USWNT Recap and Analysis

Rapione's penalies sink Spain 2-1 as USWNT moves into the quarters

The USWNT is through to Friday's quarterfinals thanks to a pair of Megan Rapione penalties which sunk Spain by a 2-1 score. ASN's John Halloran is here with the report. 
BY John Halloran Posted
June 24, 2019
10:00 AM
REIMS, FRANCE – The United States women’s national team defeated Spain 2-1 in the Round of 16 at the 2019 World Cup on Monday evening in front of 19,633 fans at Stade Auguste-Delaune.

Head coach Jill Ellis made only one change to the starting lineup from the team’s final group-stage match against Sweden, bringing Julie Ertz back into the squad and dropping Lindsey Horan—who was sitting on a yellow card—to the bench.

The action started quickly in the contest with Kelley O’Hara getting beat in just the first minute of play. Becky Sauerbrunn managed to clean up the centering pass, but her low clearance resulted in a second-chance effort which Sauerbrunn also cleared—with her face.

Then, four minutes later, the Americans created a chance of their own. A long pass from Abby Dahlkemper out of the back found Tobin Heath on the wing. Heath cut back her mark, who promptly took Heath down in the box for a penalty. Megan Rapinoe took the kick and gave the U.S. the early lead.

But the American edge didn’t last long. In the ninth minute, Sauerbrunn gave the ball away as the U.S. tried to possess out of the back. Spanish forward Jennifer Hermoso made the Americans pay and slotted home from just outside the 18 past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher to tie the match.

From there, the Americans dominated the next 15 minutes. Rapinoe went near post in the 13th, but saw her shot saved and had another attempt inside the six-yard box blocked. Then Dunn fired a low service across of the face of Spain’s net with no one able to get on the end of it in the 19th minute. Ertz also went over the crossbar from 10 yards out six minutes later.

In the 27th minute, the U.S. nearly gifted the Spanish another goal, this time on a botched clearance from Naeher. Luckily for the Americans, the ball deflected off the Spanish attacker, back off Naeher’s chest, and away from danger.

For the rest of the half, the 13th-ranked Spanish started to test the American backline more and more, frequently coming down the U.S.’ left side and troubling Crystal Dunn over and over. They got behind her, past her, and around her to create a series of chances that Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper cleaned up and the two teams entered the locker room at the half still tied 1-1.

In the second stanza, the Americans started slowly, giving away possession often and it took 10 full minutes to generate their first real opportunity—a long shot from the corner of the 18 that Heath fired well over the net. Five minutes later, Lavelle did the same as Spain continued to compete physically with the Americans in a way few expected.

In the 62nd minute, a late run from Patri Guijarro gave La Roja another opportunity, as she picked up the ball in the U.S. box and her shot went straight across the face of the U.S. goal, but wide.

Mewis also wide in 65th minute and despite the difficult contest, Ellis still didn’t go to her bench for reinforcements.

Finally, in the 71st minute, the U.S. regained the lead. Rapinoe found Dunn on the flank and the outside back fired a pass into the middle. Lavelle picked up on the ball just inside the 18 and a Spanish defender appeared to just graze the midfielder as she tried to work some space to shoot. The center official pointed to the spot once again and, after a VAR review, Rapinoe scored again from 12 yards out.

Despite the strong pro-American crowd, the contest proved much more competitive than many imagined, even with the tight scoreline between the two nations in a friendly this winter. Spain clearly didn’t generate near as many chances, but pressured the U.S. in a way no one has in recent months.

The match still wasn’t finished, however, and nine minutes after Rapinoe’s second penalty, Spain generated another opportunity off a long free kick. Naeher came out to punch and did so, but paid the price for when a Spanish runner clattered into her and she spent several moments on the ground in pain.

In the 86th minute, Ellis finally went to her bench, bringing in Carli Lloyd for Morgan and in the 89th minute, Horan replaced Lavelle. Several minutes later, the final whistle blew and the Americans earned their advancement to the quarterfinal round.

The United States next plays France in Paris on Friday evening at 3 p.m. ET.

John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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