Casey Murphy had to take the ball out of the net twice against Spain. (Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
The U.S. women’s national team’s European sojourn can be only called a disaster.
Given what the team has accomplished the past three decades, there are always great expectations for the two-time defending Women’s World Cup champions.
But things didn’t transpire the way the USA expected. Nowhere near it.
On Friday, the Americans dropped a 2-1 decision to England before a packed house at Wembley Stadium in London.
On Tuesday, the USA lost to a depleted Spanish team, 2-0, in front of a much more modest crowd at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona, Spain.
It was the first time since 2001 that the Americans had lost consecutive goals while conceding multiple goals in each match.
“Spain was better a team,” USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in a press conference that was streamed back to the United States, adding “I take full responsibility” for the loss.
“It’s very disappointing, there’s no question about it. It is a tough moment for us as a team. We’re hoping that we’re going to learn a lot.”
Then the stream cut out and never came back.
Fifteen players on the squad have refused to play for head coach Jorge Vilda, claiming he had “significantly” affected their “emotional state” and their health. In fact, the players said that no one should have called the squad that played the USWNT on Tuesday the Spanish national team.
But the Spaniards looked like a world-class national team on Tuesday as Andonovski suffered his fourth loss being in charge of the team. He is 41-4-6 in 51 matches.
The Americans? They never found any rhythm to be consistently dangerous or make the host side sweat.
Regardless who the young USA side played, the results was not good enough, even if the games were “only” friendlies and the team was far from full strength due injuries to several veteran players who possibly could have made a difference.
It was the first time the USWNT lost consecutive matches in 5 1/2 years, or since the 2017 SheBelieves Cup.
There were few, if any outstanding performances by the visitors, who did not come close to living up to a tradition of a team that has won four world championship and as many Olympic gold medals.
Laia Codina scored first for the hosts in a scramble in the box as the Americans failed to clear the ball off a corner kick in traffic in front of the net in the 39th minute. She slotted the ball home past goalkeeper Casey Murphy into the lower right corner for a 1-0 Spanish lead. Rocio Galvez was credited with an assist.
It was the first time in more than a year the USA allowed a goal off a set piece.
On the other side of the ball, the USWNT did not have its usual vibe of making the opposing team sweat. In fact, the Americans did not place a shot on goal in the opening half.
Scoring opportunities for the U.S. in the second half were far and few between. In a word, the Americans’ attack, if you could call it that, was rather meek.
Spain, on the other hand, continued to gain more confidence behind its ball possession. It looked much much hungry than the USA.
While the Spaniards had a few close encounters in the final half, and it paid off in the 72nd minute when Esther Gonzalez doubled their lead.
Oihane Hernandez beat second-half substitute Crystal Dunn down the right flank as Gonzalez volleyed it home from close range into the left corner for a stunning two-goal advantage.
Whether this will be a wakeup call for the USA, it remains to be seen. The team will host Germany twice in November.
The Americans have nine months to get several veterans healed and its act together before defending its world championship title at the World Cup in New Zealand and Spain.