The United States Women’s National Team opened the two-match friendly slate with a 2-1 loss to England at Wembley, the first defeat in over a year. Next on the schedule is Spain, a less intimidating opponent that is enduring internal drama. The two sides are set to meet at the Estadio El Sadar in Pamplona, home to Club Atlético Osasuna.
This is the fourth all-time meeting between the two nations, with the USWNT holding a 3-0-0 advantage. Spain is currently ranked eighth in the world by FIFA and qualified for the upcoming World Cup by finishing atop UEFA’s five-team Group B with a perfect 8-0-0 record, including a +53 goal differential with zero surrendered. La Roja (The Red One) enjoyed a decent but unspectacular run at last summer’s Euro 2022, finishing in second in Group B and falling in the quarterfinal to eventual champions England, 2-1, in extra time. The international window opened with a 1-1 draw in a friendly against Sweden.
Jorge Vilda was appointed to the manager position in 2015, replacing Ignacio Quereda who held the role for 27 years. The 41-year-old also serves as the program’s sporting director and is embroiled in a public controversy. In what Sid Lowe of The Guardian termed a “mutiny,” 15 players are essentially declining call-ups “until changes are made,” notably the stars from Barcelona. The relationship with the coach has reportedly deteriorated due to questions of controlling behavior and a lack of leadership amid a “tense” and “unpleasant” environment.
I Estas son las convocadas para los próximos partidos de la @SEFutbolFem— Selección Española Femenina de Fútbol (@SEFutbolFem) September 30, 2022
: El día 7 de octubre en Córdoba.
: El día 11 de octubre en Pamplona.
Ambos encuentros se podrán ver en @teledeporte #JugarLucharYGanar pic.twitter.com/0kKSHgxfnG
Refusing to consider resigning, Vilda initially named a 23-player roster for the pair of friendlies. However, the group has continued to change since the announcement. The majority of the squad is from Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, the former of which features no holdouts.
GOALKEEPERS (3): María Asunción Quiñones (Athletic Bilbao), María Isabel Rodríguez (Real Madrid), Enith Salón (Valencia)
DEFENDERS (8): Ivana Andrés (Real Madrid), Olga Carmona (Real Madrid), Laia Codina (Barcelona), Rocío Gálvez (Real Madrid), Oihane Hernández (Athletic Bilbao), María Méndez (Levante), Nuria Rábano (Barcelona), Lucía Rodríguez (Real Madrid)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Teresa Abelleira (Real Madrid), Marta Cardona (Atlético Madrid), Andrea Falcón (América), Irene Guerrero (Atlético Madrid), Maitane López (Atlético de Madrid), Maite Oroz (Real Madrid), Anna Torrodà (Valencia), Claudia Zornoza (Real Madrid)
FORWARDS (4): Ane Azkona (Athletic Bilbao), Athenea del Castillo (Real Madrid), Esther González (Real Madrid), Alba Redondo (Levante)
Vilda deploys a traditional 4-3-3 formation that drops into a 4-5-1 when in the defensive half. The run of play tends to flow through the wings and build with a methodical possession style that takes advantage of the technicians in the midfield. Opponents receive multiple opportunities for crosses and counter-attacks, the latter of which could be exploited by the dynamic USWNT group.
With the two regular starters out of the roster, the shot-stopping responsibility should fall to María Isabel Rodríguez Rivero, also known as Misa. The 23-year-old competes with Real Madrid and recently signed a contract extension through 2024. She is a true sweeper-keeper who covers incredible distance, sometimes reaching the center circle to beat attackers to the ball. While lacking in size and struggling with higher shots, her ability to strongly palm away saves from close range prevents easy rebounds.
Ivana Andrés is expected to be one of the starters at center back and influence the build-up. The 28-year-old has been a member of two World Cup squads, possessing the intelligence to “calmly cover spaces” and “read situations quickly.” Her likely partner is Rocío Gálvez, who also happens to be her club teammate, similarly thriving with playmaking, particularly long balls. The 5’8” defender is a hard tackler and regularly goes to ground to stop a dribbler or block a shot.
Olga Carmona, another Madridista, should occupy the left back position. She pushes deep into the final third and serves as a key attacking presence, bringing possession forward and looking for teammates. On the other side of the formation is Athletic Club’s Oihane Hernández, who similarly enjoys advancing up the field but is less of a creative presence. The 22-year-old pressures opponents and wins most of her duels.
Irene Guerrero of Atlético Madrid operates from a deeper holding position and is capable of playing the necessary switch passes or diagonal through balls to advance possession. She is also willing to do the necessary dirty work on defense and racks up interceptions. The other half of the double pivot is completed by Teresa Abelleira of Real Madrid. The 22-year-old facilitates teammates and serves as the key fulcrum during the build-up, dropping back deep to receive. Occupying a slightly more advanced role is the veteran Claudia Zornoza. Another Madridista, Her vision and ability to find the wingers help to open up the opponent, to say nothing of her long-range shooting ability. For an additional attacking presence, Andrea Falcón could slot into the starting lineup and serve as a technical option in the final third.
alba redondo— sara (@captainaIexia) May 18, 2021
•levante ud forward
•24 year old
•5 goals and 1 assist this season pic.twitter.com/ItWrDMExlg
Levante attacker Alba Redondo started the previous friendly against Sweden and has made an impact with seven goals in 18 caps. The 26-year-old native of Albacete isn’t an overly pacey player, but she moves with purpose and conviction, shielding off defenders and making direct runs on counter-attacks. Athenea del Castillo is expected to patrol the other wing, darting and dribbling past defenders while constantly looking to hit a shot. She is one of the younger members of the squad and brings the expected dynamic energy that can change the tenor of a match.
Esther González is expected to the lead the formation, continuing to score in bunches at the club and international levels. The Real Madrid striker is an opportunistic finisher and poacher, possessing the composure to redirect or settle and shoot on driven crosses. Her goals mainly come from within close range, although she has a been fairly successful in her limited attempts from a longer distance. The 29-year-old plays bigger than her listed height of 5’3”, leaping to win headers and serving as an effective target.
Friendlies are a mixed bag, although this match was likely scheduled with the intention of facing off against a more challenging opponent. Spain is severely weakened by a combination of injuries and declined call-ups, which points to an easy victory by the USWNT. La Roja is enduring utter turmoil off the field, but sometimes adverse circumstances can lead to unexpected performances.
The match is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11th at 2:30 p.m. Eastern, 11:30 a.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN 2 and FUBO TV (free trial).