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Pair of penalties lead USWNT over Spain and into quarterfinals

The U.S. Women’s National Team faced its first real test of this year’s Women’s World Cup and they passed it to move on to the quarterfinals.

Megan Rapinoe’s 76th-minute penalty put the USWNT in front and allowed them to survive a gritty Round of 16 match against Spain with a 2-1 win. The attempt came after a lengthy VAR review confirmed that Rose Lavelle was tripped near the top of the box. The delay didn’t bother Rapinoe, however, as she slotted her shot past a diving Sandra PaƱos in the Spain goal.

Rapinoe had opened the scoring earlier with a penalty after just six minutes. That early lead was short-lived, however. Alyssa Naeher gifted Spain the equalizer in the ninth-minute with a poor distribution effort that allowed Jennifer Hermoso a dangerous chance with the American keeper off her line. It was the first time the USWNT conceded a goal in the tournament.

The two sides didn’t put much together for the rest of the half and went into the break tied at one.

The second half wasn’t much different from the majority of the first. Spain played solid defense and rarely allowed the USWNT much space on the attack. They played a chippy, physical match that eventually led to their downfall. The penalty that led to Rapinoe’s winner came when the USWNT wasn’t really threatening and was the result of a late challenge by Virginia Torrecilla.

Spain pressured more going forward after falling behind, but failed to get a chance thanks to strong possession play and stout defending by Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper in central defense.

The USWNT moves on to the quarterfinals where they will meet France on Friday at the Parc des Princes in Paris.


  1. Before I leave this post, I will review Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeping in the first half. It appeared that Alyssa may have had a case of the knockout round jitters because there were other errors which could have resulted in goals against. In one situation, the ball was played back to her and an opponent was running towards her, and she kicked the ball directly into the oncoming player. That could have resulted in the ball deflecting back into the goal or over to another opponent who could have tapped it into the goal. Fortunately the ball deflected out-of-bounds for a goal kick In another situation a long pass from Spain was a little too long and she ran out to a point just inside the box. However instead of grabbing the ball, she headed it back out. Being so far away from the goal, had an opponent been able to control the ball, they could have simply lobbed it over her head for an EZ goal.

    In the 2nd half, she really settled down and seemed to be more of her old self who had collected either 7 or 8 consecutive clean sheets before this match..

  2. The backline will need to play better..( Except for KOH)
    Does Becky Saurbraun not look 100%? Not really talking about that sequence that gave up the goal.. Something just seems off, and she’s next to a right footed attacker turned left back, and teams obviously know this.
    Guess we’ll find out soon..

    • I think that the back line did just fine if you look at the numbers. Spain had only one (1) shot on goal and that was the giveaway by our GK. Except for one cross, I never thought we were really in jeopardy of being scored on.

  3. In any tournament when you reach the knockout round, all that matters is that you survive and advance. France had to go to extra time, do you think they cared how they played? It’s all about winning and it doesn’t matter how. While the penalties were soft, does anyone really think that Spain deserved the victory more than the US? The US dominated in possession, shots, shots on goal, and corner kicks, although the last was close. The only area Spain led was penalties committed.Also, it’w worth noting that sometimes the quality of the opponent has something to do with how well your team plays. Spain is obviously very good. Their passing and technical skills are are very good. Better than some men’s teams I’ve seen.

    • Well stated Gary. However, the US advantage in shots on goal was minimal. If you discount the 2 US PKs, and the one giveaway by the U. S. GK, the US advantage in shots on goal (that is shots made or saved) was 1-0. Those numbers could very well be the fewest shots on goal in the history of the sport. I checked the archives and for sure it would have been the fewest shots on goal in the history of the USWNT.

      Also, let me take this reply to talk about Alex Morgan in this type of a match. She is a finesse player with probably the most deft touch of any forward in the women’s game playing now. HOWEVER, she is not a “power forward”. and thus she can be neutralized with a VERY physical defense. She was correct is lamenting to the ref that yellow cards should have been given for the excessive fouls against her. However, if this approach is adopted by other teams, and the refs take the same approach, it may very well be that we will see Carly Lloyd
      much earlier in the match than we did against Spain. Also, Alex would not be the one that we would want to have taking PKs in a critical situation. She tends to telegraph where her shots are going to the GK, so that the GK is already half way to that spot before Alex even touches the ball (Remember 2016 Olympics). So when I saw her setting up the ball for the 2nd PK, my heart went into an arrhythmia. Fortunately, it was Megan who took it again, and again with a textbook approach to taking a PK.

  4. The US left back was a problem for the US all game. The US was lucky that the multiple 1v1s the US lost lost there did not lead to more goals against.

    • The LB is a converted striker and it shows. She often got beat on simple moves, like a stop and start, her positioning often left much to be desired, and sometimes she tried to do to much on the dribble. She is a weak spot in the defense and I think it is concerning that we don’t have anyone better there.

    • Again, I agree with Gary here. There are shortcomings in her being able to cover certain moves, and her overall positioning. HOWEVER, there are certain virtues here also, in that she has the speed to stay with fast wingers, and has the ball handling ability to dribble out of trouble when needed. Because, IMHO, I felt that it was the USA’s back line that won them the 2015 W/C, I have been paying VERY close attention to the back line and the various experiments there during the various matches this year. And let me tell you, there have been some disasters with the newcomers, especially in the areas of clearing passes and dealing with counter-attacks. That is why I believe that coach Ellis brought Ali Krieger back on to the team. Right now, I am O.K. with the Quid Pro Quo at left back. However, if things take a turn for the worse, I might switch right outside back to left, and bring in Ali at right O/S back. That is the only other thing I see as possibly working any better..

