The U.S. women's national team rebounded from seeing its lengthy unbeaten run come to an end by inflicting the same pain on Spain.
The USWNT lost for the first time in 28 games Saturday against France but bounced back to deliver Spain its first loss in 16 games with a 1-0 triumph in Alicante on Tuesday. Christen Press delivered the game-winner in the 54th minute, completing a run from the midfield line and acting as a one-woman counterattack before converting on a shot from a tight angle.
Unlike against France, the U.S. had the services of Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Rose Lavelle, and it was Rapinoe that looked to push the issue early, forcing in a wayward cross from the left in the third minute. A minute later, Heath sent in a dangerous cross that couldn't get cleared beyond Lavelle, who earned a corner kick with her blocked shot.
After an extended spell of Spain possession, Heath caused more danger in the 13th minute, earning a corner kick after a speedy run down the right flank. On the ensuing set piece, Rapinoe nearly scored on a bicycle kick, only to have the chance swatted away by goalkeeper Sandra Paños.
Spain kept the U.S. at bay over the next 20 minutes, pressuring, possessing and passing well until a brazen effort from Ertz, who took a rip from 25 yards after a clearance trickled her way in the midfield, only to blast it over the crossbar in the 34th minute.
Ellis made three halftime changes, bringing Mal Pugh, Press and Tierna Davidson on for Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan and Emily Sonnett and altering the look on the field. Crystal Dunn shifted from left back to right back, with Davidson coming in on the left. Press went into the midfield and Pugh into the front three. Regardless, it didn't stymie Spain. The hosts buzzed with even more possession in the opening eight minutes of the half, forcing the U.S. to defend and counter, but it was off a counter that the U.S. scored the game's opening goal.
It was Press who broke forward with pace, getting by Andrea Pereira and slotting a ball toward the far post from a tight angle. Irene Paredes slid to try and clear it off the line but wound up putting the final touch into her own goal to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute.
After some close calls nullified by the offside flag, Alyssa Naeher was finally called into action for the USA in the 63rd minute when substitute winger Andrea Falcon forced the goalkeeper into a save from a tight angle at the right post. Naeher had to make another save in the 70th minute, when Alexia Putellas found space in between U.S. defenders and had a chance to uncork a left-footed shot from 16 yards, only to hook it right at the keeper. Naeher came up with another strong play in the 85th minute, confidently coming off her line and making a clean, leaping catch to claim a corner kick with the U.S. nursing its lead.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
The U.S. women have eight games remaining prior to the World Cup, with the three-match SheBelieves Cup involving Japan, England and Brazil up next from Feb. 27 to March 5.