Spain have themselves a very welcomed victory over the United States in the first of their winter friendlies in Long Beach, with the European Champions deservedly taking a 9-5 victory.
It is a rare sight, but the triple-Olympic champions just didn’t really click in attack today, while Spain backed the United States into making too many unforced errors in the game.
Team USA were also a bit apprehensive in attack, under the strain of some well-coordinated pressing from the European Champions.
Miki Oca’s team looked just that extra bit sharper, perhaps a consequence of the squad playing in Europe, where intense competition is already well underway. The Spanish defence were highly functional in keeping the United States to only five scores; there were thirteen steals and thirteen blocks for the Spanish.
There were hat-tricks in the contest for Elena Ruiz and Judith Forca; both of whom looked incredibly dangerous throughout the match. The Spanish were excellent from open play, only relying on netting once from two extra-player opportunities.
It still appears that Adam Krikorian is going through a bit of trial and error with his ‘new-look’ USA, although there was a return to Team USA for Maggie Steffens – who is recovering from a long-term injury. Emma Lineback was impressive once again, with the leftie converting twice in the match.
Yesterday, USA downed Italy 16-13.
United States 5 – 9 Spain (1-3, 2-2, 1-2, 2-1)
United States: A. Johnson, E. Ausmus, T. Prentice, J. Sekulic, R. Fattal, A. Johnson, M. Steffens, J. Roemer 1, R. Neushul, D. Mammolito, E. Woodhead, J. Flynn, B. Weber 1, J. Raney 1, A. Longan, E. Lineback 2
Spain: L. Ester, C. Nogue, A. Espar 1, A. Ruiz 1, N. Perez, P. Crespi, E. Ruiz 3, P. Pena, J. Forca 3, P. Camus, P. Leiton 1, M. Terre
The United States got off to a blistering start, scoring on the game’s very first shot. Jordan Raney, a star for Team USA all year, bagged the goal from an off-centre shot from the top.
But Spain’s attack was spectacular, and while the United States sat back in defence, they were hammered by the visitors’ quality offence. While Elena Ruiz did well to convert a 5m penalty, it was the two left-handers on the ‘Red Fury,’ Judith Forca of Sabadell and Elena’s older sister Ariadna Ruiz of Sant Andreu, who did the rest of the damage.
The Spanish team, led by goalkeeper Martina Terre, continued to frustrate the reigning world champions, the United States, despite the latter’s sloppy defensive play.
Early in the second quarter though, Adam Krikorian’s squad looked threatening, and another lefty, Emma Lineback, netted well with a powerful shot (2-3). However, Ryan Neushul was unable to draw her team level from 5 metres, as Martina Terre made an outstanding penalty save.
With the United States passing up opportunities, Spain made theirs count. Forca weighed a lovely lob to the back post, before Elena Ruiz’s driven shot from 7m flew past Amanda Longan in the American net. Bayley Weber, a USC Trojan, nodded at the back post to reduce her team’s halftime deficit to two goals.
Emma Lineback’s second excellent shot immediately after the halftime break reduced the United States’ deficit by a single goal. Anni Espar, who of course spent time in the United States with USC, responded immediately for the European Champions, reacting first on 2m to fire past Longan for 6-4.
Not due to a lack of effort, but for the majority of the competition, the United States’ attack simply did not gel, and out of nothing, from a 6m foul, Elena Ruiz had her third goal, with a spectacular cannon of a shot that gave Amanda Longan no chance.
Into the last, Spain added yet another score via Forca, further adding to American frustrations. Jewel Roemer eventually found the back of the net for the Yanks via a 5m penalty, but the day belonged to the Spanish, and Paula Leiton, who caused havoc all game, powered the ball into the American net from 5m.