  5. The US was VERY fortunate to get out of there with the win. Spain doesn’t score a lot of goals, but doesn’t give up many either. Recent scoreless ties with Germany, Canada, and Japan attest to that. So you CANNOT afford to hand them a goal early on like we did today.
    If not for the early PK, Spain would have tried to sit on that goal and escape with a 1-0 win.

    If the U.S. plays like they did today ( I don’t know if the Spain goalie ever had to make a save, other than with the PKs) they will NOT win against France. As Megan Rapinoe said, France is the team to beat in the W/C playing on their home turf. France has beat the U. S. the last 2 times they have played, so the U. S. will need their “A” game on Friday. No more shots going 10 feet over the crossbar. They will not get as many opportunities as they had today, so they better be ready to take advantage of the ones they do get.

  6. I thought the PKs were soft, but fair. Rapinoe can really hit a PK. Get the soft goal given up over with and move on to tougher games.
    US looks very good, not sure if teams will be pressing like Spain did from now on. Would be interested in viewpoints.

    • Agree on the PK’s being a bit soft. I think one of the things we are learning about the VAR era is that refs simply don’t have the latitude to “let things go” on certain calls the way they used to. Now, if it is a penalty by the letter of the rule (and both were, in my view), there is really no way the official can ignore it. The second penalty in particular, where the player was going away from goal for a 50-50 ball, is the kind of thing that would not always been called in the last 15 minutes of a WC knockout game. But we’ll take it, I suppose.
      Otherwise a pretty well-played game against a well-prepared opponent. I do worry a little that Morgan seems far less dangerous in these matches against better teams, particularly as the game wears on.

      • Agreed. USMNT absolutely does not get that PK call under any circumstances!

        Not saying its wasnt correct, just saying. Our guys tend to be on the otherside of benefit of doubt.

        Yea, Morgan doesnt show up in big games. She looked like she was on ice skates today. Tried to take the PK so that she can be handed a big moment. Good for Ellis on overriding

      • KC, that and the fact Morgan doesn’t exactly inspire confidence from the spot.


        Speaking of, how about Sinclair giving Beckie the chance on the PK in Sweden/Canada based on Lindahl saving Sinclair at the Algarve? Can you imagine Rapinoe, or moreso Lloyd, deferring in that spot?

    • There were a number of things done wrong which lead to the “soft goal” by Spain:

      1) The GK should never have passed it out there with opponents lurking in the area.

      2) The FB should have been aware of exactly who was around her and where. She appeared to be unaware of the opponent who confronted her.

      3) The GK should have called out to her and warn her of the danger so that a quick
      pass back to the GK would have been in order.

      I would hope that the coaches would have reinforced the above points to those concerned, so that this situation would not occur again. Against any of the potential opponents in the next 3 matches, a giveaway like this could very well be FATAL!!!

      Also, as far as who takes the PK’s, it should be up to the coach to select who has shown out in practice as well as in competition to take the PK. Canada is a SAD example of this. Obviously Sinclair is the money player on that team, and has shown out well in every situation like that they have ever had. Anyway, Canada scares me with their physicality, so from a competitive point of view, I am glad to see them out.

      A PK should have at least an 80% chance of success. Any team that is a championship team, will hit either 5 of 5 in a shoot-out or 4 of 5 in a worse scenario. 3 out of 5 suggests that no training was done by the team in its prep for a Tourney where PKs will decide who goes forward in case of a tie.

      You don’t need to over-power the ball with a PK. All you need to do is to side-foot it into the inside side netting of the goal. The ball doesn’t need to be hit that hard. If you are worried that the GK can dive over that far, simply direct the ball to the 5-foot level and any diver will be underneath it. The only time you really need to blast the ball is if you are attempting to hit a grounder underneath the goalies body. In that scenario, you don’t have to worry about the ball going high or wide, so you can give it everything you have. In an 8-round shoot out in a Euro Men’s match, there were 11 attempts at hard grounders and all 11 were successful!!!

      • Your point on the coach dictating who should kick is well-noted here. Ellis stated when told AM was gonna take the second, she made it clear that no, she wanted MR taking it. One of her finer moments as a coach, IMO. Sadly, nothing happened like that for Canada where Sinclair deferred to Beckie based on a previous attempt vs. Lindahl at the Algarve. Beckie’s PK was well-struck but she telegraphed her approach and Lindahl got a step and half in that direction before the kick. Save. Sinclair’s taking that one to her grave as it was probably her last WC chance and she deferred it.

      • A final note here on PKs. From what I have heard here through the grapevine, most of the top teams have obtained all the info on every player on every team who has taken a PK in the last 3 years. When the teams go out for the PK shoot-out, the coach or a designate will have that book with them. If one of the opposing players who is in the book is called upon to take a PK, the coach will stand to the left or right of where the GK is to indicate which direction the last PK went, and also will either stand up or knell down to indicate whether that shot went in the air or was a grounder. For a shot in the center at the spot the GK would have vacated, the coach will stand right in the center facing the GK. If there is no book on the player taking the PK, the coach will become out-of-sight standing behind others. If the PK is taken during the match for a foul committed, there is other sign language used to signal the GK of where the last PK from that player went.

        Probably the best way to defend against this is to use a player who has not taken a PK in recent years, but who has shown out well in practice, to do the PKs in any critical situation.
        Actually, I do NOT recall MR taking a PK recently. If I am correct, maybe she was the ace-in-the-hole for the U. S. if PKs were needed in a critical situation???

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