The weather was chilly and wind was blowing in Alicante, but the U.S. women’s National Team had a warm feeling after winning a tight match with Spain, 1-0, on Tuesday, thanks to a Christen Press goal in the 54th minute.
It was the first-ever match between the teams and the American victory ended a 16-game unbeaten streak for the 12th-ranked Spanish, just as the U.S. 28-game unbeaten streak was ended by France last Saturday, 3-1.
The U.S. fielded its first team, with Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath all returned from injuries and Rose Lavelle back from sickness that kept all four out against France. Their impact was immediate and noticeable, as the U.S. was able to obtain possession and apply pressure against a technically sound Spanish side.
The first half saw Spain control much of the possession – 57-43% – but no serious challenges to U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher. The American offense was much better than against France, however, creating some chances, including a sensational bicycle kick from Rapinoe in the 14th minute that sailed past the face of the Spanish goal from left to right and out of bounds.
Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Tierna Davidson came in as second-half substitutes and Press took the ball at midfield in the 54th minute and sprinted all the way down the left side and used her speed to send a left-footed shot past Spanish keeper Sandra Panos and heading into the far corner, when it was kicked in on a save try by Irene Paredes. Press’s speed made the difference, and she got the credit for her 47th career National Team goal in her 108th appearance.
As the U.S. offense began to stir, Spain also began finding space in the U.S. final third, with Andrea Falcon blasting a shot in the 63rd minute that was punched away by Naeher.
The game opened up and the U.S. got multiple chances from Alex Morgan and, on a counter attack, Spain’s Alexia Putellas hammered a shot that was saved by Naeher from near-point-blank range in the 70th minute. Morgan got a turnover in midfield in the 82nd minute and blasted a right-footer that was punched away by Panos.
The U.S. women will return home for the remaining eight games prior to the start of the Women’s World Cup in France in June. Next up is the SheBelieves Cup at the end of February, starting with a match vs. Japan in Chester, Pennsylvania on the 27th.
Press was a major impression with her play against Spain, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the loss to France, a game which will not soon be forgotten.