You know that scene in Black Panther when Killmonger and T’Challa fight for the first time and at the end, Killmonger points down at a bloody and beaten T’Challa and shouts “IS THIS YOUR KING?”
That’s what Spain did to the United States of America in front of 19,663 fans. They pulled the USWNT apart at the seams and exposed them for the whole world to see.
The only two USA goals that happened in this game came off PKs.
According to the official stats, the USA registered 12 shots, with only 3 on goal. 3 shots on goal. Spain came into this match the immediate underdogs and were expected to be handled by the Americans, only to turn the tables on them very early in the game, making a play in the box in the first two minutes.
Already we were seeing the cracks of the defensive foundation that escaped scrutiny in the group stage. In the knock-out round the USA found themselves in a bad position that took almost the entire game to get out of. Spain had a game plan going into this match and they stuck to it. They were physical, yes, but they were also smart. Almost all of their fouls were getting the ball so they wouldn’t get carded along with the foul. Alex Morgan is going to be a walking bruise for the quarter final, something France will be keeping in the back of their minds.
First off, let’s talk about the FIFA Player of the Match, Megan Rapinoe. She was awarded this for her pair of PKs and not anything she did on the pitch. If I can say this, I feel comfortable saying that Rapinoe was one of the worst players on the pitch. She constantly lost the ball, she got herself in bad positions and when she did take a shot, the ball was sent to the parking lot. She hasn’t been the Megan Rapinoe everyone knows since the slaughter against Thailand and that has been evident for some time now. She will no doubt continue to get the start, but I think a real discussion needs to be had about her role as a starter.
Now to look on the bright side! Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis were an absolute joy to watch. Lavelle has really come into her own since this tournament began and has continued to surprise me with how much better she gets with each game played. I was worried about her when she picked up all those injuries in 2018, but they seem to be a thing of the past. Mewis was equally incredible to watch, showing everyone (including her coach) why she should have been starting this whole time. She and Lavelle together in the midfield has been one of the best pairings since Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly.
With that being said, we need to talk about the defense. I’m not sure where all the disconnect and miscommunication was coming from, but that defense looked like they had never played a game together in their lives. Crystal Dunn, who is normally such a bright spot, was getting beaten again and again on the flank. I think I heard Kelley O’Hara’s name called three times. Abby Dahlkemper was doing her best and Becky Sauerbrunn found herself playing every role to keep the peace. I don’t know what kind of pep talk Alyssa Naeher was given, but it needs to never happen again. Spain’s only goal of the game came off a horrendous back-pass to Sauerbrunn who was caught off guard and couldn’t clear it out quickly enough. Jenni Hermoso took that ball off her feet, whipped around and shot the ball past Naeher, who could do nothing but watch it happen. Spain showed everyone what La Roja are made of and almost knocked the USA out of the World Cup in the Round of 16.
At the end of the day, the USA is advancing to play France thanks to two PK goals and Spain is going home, heads held high and asking just one question: is this your king? Is this your 2019 World Cup Champion?
Only time will tell.