminated the USWNT. It would have put the U.S. at risk of losing in back-to-back Olympics and World Cups for the first time since 2000 and 2003.

Instead, the shot ricocheted off the goal post. It was an inanimate object that saved the USWNT’s World Cup.

The United States moves on. That’s a positive.

The United States did not look like a team worthy of moving on. That’s a negative.

No matter how it happened, it happened.

“[Portugal] made it frustrating for us,” midfielder Rose Lavelle told FOX Sports after the match. “We were disappointed in ourselves, but we have another game to focus on. We made it through. So we put our energy toward that now.”

Now, the squad has a chance to erase the woes of group play. A win over Sweden, their likely opponent in the knockout stage, could do that. But it won’t be easy, especially without Lavelle, who will serve a one-game yellow card suspension in the Round of 16.

Sweden blew through its group, beating South Africa 2-1 and claiming a lopsided 5-0 victory over Italy. Their final game of group play comes Wednesday against last-place Argentina.

The last time the U.S. played Sweden was in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics. Sweden won that match 3-0, and questions about USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski started to swirl, just as they have at this World Cup. But the players aren’t thinking about that right now.

“Our only focus is on the next game and getting that done,” said U.S. veteran Kelley O’Hara, who was caught on camera delivering a fiery message to the team in the postgame huddle. “Just continuing to be the team we know we can be.”

Where is that team?

The talent is there. Veterans like Alex Morgan, Lindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn. Rising stars like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Naomi Girma. But other than a few fleeting moments here and there, that talent has yet to translate into cohesive play and decisive results at the World Cup.

It has to in the knockout stage. Opportunities will be harder to come by, and the U.S. has already missed on its fair share of chances. They could have put away the Netherlands. They had shots to beat Portugal. But instead, they are leaving group play in second place with one win and two ties.

“That one chance might be the game-changer,” Horan, the savior in the USWNT’s previous game, told FOX Sports. “I think today, it was lacking just a little bit. We had our opportunities in front of the goal, even like two yards out. We have to finish. And we will. We are going to move forward to the next round and it’s going to come.”

Someone has to capitalize on those opportunities against Sweden. They have no other choice. To have a chance at winning their third straight World Cup title, the United States needs a real hero, not a goal post.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

U.S. women’s national team legend Carli Lloyd had some harsh words for the 2023 squad after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Portugal.

The two-time World Cup champion turned Fox Sports analyst called out the USWNT players and head coach Vlatko Andonovski after the “uninspiring” result, which left the defending champions as runners-up in Group E behind the Netherlands. The U.S. had won its 10 previous meetings against Portugal by a combined scoreline of 39-0.

“There’s been a shift within this team, within the federation, within the culture, the mentality,” Lloyd said on the postgame broadcast. “The importance and meaning of winning has changed. What has come from winning has become more important.”

After retiring from the national team in 2021, Lloyd made similar comments about the culture of the USWNT, which she mentioned again Tuesday. Lloyd won the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles with the national team, and she remained with the team through the transition from Jill Ellis to Andonovski after the 2019 title.

“You never want to take anything for granted,” she said. “You put on that jersey, and you want to give it everything you have, for the people that came before you, for the people that are going to come after you. And I’m just not seeing that passion.

“I’m just seeing a very lackluster, uninspiring (group) taking it for granted, where winning and training and doing all that you can to be the best possible individual player is not happening.”

In particular, Lloyd took issue with the players’ seemingly relaxed conduct both before and after the scoreless draw. She pointed out players dancing before the match and then smiling and laughing after the final whistle.

“There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance, and I think there’s a fine line… It’s OK to be confident, but you never want to cross that line to being arrogant,” Lloyd said of the demeanor of the team heading into the group-stage finale.

And after the draw, which consigned the USWNT to second place in Group E and a tough road through the bracket, she pointed to a fiery Kelley O’Hara as an example for the team. O’Hara spoke animatedly to her teammates in the postgame huddle.

“Players are smiling. They’re laughing. It’s not good enough,” she said. “You need more Kelleys, and that’s the reason the team is in this situation right now. Because Kelley will say it how it is, whether players like it or not.”

As USWNT players greeted their family members and their fans with smiles, Lloyd offered further criticism.

“I have never witnessed something like that,” she said. “There’s a difference between being respectful to the fans and saying hello to your family, but to be dancing, to be smiling… I mean, the player of the match was that post. You are lucky to not be going home right now.”

As for Andonovski, Lloyd wanted to see better tactics, calling the team’s game plan “just too predictable and, really, just uninspiring.” And she wanted to see more passion.

“This group is a young team. I think they need a little bit of fire lit under them. I think they need a little bit of self-criticism,” she said. “And Vlatko Andonovski is not really that guy that does that.”

The U.S. women’s national team secured its place in the knockout stage with a 0-0 draw, but the disorganized and disinterested performance failed to inspire confidence in the direction of the team.

