Julie Ertz celebrates her dramatic, late goal. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Julie Ertz gave credit where it was due — to Christen Press.
She headed in Press’ free kick in the 87th minute to lift the United States to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Spain in the SheBelieves Cup at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
“I could say Christen, Tobin [Heath] and Pinoe [Megan Rapinoe] are probably the top three in the world and they’re all on one team,” she said. “It’s pretty unreal. I watch them in training every day. … It’s craft that she has and she continues to work on. That’s the coolest part is she’s probably one of the best in the world and she never stops working on it. That’s a credit to her. All I have to do is get my head on it. She makes it easy.”
Getting the win, on the other hand, wasn’t as easy for the Americans (2-0-0, 6 points), who can clinch the tournament title with at least tie against Japan (0-2-0, 0) in the finale in Frsico, Texas on Wednesday night
Spain, which many observers and experts feel is on the verge of becoming a women’s world soccer, power made it difficult for the USA with its ball control on offense and grittiness and being physical on defense before a sellout crowd of 26,500.
“They’re a great team,” Ertz said. “They’re really cohesive. They’re bought into what they do. I have nothing but great things to say about the way they play. I think they play beautiful soccer. We knew we were going to have to defend. But it was really about staying together and anchoring together when needed but being ready to go forward when it was on. I’m proud of the team, the performance, just to get the win. Sometimes you have to grind it out in the end.”
The Americans started strong, dominating the opening 10 minutes before Spain found its way and started to assert itself.
Most of the opening half was highlighted by close encounters and half chances and mostly routine saves by both goalkeepers.