After the first round of SheBelieves, USA vs. Spain promised to be an interesting game, and that’s certainly how the first half began. Spain invited the US’ high-pressure style and stayed cool, pulling the US horizontally back and forth as they looked for ways to play it out of the back. In return, the US looked at a fast, direct style through Rapinoe and Williams - particularly Williams, trying to get her into position to get behind the defense.
Williams, Lavelle, and Lloyd were periodically threatening, rotating through each other’s positions. Either the team would look to put Williams in with the through ball or ball over, or Williams would pull open some space so that she could look for the cross to Lloyd or play Lavelle. Lavelle was drifting high too, drifting towards that back line, like in the 15’ when Dahlkemper tried to release her into space with a long ball.
But Spain held up to the pressure and stayed confident on the ball, absorbing high US pressure. The US chose their battles, letting Spain probe but not challenging for every single ball to keep them pushed back high, then when they fell back as Spain probed forward, looked for the quick counter. They had a great chance in the 25’ as they earned the turnover and Julie Ertz took off in the midfield, surrounded by players who couldn’t seem to quite stop her. Then it was Mewis’ turn to try and play in Lloyd, then Ertz again, the two of them always looking to get a player running onto the ball and at the goal. In the 32’ Ertz deftly played in Rapinoe with just such a nicely-weighted ball, and Rapinoe’s left-footed shot forced a tip save over the bar.
The US turned up the pressure in the last mintues of the half, Carli Lloyd dragging everyone to the endline and getting the cross off, though it was defended out. The defense pushed much higher and the challenges grew more physical, with Lavelle drifting more firmly into that front line. Lloyd had another chance in the 43’, her left-footed touch nearly bouncing out of the keeper’s grasp.
Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz backstopped a lot of the US pressure into stoppage, by turns pushing the play higher and higher, but a lot passes once they reached the final third were missing their mark - almost as though all these players are out of season. The half ended at 0-0.
The second half started with both teams looking a little rougher and play opening up end to end. The United States had some unforced errors, like a Sonnett turnover in the midfield that forced the team to very quickly recover in defense.
The US made subs in the 67’, with Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd coming off for Christen Press and Tobin Heath. Williams shifted centrally, with Press and Heath to her left and right respectively. The US made another sub in the 71’, with Lindsey Horan coming in for Sam Mewis. They definitely had fresh energy - Heath in particular spent her first few minutes playing with high-intensity pressure - but mistakes cotinued accumulating in general. Dunn had a bad touch in the 78’ that gave up a turnover. Sonnett struggled to keep the ball under pressure.
The US had a good chance in the 84’ as Lavelle found more time on the ball and was able to get more players in position for a cross to the far post, where Horan lurked. The ball wasn’t quite on target, but it was more promising. Then in the 86’ Press played in Williams with a clever little chip and Spain went to physical length to stop Williams, giving the US a free kick a few yards outside the 18. Press took the free kick and Ertz crashed the box, her headed ball rolling off of Sandra Paños’ fingertips to make it 1-0 in the 87’.
The last US sub was in the 89’ as Jess McDonald came on for Williams, once again staying central. The US stayed relatively steady through the end of stoppage, eventually seeing out the game at 1-0.
It was a great friendly, all things considered, the two teams’ give and take creating a lot of end-to-end action. The US looked like they were playing with a slightly less intense style, looking to absorb more and hit on the counter, and they were clearly still missing a step as the crispness wasn’t there in their passing and runs.
Next up: the United States finishes the tournament out against Japan on March 11 at 8 PM ET, on ESPNews and TUDN.