With the Netherlands’ 7-0 win against Vietnam, the Dutch side takes the top spot in Group E and the easier route through the bracket. The USWNT finishes as runner-up with just four points, its lowest-ever point total for a World Cup group stage. The Group G winner (likely Sweden) awaits in the Round of 16 at 5 a.m. ET Sunday.

The USWNT only has failed to win back-to-back Olympic and World Cup tournaments in 2000 and 2003. But if the two-time defending World Cup champions fail to make adjustments before the knockout stage, history could repeat.

FINAL: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

While the USWNT advances to the knockout stage with the draw, the two-time defending champions cannot be happy with their performance.

Portugal won the possession battle, holding the ball for 56% of the match, but finished with no shots on goal. The USWNT outshot its opponent 17-6 and had six shots on target but did not put any of them in the net.

90+1′: Portugal’s Ana Capeta hits shot off post

Capeta came off the bench in the 89th minute for Portugal and quickly created an opportunity for her team. Her shot went past USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher but bounced off the post, the first of a few threats for Portugal in stoppage time.

84′: Portugal keeper stops another Alex Morgan shot

The 34-year-old striker got another shot on goal, but Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Just before this chance, Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett came off the bench for Lynn Williams and Lindsey Horan.

82′: Naomi Girma receives yellow card

The foul resulted in a free kick for Portugal from 35 yards out, but the USWNT escaped the ensuing scramble in the box.

Portugal’s Diana Gomes picked up her own yellow card several minutes earlier.

61′: Megan Rapinoe replaces Sophia Smith

The USWNT turned to the three-time World Cup veteran to inject some energy off the bench. Smith, who scored a brace against Vietnam, had played in every minute of the tournament for the USWNT to this point.

Minutes later, Portugal replaced its own young star in Kika Nazareth with Andreia Jacinto.

53′: Portugal defender clears Alex Morgan shot

Morgan collects a pass from Lindsey Horan, then maneuvers around the Portugal goalkeeper, but her low shot is cleared by Portugal defender Diana Gomes. The USWNT failed to capitalize on the ensuing corner kick.

Portugal’s Carole Costa picked up a yellow card for a foul on Morgan just a few minutes later.

52′: Sophia Smith receives yellow card

The USWNT forward made a play for the ball, but she caught Portugal’s Diana Silva in the face with her cleat.

48′: Rose Lavelle sends shot over crossbar

Meanwhile, the fire alarm was blaring in the stadium, but spectators remained in their seats at Eden Park. A sprinkler was malfunctioning, which led to the false alarm, FIFA reported.

46′: No halftime substitutions for the USWNT

To start the second half, the USWNT continued with the same lineup it utilized throughout the first half, to the chagrin of many fans and pundits.

HALF: USWNT 0, Portugal 0

Lynn Williams was the best of USWNT attack in the first half after coming into the match on fresh legs, but overall the USWNT looked disjointed. While the USWNT trailed at halftime against the Netherlands, this tie scoreline feels more disheartening — especially when compared to the Dutch team’s dominance against Vietnam in the other Group E finale.

The Netherlands took a 5-0 lead against Vietnam in the first half. If that scoreline holds, the USWNT would need to beat Portugal by three goals to take first place in group. A runner-up finish means a more difficult path through the knockout stage, starting with a likely matchup with Sweden in the Round of 16.

39′: Rose Lavelle receives yellow card, would miss next match

In her first start of the tournament, Lavelle receives a yellow card for a hard tackle of Portugal’s Dolores Silva. The 28-year-old midfielder also received a yellow card against the Netherlands, which means she would miss the USWNT’s potential Round of 16 match.

27′: Lynn Williams gets back-to-back shots

After Alex Morgan worked the ball in from the left baseline, Williams managed two shots in quick succession. Portugal goalkeeper Inês Pereira blocked the first, while the second sailed up and over the crossbar.

15′: Jessica Silva gets chance for Portugal

Jessica Silva took an open shot from outside the penalty area for Portugal, but the ball went wide.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands raced out to a 4-0 lead against already eliminated Vietnam. The USWNT claimed a 3-0 win against Vietnam to open the tournament, so even a U.S. win over Portugal could mean just second place in the group (and a tougher road through the knockout stage) based on goal differential.

3′: Lynn Williams creates early opportunity

In her first minutes of the tournament, Williams sent a low cross toward Alex Morgan from the right side. Morgan managed a shot, but it deflected off a Portugal defender and out of bounds.

Williams got her head on Rose Lavelle’s ensuing corner kick, but goalkeeper Inês Pereira made the stop.

Starting XI: Rose Lavelle gets her first start

  • United States
    • Goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher
    • Defenders: Crystal Dunn Julie Ertz, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox
    • Midfielders: Andi Sullivan, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle
    • Forwards: Lynn Williams, Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith
  • Portugal
    • Goalkeeper: Inês Pereira
    • Defenders: Catarina Amado, Carole Costa, Diana Gomes, Ana Borges
    • Midfielders: Andreia Norton, Dolores Silva, Kika Nazareth, Tatiana Pinto
    • Forwards: Diana Silva, Jéssica Silva

No one is quite as adept at controlling the USWNT’s creativity as Lavelle, as Just Women’s Sports soccer writer Claire Watkins noted in her lineup prediction, and the midfielder gets her first start of the tournament. Williams replaces Trinity Rodman on the forward line, another change from the starting lineup deployed by head coach Vlatko Andonovski in the first two group-stage matches.

