By Amy Tennery
Harrison, NEW JERSEY (Reuters) – The United States defeated Spain 1-0 in a hard-fought battle in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, with a late-game header into the net by Julie Ertz sealing the match on the second leg of the SheBelieves Cup tournament.
Spain put up perhaps the biggest challenge the U.S. has faced so far since head coach Vlatko Andonovski took the reins in October, nearly scoring in the 24th minute on a ball that hit the crossbar and keeping U.S. tender Alyssa Naeher on her toes with an aggressive offensive performance.
But the U.S. continued their winning streak since claiming victory at the World Cup, as Ertz headed in a goal off an assist from Christen Press.
“They’re a great team, they’re really cohesive, they’re bought into what they do, I’ve nothing but great things to say about the way that they play,” Ertz told reporters.
“We knew we were going to have to defend but it was really about staying together and anchoring in when needed.
“Sometimes you have to grind it out in the end, so that’s kind of what we did.”
Andonovski told reporters afterward that Spain is exactly the kind of opponent he wants his players up against “in the process” to improve.
“We knew they’re good, we knew they’re technical,” he said. “We saw at times how dangerous they can be.”
The match drew a crowd of 26,500 despite ongoing concerns over the global coronavirus outbreak, which has upended sporting events worldwide and raised fears that the upcoming Tokyo Games may be cancelled, postponed or held without fans.
The U.S. plays Japan and Spain faces off against England on March 11, in the final leg of the SheBelieves Cup.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery; Editing by Michael Perry)