The team slogged through a 2-1 victory marked by physical defensive play from the Spaniards and a “soft” go-ahead penalty kick awarded to the Americans.
The U.S. squad looked like it could use an injection of energy as the game wore on, but Ellis failed to insert a new player until replacing Alex Morgan with Carli Lloyd in the 85th minute. Two more moves followed, including the departure of Megan Rapinoe, who scored both goals on penalty kicks. The U.S. advanced to meet host France in Paris on Friday in a highly anticipated quarterfinal.
Ellis explained afterward that she delayed substituting because “it felt that we started to gain momentum, and I think as a coach you have to read that moment because a player can look absolutely fatigued and then suddenly things change and they get their legs again. ”
But many armchair coaches weren’t buying it. Some made their sentiments known with a kick of humor.