What to know about Portugal

  • Portugal is playing in its first World Cup. The World Cup debutantes lost 1-0 to the Netherlands to start the tournament but bested Vietnam 2-0 on July 27.
  • Despite the lack of World Cup experience, seven players had 100 or more international caps heading into the tournament.
  • By reaching the group-stage finale with a chance to advance, Portugal already has accomplished one of its goals, but the team is not satisfied. “We must look at ourselves and see the potential and talent we have, we must believe,” rising star Kika Nazareth said ahead of the tournament. “I am confident. If we make it through the group stage, the goal is to win everything.”

What to know about the USWNT

  • Rose Lavelle has been building up her minutes limit through the first two group-stage matches, which could allow her to play a full 90 against Portugal.
  • Julie Ertz has looked at home at center-back, a position she hasn’t played regularly since transitioning to defensive midfield in 2017.
  • Tobin Heath, who won the 2015 and 2019 titles with the USWNT, questioned head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s decision not to bring in forward Lynn Williams as a substitute against the Netherlands. “I think there were a couple different adjustments that could’ve been made to the team to get us that second goal,” Heath said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why that game had to end 1-1.”

When and how to watch

  • Tuesday, Aug. 1 — 3 a.m. ET (Fox, Peacock, Telemundo)
    • United States vs. Portugal (Wellington Regional)

The USWNT is playing its last of three group-stage matches at the World Cup. After starting the tournament with a 3-0 win over Vietnam and then a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands, the two-time defending champions will close out the group stage against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The group-stage finale is available to watch on Fox and Telemundo. It also can be streamed on the Fox Sports app and on Peacock. The Netherlands will face Vietnam at the same time in the other Group E finale.

Vlatko Andonvski isn’t feeling any added pressure before the U.S. women’s national team’s final group-stage game, which will determine his team’s for the rest of the World Cup.

A loss against Portugal at 3 a.m. ET Tuesday almost certainly would mean elimination, a first for the USWNT. The four-time champions have never failed to advance to the knockout stage. This match marks the first time in 16 years that the USWNT has faced elimination during the group stage with a loss.

“I don’t know how it is with the other coaches and the other national teams, but the moment you sit in this chair — the moment I sat in this chair in 2019 — is when the pressure starts,” Andonovski told reporters Monday. “This isn’t something new. The only thing that changed from 2019 to now is I just learned how to turn the pressure into excitement.

“I came into this World Cup not thinking, ‘Oh my gosh’ — it’s, ‘We’re having a chance to compete for a title.'”

Change isn’t necessarily something that Andonovski has sought in his time at the helm for the USWNT. He told The Athletic back in April that he doesn’t know if he’s changed since joining the USWNT from the NWSL.

“I don’t know if I have changed, but things around me have changed a lot,” he said. “The environment, obviously, is different. The people I’m surrounded by for most of the day are different, even though I try to stay the same as much as possible.

“It’s different preparing for a Saturday afternoon game against the Utah Royals and it’s different preparing for the Netherlands in a World Cup. I don’t think I’ve changed, or maybe I feel like I haven’t changed. Maybe I have.”

Andonovski has followed the lead of his players, who formed a “bubble” during the 2019 World Cup run, he said Monday. The USWNT has followed a similar plan in New Zealand, and players aren’t checking social media during the tournament. (The only exception is Instagram). But that’s not a problem for Andonovski, who says he doesn’t have social media and he doesn’t read the news.

His press officer is his main source of information, he says, and has been “very good to me” in selecting the information he needs to — and doesn’t need to — know.

“I’m pretty sure if I knew everything outside of our bubble, I wouldn’t be smiling right now. That’s how I deal with pressure,” he said.

He also doesn’t want outside pressure to dictate how he makes decisions, he told The Athletic in April.

“This is no disrespect to anyone, I don’t want anything that is said outside to influence my decision,” Andonovski told The Athletic in April. “I want my decisions to be thorough, thoughtful and decisions I made based on what I know about the players, not what people from the outside told me.”

While a loss spells almost certainly elimination, a win for the USWNT does not assure the top spot in Group E. If the Netherlands wins its game by a greater margin than the USWNT’s goal differential, the U.S. likely will face Sweden, the same team that ended the USWNT’s Olympic gold medal hopes two years ago.

“For us the most important thing is getting into the knockout stage, first and foremost,” Andonovski said Monday. “That’s our main focus.

“We don’t want to look two, three, four steps forward. It’s the first step. Let’s make sure that we get into the next stage. If we start thinking too far ahead, our chance may never come.”