A pair of Megan Rapinoe penalty kicks handed the United States a 2-1 win against a tough Spain side on Monday, booking a spot in the quarterfinals of the Women’s World Cup.
Julie Ertz returned to the U.S. starting lineup against Spain after missing the last group-stage game with a hip contusion, and manager Jill Ellis went with Sam Mewis in place of Lindsey Horan.
The U.S. and Spain traded goals inside of the first 10 minutes, with Rapinoe converting an early penalty before Jennifer Hermoso capitalized on sloppy play out of the back from the Americans and curled a shot past Alyssa Naeher.
After conceding the early goal, the U.S. was by far the better side for most of the remainder of the first half, pinning Spain down and creating quality chances but failing to find the back of the net as the teams went to the break tied 1-1.
“You can talk tactics but heart, grit and resolve — that’s a big part of World Cup soccer. No game is ever easy in this tournament,” said Ellis after the match.
“We know that, we’ve learned that. So part of it is the mental piece and I thought they were great tonight.”
Rapinoe added: “That’s World Cup level grit right there. You can’t replicate it, there’s no way to express it or teach it.
“The game’s only getting harder and more intense from here. Everybody is playing for their lives. That’s the best part about it honestly. I love it. This is the best stage.”
The second half was a different proposition for La Roja, who grew into the game and began to force the action in the attacking third, with the U.S. continuing to push forward on the other end but still not finding the final pass or finish.
The U.S. was handed a lifeline in the 71st minute when Virginia Torrecilla clipped Rose Lavelle in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. After video review confirmed the call, Rapinoe stepped up and buried her second penalty kick to put the U.S. back in the lead.
Spain coach Jorge Vilda would not comment on the refereeing, stressing his pride that his team gave the U.S. a tough match.
“It was a great effort on the part of all the players. We’re going to grow from this defeat, and I’m really sure all the players on the team have ensured their future.”
Spain pushed hard for an equalizer and was given seven minutes of stoppage time to find a tying goal, but the U.S. dug in and saw out the result to continue its record of never having lost a Women’s World Cup match after scoring first.
The win sets up a quarterfinal date for the U.S. with host France — which needed extra time to beat Brazil 2-1 on Sunday — in Paris on June 28.