USWNT / Women's World Cup

Match report: USA 2-1 Spain

Photo Credit: fifa.com

In the first round of the knockout round for the USA, the red, white and blue faced their toughest match of the tournament, Spain. It was a rough, gritty and rather poor match for the USWNT, but it was still a victory thanks to Megan Rapinoe’s penalty brace. Allowing their first goal of the tournament, the US knocked out Spain with a 2-1 victory to move on to the quarterfinals.

Spain came out strong, almost scoring in the first minute of the match. Alexia Putellas rocketed a shot that was blocked in the box by a US defender, but it wasn’t fully cleared, giving Spain another chance to get a shot on target, which was saved by Alyssa Naeher. Spain’s plan was now evident: attack the US hard, exploit the weaker outside defenders and Naeher’s lack of touches in this tournament.

The USA were awarded a penalty kick early, in just the sixth minute after Tobin Heath was tripped up in the box. The captain, Rapinoe, took the penalty, faking the goalie and burying the ball in the bottom left corner of the net to put the US up 1-0 early.

But Spain tied it up in the 10th minute. Naeher played a poor ball out to Becky Sauerbrunn who was well covered by Lucia Garcia. Garcia was able to strip Sauerbrunn of the ball, quickly passing it to Jennifer Hermoso who hit a beautiful shot over Naher, who was off her line, allowing the ball to sail into the top right corner of the goal. It was the first goal conceded by the US in the tournament and in 647 minutes.

Rapinoe nearly put the USA up with another goal after a long ball across the field from Rose Lavelle. Rapinoe was able to run on to the ball up the left side of the pitch, shooting the ball slightly wide of the near post, but forcing Sandra Panos to push the ball out. It was clear from the beginning of the match that the US would be using their outside strikers against Spain, using their speed and crossing prowess to their advantage.

Throughout the first half, the red, white and blue controlled the majority of possession and set the pace. Usually that’s Spain’s preferred style, but they were content to sit back a bit more than normal and allow the US to attack, tightening up their midfield and striking on the counterattack. For the first time in the tournament, the US was tied at halftime.

The second half started with a lot of back and forth. Lavelle had a great shot that just went over the crossbar, then Spain was dismantling a disorganized US back line to get a few shots off.

In the 71st minute, a penalty on Lavelle in the box led to another penalty kick for the USA. The penalty was a bit soft and could seriously impact the match, so it was reviewed by VAR and upheld. After a rather quiet match, Alex Morgan originally wanted to take the kick before the review, but ultimately Rapinoe took the penalty again. She scored again, same kick as her first with Panos guessing correctly, but not diving down fast enough.

Spain grew desperate for a goal, pressuring the USA’s back line and controlling the ball more than the red, white and blue. Naeher was tested more in this match than her entire time in the tournament. Her entire team was tested more in this match and it was a bit rough, but the USA pulled off a win, now unbeaten in 14 matches.

USA advances to the quarterfinals and will play hosts, France on Friday, June 28 at 3:00pm.

Three points

Defensive worries. Sauerbrunn’s poor handling from Naeher’s poor distribution led to Spain’s goal. It’s a mistake that shouldn’t be made in this stage of the tournament because it’s something that could have ended the USA’s World Cup run. Spain was able to exploit the weaknesses of the USA’s outside defenders, getting attackers behind the US and getting crosses off. While the central defenders are strong, both Sweden and Spain were able to use the USA’s weaker outside defenders to their advantage, so bet on France doing the same.

Physical matches are the USA’s specialty. The US is one of the the most physical teams in this tournament. Sam Mewis out-muscled Marta Corredera on the endline and Abby Dahlkemper had a beautiful slide tackle. The USA was strong all match, winning the 50-50 balls with sheer grit. But the match did get very chippy. Alex Morgan was pushed around a bit in the first half, her injury exploited by Spain’s central defenders. Spain committed 14 fouls before their first player was carded in the 85th minute.

