The U.S. women's national team's dominance is that overwhelming that when it falls on hard times it is often downright baffling. That's probably the best way to describe what has occurred at the Algarve Cup in Portugal over the last week: Baffling.
On the heels of having their 43-game unbeaten streak snapped by Pia Sundhage-coached Sweden on Friday, a 5-3 loss to Denmark Monday marked two more lowlights for the U.S. women: The first time they have ever conceded five goals, and the first time they have lost consecutive games since 2001, according to ESPN stats guru Paul Carr.
The Algarve Cup doesn't carry anywhere near the same significance as the World Cup or Olympics, so there is reason to take the drab 0-2-1 group-play showing with a grain of salt, but it does highlight some need for improvement and flaws in the build up to next summer's Women's World Cup in Canada.
Sure, Alex Morgan was unavailable for the U.S., as she continues her recovery from an ankle injury, and manager Tom Sermanni turned to a mix of fresher faces and his typical first-choice options for the games against Japan, Sweden and Denmark. Even so, the results have to be seen as shocking, especially considering the U.S. women had most recently thrashed Russia 7-0 and 8-0 in consecutive friendlies in February. On Monday, the Americans were down 3-0 at halftime -- another first in USWNT history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- to Denmark and needed to scramble late to try and salvage a 4-4 draw before being caught out and conceding a backbreaker. There will be one more game in Portugal to set things right, with the placement match awaiting before the U.S. women return home, where they'll have a few weeks to get things right before the next time they take to the field. They'll play China in a pair of friendlies at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego on April 6 and 10, respectively, before a match in which they are sure to be put to the test: One against motivated regional foe and '15 WWC host Canada in Winnipeg on May 8.