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US players embrace following their 2-0 win over Sweden in their Women's World Cup Group F soccer match at Stade Océane, in Le Havre, France, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

USWNT Faces Spain in Round of 16

The United States Women’s National Team continue to defend their title in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. After three games without conceding a single goal, they’ll clash with Spain in the knockout round on Monday.

The American Dream

After winning the tournament in 2015, the No. 1-ranked United States came into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup as favorites to repeat. A 13-0 shutout of Thailand set the tone for the rest of the group stage, as they went on to keep two more clean sheets while scoring the most of any team in the group stages of a World Cup ever.

https://twitter.com/USWNT/status/1141850864577126400

A 3-0 victory over Chile followed by a 2-goal shutout of Sweden meant the US won Group F with ease. The team has used a 4-3-3 formation in every game so far, and they are expected to do the same against Spain.

Alex Morgan is likely to get the nod at striker. She is the tournament’s joint top-scorer so far with five goals and tied for first in the tournament in assists with three.

The USWNT is one of the deepest squads in the whole tournament. Only three players have started every game so far: defender Abby Dahlkemper, midfield star Lindsey Horan, and seldom-praised Alyssa Naeher at goal.

La Roja Make History

Despite a rich history of soccer in Spain, their women’s national team is just now starting to emerge.

Their first Women’s World Cup qualification was in 2015, and 2019 marks the first time they have advanced past the group stage.

Spain, ranked No. 13 in the world by FIFA, poses the toughest challenge yet for the US. Their pass-heavy style of play places an emphasis on retaining possession. Every Spanish player is comfortable with the ball at her feet, and the center backs are capable of launching long balls up the field when needed.

Forward Jenny Hermoso has been Spain’s best player of the tournament. She can play striker, or she can drop deeper and supply through balls to the players in front of her. She led the team in scoring during qualifying, and her good form has carried over to the World Cup. Hermoso has taken the most shots on the team and has scored the most goals.

Overall, Spain has been underwhelming this tournament; they have only scored one goal from open play so far. After a narrow 1-0 defeat to Germany to begin the World Cup, they defeated South Africa 3-1 (in which Hermoso scored two penalties) and concluded the group stage with a 0-0 stalemate against China.

Spain will also likely set up in a 4-3-3 formation. They will look to dominate possession and break down a US defense that has not had much to do this tournament.

Outlook

The US and Spain faced off in January earlier this year in a friendly. The result was a 1-0 US victory, courtesy of a second-half goal from substitute Christen Press.

This time, there is more on the line in this meeting. The winner advances to play France on June 28 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

About John Miceli

I've seen how deeply sports can impact people, and I would love to share in that passion and commitment in any way I could as a career. I like all sports, but I love soccer and basketball. @johnmiceli13

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