Poor showing, but still get the win. It wasn’t a pretty match for the USWNT. Facing a difficult opponent in an increasingly difficult tournament, the US didn’t score a goal in open play, both goals were from penalty kicks. The defense looked shaky, Naeher didn’t look very strong, Spain took Morgan out of the match early, Rapinoe didn’t have her usual spark. All in all, it wasn’t pretty, but they got the result and are moving on to the quarterfinals.

Lineups

USA

Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Rose Lavelle (Lindsey Horan 89′), Julie Ertz, Samantha Mewis; Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd 85′), Megan Rapinoe (c) (Christen Press 90’+7′).

Unused substitutes: Morgan Brian, Mallory Pugh, Ali Kreiger, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Ashlyn Harris, Allie Long, Adrianna Franch, Jessica McDonald

Spain

Sandra Panos; Marta Corredera, Irene Paredes (c), Maria Leon, Leila Ouahabi; Vicki Losada (Nahikari Garcia 32′), Virginia Torrecilla (Mariona Caldentey 83′), Patri Guijarro; Lucia Garcia, Jennifer Hermoso, Alexia Putellas (Andrea Falcon 78′)

Unused substitutes: Dolores Gallardo, Celia Jimenez, Ivana Andres, Marta Torrejon, Silvia Meseguer, Aitana Bonmati, Amanda Sampedro, Andrea Pereira, Maria Quinones

Goals

USA: Megan Rapinoe (penalty kick) – 7′

SPA: Jennifer Hermoso (Lucia Garcia) – 10′

USA: Megan Rapinoe (penalty kick) – 76′

Cards

USA: Megan Rapinoe – yellow – 37′

SPA: Irene Paredes – yellow – 85′

5 Comments

  1. The Truth says:

    Tougher match than it should’ve been. I actually don’t think Rapinoe had a good match despite the scoresheet. Spain could’ve easily come away with the W. France is going to be a real challenge and that performance was not confidence inspiring.

    • The ref totally missed the plot of that match. She should have carded the Spanish defenders for persistent infringement on Morgan early in the second half. That said, Ellis’ inability to adjust tactics and the weak outside defenders might doom this team on Friday. Hoping attackers put pressure on France and especially Renard early. And maybe Dunn and O’Hara should sit to start the match? Though not sure whom Ellis would put in their spots.

      • Dunn is a liability and Spain knew it, they attacked her side for much of the match and Dunn was caught with players running in behind her at least 2 or 3 times. She also doesn’t provide enough going forward to justify her continued starting role. Also have no idea why our first sub didn’t come on until the 82nd minute when Rapinoe was clearly having an off day and Morgan was limping around after being fouled 5 or 6 times and picked up a knock. I’m having doubts about Ellis as the coach.

  2. U.S. probably deserved to go through on balance, but they were very lucky. Spain played really well. After the opening minutes in which the US was slicing their high line open, they got better. I suppose, though, it is a good thing that the game becomes a challenge in the knockout rounds. No more bullying the up-and-comers. Looking forward to France – US. It should be a great match.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Looking forward to next match, most likely the media of one of the two teams is going to consider the tournament a BIG disappointment, on the level of the US men getting knocked out of the 2018 cup in Trinidad, but neither should. While a US loss would mean their earliest exit ever, most of that is due to FIFA not seeding the tournament based on likely knock out matches.
    .
    Even if they lose Friday, I would still consider this a better performance than 2011 when they lost to Sweden in the group stage, barely got by Brazil in the quarterfinals (122nd minute goal to send it to PKs) and then lost to Japan in PK’s in the finals.
    .
    France actually has more on the line than the US since a loss will likely eliminate them from next year’s Olympics. Similarly, the 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalists, Germany and Sweden, will be playing each other Saturday with the loser likely to be eliminated from the Olympics a year before it starts (unless both the US and Japan make the semi-finals of the World Cup).

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