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3 ways the USWNT can turn it around before facing doomsday vs. Sweden

The USWNT's 0-0 draw with Portugal was a cry for help. If there's one thing we can say with 100 percent certainty, it's that Vlatko Andonovski's previous call for patience and simply more of the same is entirely without warrant. Recurrent issues have been plaguing the team for almost two years and they aren't working themselves out — there's something wrong with the system.

If Andonovski elects for the same starting XI against Sweden in the Round of 16 but with like-for-like replacement Ashley Sanchez in for the suspended Rose Lavelle, all the warning signs are screaming for an end to the three-peat dream.

Here are three somewhat major adjustments that might save the U.S. 

#1. Move Julie Ertz back to midfield.   

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Let me try to get through this one without having a brain aneurysm. Basically the entire role of Andonovski post-Olympics was retooling the American midfield after Ertz had her first child. 

Andonovski shuffled through options — Andi Sullivan (who started all three 2022 friendly defeats in Europe), Sam Coffey, a Kristie Mewis experiment — only to realize nothing came close to the original. Ertz was dramatically brought back to the fold after a year and a half out, and the Ertz-Horan-Lavelle axis was restored.

Or so we thought.

In one of the MANY mystifying decisions of Andonovski's World Cup, the manager has put Ertz in the heart of defense (where Naomi Girma can handle herself just fine next to whoever) while Sullivan has returned to the midfield. It makes no sense, but what does make sense is that the USWNT got swamped by the Dutch and then the Portuguese in the middle of the park.

I'd like to see Ertz, Horan and Sanchez against Sweden with Girma next to Alana Cook in defense.

#2. Retool the attack.

I have some sympathy for Andonovski here. His master plan of putting Alex Morgan, Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson together up front was looking good. Swanson was in the form of her life, Smith too, and Morgan made it all work with a late-stage version of herself that prioritized hold-up play and releasing them rather than scoring herself.

Swanson's unfortunate injury threw a wrench into those plans, but Andonovski has persisted with the exact same approach. A small glimpse of what might've been came on Morgan's feed for Smith against Vietnam, but otherwise the two have struggled and the third attacker (whoever it is) hasn't made any difference.

Maybe it's time to get the best out of Smith by letting her operate through the middle as a withdrawn striker. You'd have to drop Morgan, but that should probably be mandatory of anyone who goes goalless as the USWNT's starting striker during the World Cup group stage.

I'd go with Trinity Rodman to her right and Lynn Williams to her left. 

#3. Player mutiny. Kelley O'Hara is boss now. 

Vlatko O'Hara  

Like in 2018 when the men's players of Argentina just stopped listening to the stressful instructions of Jorge Sampaoli and instead devised their own way forward, maybe it's time for everyone to just nod and smile at Andonovski while taking instructions from O'Hara.

Or maybe Dennis Rodman takes on the role of Claudio Reyna and takes Andonovski down from the outside.

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