The United States Women’s National Team got back to its winning ways this afternoon in a 1-0 defeat of Spain on the road at Estadio José Rico Perez in Alicante. Christen Press’ goal in the 54th minute was the difference as the U.S. got its first win of 2019 in the first meeting ever played between the two countries.
Jill Ellis made four changes from the team’s 3-1 loss to France over the weekend. Morgan Brian, Emily Fox, Christen Press, and Mallory Pugh were replaced in the starting 11 by Julie Ertz, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, and Megan Rapinoe. While Pride striker Alex Morgan had the armband in France, Rapinoe led the side out on this day.
The first 25 minutes of the game were dominated by the home side, using the one-touch passing style made famous by the Spanish men’s team to control possession. Despite keeping the ball for much of the half, the Spanish side was unable to create any chances as the U.S. defense would break them down when they got near the box.
The U.S., on the other hand, did have some chances in the first half. Rapinoe attempted a bicycle kick off of a corner kick in the 14th minute which was cleared away by the Spanish defense. She attempted to beat Spanish goalkeeper Sandra Paños to her near post off of a corner in the 26th minute but hit the side netting.
Rapinoe deserves a goal just for trying this bicycle kick. pic.twitter.com/BegBTtx1Ek— The American Outlaws (@AmericanOutlaws) January 22, 2019
The closest opportunity to score in the first half came from Ertz in the 34th minute. A Spanish clearance at the top of the box allowed Ertz to settle and fire on goal, but the shot went just over the crossbar.
The U.S. only saw 43 percent possession in the first half of this one, making it the second-lowest possession in a first half by the team in any game since the start of 2016. The only one of 63 games that saw lower first half possession by the U.S. was in June 2016 against Japan.
Coming out of the locker room for the second half, Spain once again took control of the game and nearly scored the opener in the 51st minute when Alexia Putellas sent a ball in toward goal from the top right corner of the box. Becky Sauerbrunn attempted to block the ball but her touch nearly directed it right to Spanish forward Mariona Caldentey. Luckily for the U.S., Alyssa Naeher was able to get a hand on it and deflect it out of play.
Three minutes later, halftime substitute Press scored the goal that would be the game winner. Carrying the ball down the left, she beat Spanish defender Andrea Pereira and slipped it past Paños. As the ball rolled toward the back corner of the goal, Irene Paredes slid in attempting to clear it but hit it into the back of the net. Despite the help from the defender, the shot was deemed to be already heading in and the goal was awarded to Press.
Sitting on 98 international goals, Alex Morgan attempted to seal the game late. She nearly netted her 99th goal in the 82nd minute when she collected a misplay by the Spanish defender and drove toward goal. Shooting from the top of the 18, she fired on target but Paños was able to get a hand on it and tip it over the crossbar.
In the end, Spain out-possessed the U.S. with 52 percent possession to 48 percent by the United States. However, that possession didn’t turn into opportunities as the Spanish were out-shot, 9-4 (3-2 on goal). While each goalkeeper had a pair of saves, the U.S. took four corner kicks to Spain’s one.
After the 28-game undefeated streak was broken by France over the weekend, this win gets the U.S. back on the right track. The Yanks will try to continue a new streak when they take part in the SheBelieves Cup at the end of February. The U.S. will begin the tournament with a match-up against Japan on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.