USWNT vs. Spain score: USA soccer survives Women's World Cup scare behind Megan Rapinoe's two penalty kick goals
It wasn't easy, but the U.S. is moving on to the quarterfinals to face France after beating Spain
The United States women's national team survived and advanced. In its most intense match so far at the 2019 World Cup, one that was much closer than anyone predicted, the U.S. needed two penalty kicks to beat Spain, 2-1. Megan Rapinoe scored both of them, one in each half, as the U.S. conceded for the first time in the tournament (and for the first time in 647 minutes dating back to an April friendly vs. Australia) and had some trouble with an overly physical Spanish side.
The U.S. was the stronger team throughout but didn't create as many golden chances as in previous games. But the Americans live to fight another day and will now face France in the quarterfinals in Paris on fuboTV (Try for free).
The USWNT scored just seven minutes into the game but conceded minutes later on a misplay by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher and defender Becky Sauerbrunn at the back. Jenni Hermoso, Spain's star, made the most of the error and found the back of the net for the equalizer.
Then in the second half, Rose Lavelle was taken down in the box. VAR confirmed the penalty and Rapinoe made it 2-1 with 14 minutes left in the game as the U.S. became the first non-European country to reach this year's quarterfinals.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
Jill Ellis makes questionable decisions
The 52-year-old coach didn't have her best game in charge of the U.S. First, Alex Morgan didn't seem fit. She was on the ground what felt like a dozen times in this match and was never really a factor. Whether she was injured or not, that lack of production and cohesion warranted a change long before it actually came. The U.S. avoided disaster, however, through those penalty kicks.
Ellis didn't make the game's first substitution until the 85th minute, when Carli Lloyd came on for Morgan. That was much too late in the game for the first change, as the U.S. could have used some help in the middle earlier.
Minutes later, Ellis brought Lindsey Horan on in the 89th minute. Horan was held out of the starting lineup since she was a yellow card away from being suspended for the quarterfinal match against France. Why bring her on just for stoppage time and risk a yellow?
Luckily enough for Ellis, the moves (or lack thereof) didn't doom her team.
Rapinoe was a much-needed leader
She often looked like the best player on the field. She was good on the ball, dangerous down the left and defended with everything she had. She put away both penalties with class and did just what the captain needs to do -- lead the team to victory.
Putting a penalty away is no easy feat, let alone doing it twice in one do-or-die game. Morgan was initially going to take the second penalty kick, but instead it went to the hot foot of Rapinoe, and she made no mistake.
Now, there is always the concern that, if the U.S. hadn't received a penalty, this could have gone the other way. But with those around her having a bit of an off day, Rapinoe gave this team the chance to fight another day.
Time to prepare and learn from this one
Spain's gameplan of being aggressive and physical, you can expect, will be implemented by France. It worked well for Spain and pushed a frustrated U.S. side to the limit. This gives USA the chance to prepare for that physical play, whether it is meeting force with force and getting the ball away with less touches, shifting to longer balls down the wing or over the top, whatever it may be. This also provides the U.S. with a great chance to review what went wrong, with it all being fixable. This may just be the wake-up call the U.S. needed.
Who wins every Women's World Cup match? Visit SportsLine now to see picks from European expert David Sumpter, the math professor whose model is up 2,000 percent on international soccer.
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