HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — With less than five minutes to play and the United States facing the prospect of a tie against a rapidly improving Spain, Christen Press took a free kick from the wing and hoped Julie Ertz would go get it.
An in-stride Ertz slammed a header into the net in the 87th minute and the World Cup champions extended their unbeaten streak to 30 games with a 1-0 in the SheBelieves Cup on Sunday at a sold-out Red Bull Arena.
“Julie is always a priority on set pieces,” Press said after the United States won its seventh straight game in 2020 in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. “I feel like if you give her a ball, she can compete for it. It doesn’t matter who she is playing against. She is just world class.”
Press sent a crossing pass from the left flank on a free kick and goalkeeper Sandra Panos never had a chance to stop it despite getting a hand on the shot by the midfielder.
“I don’t have much to say, but when you have the opportunity I have to put it away, especially when there is not much time,” Ertz said. “SheBelieves Tournament is really important to us. We want to win. It was world-class service and you have to do what you can.”
Press, who scored in the Americans’ win over England on Wednesday, said no one on the United States team ever thinks a game will end in a tie.
“Even when it’s the 85th minute and it’s zero-zero, we are thinking we are going to win,” Press said. “It’s just about when and how. We all carry that. We play like that.”
Spain played well. It had nine shots, the same as the United States, and had the ball 60% of the time. It also frustrated the U.S., preventing it from pressing in the offensive end.
“I think we were good,” Spanish defender Irene Paredes said. “We tried to do our game. We did a lot of good things. But in the end we had a bad goal. It’s hard. Again our image is good but still we lose the game.”
U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher made three saves in her second shutout of the tournament. She blanked England 2-0 on Wednesday in Orlando, Florida.
The win gave the United States six points and put it in position to win the four-team tournament with a tie against winless Japan on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.
The United States had some great scoring chances, only to be stopped by Panos. She pushed a shot by Megan Rapinoe over the crossbar in the 32nd minute and made a diving stop on a long-range blast by Samantha Mewis in the 60th minute.
Naeher collected a long, low, hard shot by Alexia Putellas in the 40th minute.
A curling shot by Marta Cardona went just wide in the 68th minute and Naeher had to handle a header by Petullas in the box in the 74th minute.
“We knew they were good,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said of Spain. “We knew they were technical and had the ability to break teams down. We saw at time how dangerous they can be. That’s why we want to play teams like Spain, because in the process we will get better.”
The tournament ends on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas, with England (1-1) facing Spain (1-1) and the United States playing Japan (0-2). England beat Japan 1-0 in the opener of the doubleheader at a stadium that has a capacity of 25,189.
In a pregame celebration, defender Crystal Dunn was honored for attaining her 100th cap in a game against Mexico on Feb. 7. She was the 39th U.S. woman to hit that mark. Ertz made her 100th appearance in the win over England on Wednesday.
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