After victory over England in their SheBelieves Cup soccer opener, the United States Women’s National Team next face Spain at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Sunday (4pm ET, live on ESPN and TUDN).
The USWNT looked every inch the accomplished and polished unit they are in their triumph over England in Orlando on Thursday. They repeated 10 of the 11 starters from their World Cup semi-final win over the same opponents last summer and quickly found their rhythm.
Vlatko Andonovski’s side dominated the first half, outshooting their visitors 11 to five, but had to wait until early into the second period to go ahead when Christen Press received a pass outside the area and curled a superb effort into the corner. Just a couple of minutes later, Lindsey Horan lifted a cute pass into the area for Carli Lloyd to control and finish.
It was, in truth, a pretty comfortable win for the United States. Julie Ertz, making her 100th appearance for the national team, impressed in midfield, and Press was a constant in the team’s most dangerous attacking moves. Others didn’t quite seem at their best, perhaps largely because the NWSL season is yet to get underway, but they didn’t really need to be against a sloppy and disappointing England side.
It was a more than adequate start to their build-up to the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. “We as a team feel like we have gone up a level,” Ertz said afterwards. “We know that what we did in 2019 isn’t going to win us the Olympics. We learned that in 2016.”
Andonovski elected to rest Megan Rapinoe from the start of Thursday’s fixture, and last year’s World Cup Golden Ball winner drew plenty of cheers when she replaced Press on the hour mark. Rapinoe will presumably be in line to start on Sunday against a Spain side who might just now represent USWNT’s most likely challengers for the tournament trophy.
Spain began their debut appearance in the SheBelieves Cup with a 3-1 win over Japan. Alexia Putellas gave them an early lead only for the two teams to go in level at the break following a wonderfully converted equalizer late into the half. The introduction of Lucia Garcia at the interval decided the game in Spain’s favor as the young Athletic Club forward scored two well-taken goals to secure her side all three points from their opener.
“We are very happy with the victory,” explained coach Jorge Vilda. “We need to improve some things before we take on the world champions on Sunday, but I am very happy with the performance of my team.”
Spain have started to make real inroads in women’s football over the last five years or so. They qualified for their first World Cup in 2015, reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship in 2017 and then progressed to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in France last summer. A competitive, professional league and good performances in recent youth tournaments suggest a bright future could await.
The majority of Spain’s squad for the SheBelieves Cup is derived from the two dominant forces in the domestic game in Spain: three-time reigning league champions Atlético Madrid and the Barcelona side who have finished second to them on all of those occasions. Jennifer Hermoso, who swapped Atlético for Barcelona last summer, is one to watch out for.
Team USA are unlikely to underestimate their opponents given that Spain were able to run them close at last year’s World Cup. It took the United States’ women until the 75th minute of their last-16 clash to score the decisive goal in a 2-1 win. Only one goal had separated the teams when they met in a friendly in Alicante, Spain, five months before that: a 1-0 victory for USA off a Press goal.
Our Preview’s United States Women vs Spain Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
The likelihood is that the US will again prevail on Sunday but if they do, it will again probably not be by all that great a margin. Backing Spain to keep things close by the means of the handicap markets looks a solid play. These are our USWNT vs Spain predictions for this SheBelieves Cup soccer game preview:
- The American-facing offshore sports gambling firms are again doing a bad job covering this huge women’s international soccer tournament. Bovada (ridiculously via ‘international friendlies’ in their menu system) and 5Dimes sportsbooks are the only ones with odds. As for the wager, we advise betting on Spain +1.5 goals on the spread @ -135 with Bovada.