PREVIEW: USA VS. SPAIN
KENYA BROWN - Monday, June 24, 2019
After breezing through the group stage, the US Women's National Team now face the daunting tasking of getting through the knockout stages, with Spain being their first opponent on Monday.
Now, the Americans enter the meat and potatoes of the tournament in which a loss will send them packing home in disappointment.
However, the cards always seem to be in favor of the team as they have made it to the semifinals of every World Cup since its inception in 1991.
There is no doubt the reigning champions will enter their Round of 16 encounter as the heavy favorite and will have a full-strength side to count on as head coach Jill Ellis told the media over the weekend that Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan will be available to play as it appears they have overcome injury issues.
Ertz was rested during their game against Sweden to recover from a thigh injury, while Morgan, the US leading scorer, was subbed out of after getting banged up during the game.
One of the key concerns heading into this game is whether the defense can hold up. They have done well to record three consecutive shutouts, with Sweden being their only true test thus far. However, will goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, who has pretty much had little to do in the past games, be ready when the time calls?
As long as the job is done in the attack, then there should be no worries about the defense.
The US will be facing a Spanish team that has improved immensely compared with their maiden World Cup appearance four years ago.
After finishing second in Group B behind two-time World Cup winners Germany, Spain will hope that their first appearance in the knockout stage won't be brief. They have a talented group of players and could give the US a challenge as they only went down to the red, white and blue in a 1-0 defeat back in January.
However, with something as big as the World Cup on the line, Spain could be in for a long day with the US on a mission to become only the second country to win back-to-back titles.
Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims will be the venue on Monday as the US will look to claim another win to hold on to the World Cup trophy.