The USWNT defeated Spain 2-1 in the Round of 16 at the Women’s World Cup in France. Here’s what we learned.
The U.S. juggernaut continued at this World Cup following a hard-fought victory against Spain in the Round of 16 in Reims, France.
The win, thanks to two Megan Rapinoe goals penalty kicks in each half, sets up a quarterfinal clash against hosts France on Friday in Paris. Following Monday’s tough win, here’s what we learned.
Lavelle’s speed and distribution
How do you break up Spain’s possession-style tactics and high back line? Bring in that strong U.S. midfield and strong play on the flanks. The U.S.’s ability to also break up Spain’s passing game was a big plus for this team ahead of the quarterfinals.
A healthy Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis again got the start, playing a vital role in coach Jill Ellis’ 4-3-3 formation. Lavelle, in particular, was able to outclass her opponents and help distribute the ball up field to her teammates in the box and wings for Rapinoe and Tobin Heath.
Julie Ertz, coming off a hip injury, started in place of Lindsey Horan (who would come in for Lavelle in the game’s waning minutes). The move largely worked.
Rapinoe’s nerves of steel
Spain likes to play possession-style soccer, and the Americans did everything they could to disrupt the tiki-taka. The midfield did a solid job breaking up plays and using a high-intensity style. Overall, the Americans got the better of those 50-50 challenges and created more in the box.
That takes us to Rapinoe’s penalty-kick abilities. Both U.S. goals came off PKs, both deftly converted by the U.S. winger. It’s no surprise. Rapinoe is a very skilled and clinical finisher and used to high-pressure situations.
This bodes well for the USWNT going forward and should they ever need to resolve a game via a shootout at this knockout stage.
Better defending needed
The U.S. backline and goalkeeper Alyssa Neaher didn’t exude too much confidence early on in this game after Spain scored the equalizer off some sloppy backline work just nine minutes in.
It was the first goal the Americans conceded at this tournament. Several shaky moments, particularly in the first half, was not great for the defending champions.
Tougher teams, like France, will give them a much harder time. This game certainly is a wake-up call for Naeher and the defense. Down the stretch, Naeher showed her toughness, coming off her line to thwart Spain’s attack after the U.S. had taken a 2-1 lead.
The USWNT will next face France on Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris.