It wasn’t the type of breezy victory that defined the USWNT’s run through the group stage, but in their first knockout game of the 2019 World Cup, the U.S. gutted out a tough, unpretty 2-1 victory against Spain in which two Megan Rapinoe penalties outweighed one disastrous defensive mistake.
The first two goals of the match came early, with the Americans getting on the board swiftly. After a foul drawn in the box by the always-brilliant footwork of Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe calmly buried a PK in the left-hand corner, giving the U.S. a lead in just the 7th minute.
But while that goal appeared to mark the start of another dominant performance, the Americans were quickly jolted back to reality by a response from Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso just two minutes later. On a free kick, U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made a completely wrong call in trying to play the ball up from the back, and defender Becky Sauerbrunn was easily dispossessed by the Spanish front line. Hermoso got the ball at the top of the box and blasted a shocking shot just out of the reach of an off-guard Naeher to tie the game at one-all. It was the first goal the U.S. had given up all tournament.
The game would stay tied until the 76th minute, when a U.S. team that was struggling to regain the lead got a gift in the form of a soft (but technically correct) penalty called on Spain’s Virginia Torrecilla, who tripped Rose Lavelle.
It initially looked like Alex Morgan, who seemed to be battling an injury, would take an ill-advised crack at the PK, but Rapinoe regained the opportunity after the VAR review confirmed the call. A disagreement with the ref over where she could spot the ball didn’t break Rapinoe’s concentration, and she put her shot in the exact same spot to give the U.S. the win.
The Americans now get France on Friday, and the winner of that game will assert themselves as the overwhelming favorites to take home the trophy. They’ll have to play a much more polished, efficient game if they’re going to make the semis, but for now, what they did on Monday was enough.