Monday was too close of a call for the United States at this stage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The United States, the same team that scored 13 goals in a game earlier this tournament, needed the help of the whistle to avoid a potentially shocking upset loss to Spain in the Round of 16. The United States scored twice, both times off the foot of Megan Rapinoe and both times on penalty kicks, to beat Spain 2-1 in Reims, France.
It could now be a moment for the United States to reflect on its many flaws as it prepares for a quarterfinal game against France in Paris. Immediately after the game, Rapinoe wanted to talk about the positives.
“That’s World Cup-level grit right there,” Rapinoe said from the field at Stade Auguste Delaune. “You can’t replicate it. There’s no way to express it or teach it. There was a few of us out on the field, though, kind of like halfway through the second half, we were like, Up a level. We need to go up a level.”
Rapinoe got the United States on the board in the seventh minute after Alex Morgan drew a foul in the box, but Spain quickly equalized with a ninth-minute answer.
The United States didn’t put another shot on goal until the 76th minute, when midfielder Rose Lavelle drew a foul in the box. After video assisted referee confirmed the call, Rapinoe went back to the spot to put home the game winner on another penalty kick. The United States only put two shots on goal all game — both on penalties.
Behind the scenes, the United States will have to figure out a way to play better. Rapinoe knows better than anyone.
“They only get harder and more intense from here,” the midfielder said. “Everybody’s playing for their lives.”