After outscoring opponents 18-0 in the group stage of the 2019 Women's World Cup, the United States had to work hard for a 2-1 victory over Spain here Monday in the knockout stage.
Spain, making their first appearance in the round of 16, opted to emphasize physicality in the contest against the premier side in international women's soccer, who are pursuing a fourth World Cup title.
And while La Roja's rugged approach kept the match competitive, it also proved to be their undoing, as both US goals resulted from penalties.
Referee Katalin Kulcsar pointed to the spot in the 7th minute after Spain's Mapi Leon fouled Tobin Heath. Megan Rapinoe converted to give the defending champions an early lead in front of an overwhelmingly pro-US crowd at Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims.
But the Spanish women were back on level terms just two minutes later thanks to a poor clearing attempt by US goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
The keeper saw her pass to Becky Sauerbrunn cut off by Lucia Garcia, leaving the ball for Jenni Hermoso, who tucked it into the top right corner for her third goal of the competition.
The equalizer buoyed Spain, who held firm despite losing midfielder Vicky Losada to injury in the 31st minute and managed to keep themselves in the match until Virginia Torrecilla fouled Rose Lavelle in the 70th minute.
Kulcsar awarded the penalty, only to then consult VAR, and the match clock was at 75 by the time Rapinoe took the kick to make it 2-1.
The outcome sets up a tantalizing quarterfinal clash between the US and host nation France, whose men's team hoisted the 2018 World Cup, set for next Sunday at Parc des Princes in Paris.
Spain: Sandra Paños; Marta Corredera, Irene Paredes, Mapi Leon, Leila Ouahabi; Vicky Losada (Nahikari Garcia, m. 31), Virginia Torrecilla (Mariona Caldentey, m. 83), Patri Guijarro; Alexia Putellas (Andrea Falcon, m. 78), Jenni Hermoso and Lucia Garcia.
United States: Alyssa Naeher; Kelley O'Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn; Rose Lavelle (Lindsey Horan, m. 88), Julie Ertz, Samantha Mewis; Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd, m. 86) and Megan Rapinoe (Christen Press, m. 90+6). EFE