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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The U.S. women's national team is used to measuring its success by the scoreboard. But with the squad implementing a new formation before it makes its 2012 Olympic bid at the qualifying tournament, its play during Saturday's friendly against Sweden should be viewed as a work in progress.
That's why the team's rally to secure a 1-1 tie in front of 18,482 at the University of Phoenix Stadium can be considered a solid end to a two-week training period in the desert and a strong start to its preparation for the London Olympics.
"I know that every single payer on our side is disappointed to go away with a tie," said forward Abby Wambach. "We don't want to tie. That's not what we come here to do. We come here to win games."
But defeating a talented Sweden squad that's already beaten the U.S. twice this year isn't an easy task when the Americans are testing out a new formation.
The U.S. team switched from its usual 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 setup in order to create more offensive chances, especially by involving the outside backs in the attack. That wish seemed to come true in the second half as the U.S. eventually outshot Sweden 19-7.
The Americans, however, were sluggish to start the game despite fielding a veteran lineup. Sweden, meanwhile, only started a handful of players from its World Cup match against the U.S. this summer.
Even so, Sweden managed to score first, with Sofia Jakobsson firing a shot from just outside the box that ricocheted off defender Christie Rampone and past goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart in the 28th minute. Regular starter Hope Solo did not participate in the camp leading up to the friendly due to her appearance on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," but she was in attendance for Saturday's match, even walking on the field after the game to greet fans.
As the game progressed and the U.S. started to settle into its new system, the offense pressured Sweden's defense. The turning point came when head coach Pia Sundhage started to bring in substitutions.
Tobin Heath started the second half in place of Amy Rodriguez, and she scored the equalizer in the 81st minute after Swedish goalkeeper Kristin Hammarstrom redirected a shot from Alex Morgan right into Heath's path.
Morgan's speed and fresh legs challenged the tired Swedish defense, and she was a threat every time she was near the ball.
"She's tremendous because she comes off the bench and gives us that spark, that energy," Heath said. "Her speed is obviously fantastic, and she got behind the back line a number of times and created some great goal scoring opportunities for us. We like having someone like that coming off the bench."
Sundhage credited her substitutes for being an influential factor in the World Cup performance and they continued to deliver. Since the U.S. won't play another game until the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in January, those bench players will be preparing the starters for the final push to the Olympics.
"I believe our B team, our team that sat up in the box, is a very good team that we play against every single day in practice," Wambach said. "So what we do from now until then, regardless of whether we have a game or not, is going to be very important."
The friendly wrapped up a successful tour in Arizona, but the U.S. will continue to search for solutions with its system and personnel before the qualifying tournament.
"I'm happy because it will be an ongoing discussion -- how we're going to play and who's going to play," Sundhage said. "I think overall we played enough chances and eventually scored a goal. So this is just the beginning."