Late goal from Ertz lifts the USWNT past Spain 1-0 in New Jersey
March 09, 2020
THE UNITED STATES women’s national team beat Spain 1-0 on Sunday night in the second match of the 2020 SheBelieves Cup in front of a sold-out crowd of 26,500 fans in Harrison, New Jersey.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski made four changes to the side that beat England last Thursday, bringing Emily Sonnett, Sam Mewis, Lynn Williams, and Megan Rapinoe into the starting XI. U.S. Soccer also honored Crystal Dunn before the match for her 100th cap, earned last month during Olympic qualifying.
The Americans pressured Spain early and created a number of half chances through the first 15 minutes, but then Spain settled into the game nicely and even began trading shots with the U.S. on equal footing. The balance between the two sides became particularly obvious in the 24th minute of play when Jenni Hermoso beat Abby Dahlkemper in the air and fired a header off the post, only to see the U.S. break quickly in the other direction with Carli Lloyd having a gilt-edged opportunity seconds later.
Post with the clearance. pic.twitter.com/CE9QyaQA2u— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 8, 2020
From there, the Spaniards began to take control and even dictate play over significant stretches, finishing the game with a 60%-40% advantage in possession, a 524-336 edge in passes, and tied 9-9 in shots.
Playing the same simple possession style that made their men’s team nearly invincible for long stretches of the 2000s, the Spanish women negated the U.S.’ attempts to press. The Spaniards possession game even seemed to cancel out the Americans’ legendary fitness advantage, with the U.S. looking the more tired side through periods of the second half.
The tactics represented a 180-degree turnaround from those employed the last time the two teams played—in the Round of 16 of the 2019 World Cup—when La Roja sat back defensively and played a physical contest against the Americans, fouling every chance they could to break up the U.S.’ tempo. In the end, however, the result was the same with the Americans struggling in both matches to put together meaningful passing combinations and, once again, needing a set piece to find the result.
Few of the U.S.’ players stood out in the game, but Lynn Williams looked the most likely to create something on the offensive end for most of the afternoon. Most consider Williams a bubble player in terms of making the small Olympic roster, but building on a strong qualifying tournament, she played well again on Sunday.
Although her final ball often lacked precision, Williams’ pace caused Spain’s backline trouble on multiple occasions as she broke free to deliver services into the area. It was also Williams who found Lloyd through on net for the Americans best chance in the run of play in the 24th minute.
Williams also contributed in breaking the long deadlock and helping the U.S. to the win. In the 86th minute, Christen Press scooped a pass over the Spanish defense and Williams burst down the flank in an attempt to win it. She didn’t, but in attempting to win the ball back just outside the area, Williams drew a foul.
On the ensuing set piece, Press delivered in a perfect service which Julie Ertz then headed home to deliver the Americans the victory late in the match.
JULIE ERTZ pic.twitter.com/I0KsLRnioV— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 8, 2020
Spain is currently ranked No. 13 in the world, but has quickly put its competition on notice that they are ready to make a run into the international elite. Last Thursday, they beat No. 10 Japan 3-1 and recent investments into The Primera should help the team continue to build on its recent success.
The U.S. wraps up the SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday against Japan (8 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS).
John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.