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Tottenham Hotspur Women 1-2 Club America Femenil: Spurs Women shake off the rust in Louisville

Yeah, we lost. But I liked what I saw.

Nikola Karczewska celebrates her goal during Tottenham Hotspur v Club America - Quarterfinals at The Women’s Cup, 2022 Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur Women lost 2-1 to a sharp, attacking Club America Femenil side. Spurs shook off the jetlag and preseason rust as the game went on, but not soon enough to overcome that early deficit.

We started out with something like this.

Spurs Women started in a back 4 with Shelina Zadorsky and new signing Amy Turner in the center, and Ash Neville and, unusually, Molly Bartrip as fullbacks. Eveliina and Drew Spence played in the middle, Rosella Ayane, Ramona Petzelberger, Jess Naz and our new striker Nikola Karczewska formed the attacking quartet.

Spurs had an early chance to open the scoring when Ash put a looping cross in, but Jess couldn’t connect. Eveliina’s delivery on the subsequent corner didn’t even enter play. After that, the Lady Aguilas dialed up the threat in attack, and snuffed out any Tottenham attempts to build out the back with a coordinated press. Spurs (understandably) looked a step behind, unsure of positioning and patterns, and not entirely match fit. It wasn’t surprising that Club America found the back of the net first when Spurs got caught flatfooted on a corner. Alison Gonzalez beat Drew Spence to an inswinging corner, and headed it toward the space in front of Kiana Palacios. Amy Turner got caught on the wrong side, and Palacios reacted first to smash it past Korpela.

Spurs seemed frazzled after the goal, and unable to connect in attack. Club America exploited space left by defenders and midfielders still settling into their positions, and just a few minutes later, they found the back of the net again. Club America played a perfectly weighted ball over our high line to put Scarlett Camberos in a foot race with Molly Bartrip and Amy Turner. Camberos won the race and finished coolly past Korpela for 2-0. After that, Tottenham seemingly tightened up defensively (though admittedly Club America may have taken their foot off the pedal a bit), and regained enough composure in attack to string together a few ventures into the Club America box in the final fifteen minutes of the half.

Asmita Ale and Angharad James came on for Jess Naz and Ramona Petzelberger at half time, and we shifted to a back three with Ash and Asmita as wingbacks. Angharad James slotted in next to Eveliina in midfield, while Drew Spence pushed up into attack. The change in formation covered some of Club America’s more dangerous attacking runs, and allowed our centerbacks to progress the ball more, especially with Eveliina Summanen dropping back to offer an outlet. Spence’s time in attacking midfield was cut short by a knock to her knee, which ultimately forced her off the pitch. Here’s hoping it wasn’t too serious, and that we see more of her in that role soon.

Celin Bizet replaced Drew, and it didn’t take her long to get involved making bright runs, and combining with Ash, Nikola, and Eveliina. Our pressing seemed to click at some point in the second half, starting all the way up with Nikola. Sure enough, that coordinated pressure saw Molly and Ash win the ball back at the halfway line. Ash laid it off to Angharad James, who spotted Celin Bizet’s unchecked run into space and found her with a gorgeous through ball. Celin carried the ball into the box, and nonchalantly side-footed the ball into the path of the onrushing Nikola, who calmly slotted home at the near post. It was the kind of goal that gets better every time you watch it (I’m on viewing 6 or 7, and I’m personally convinced Nikola is the greatest striker in the world).

For a time, the combinations and creative runs from Celin, Nikola, Eveliina, and Ash were so bright that it felt like we might grab another. There was even a shout for a handball when Ash Neville’s long ball into the box rolled off a Club America defender’s arm and fell fortuitously at her feet, but the ref wasn’t interested.

There were a few rough moments, but I’d put them all down to a lack of game time and match fitness. I still have questions about Rosella Ayane and Jess Naz, and I’m waiting to see more from Ellie Brazil and Ramona Petzelberger. But we have several weeks left to work on pressing coordination, learning new roles, fitness, and set pieces. I trust in Rehanne, and I look forward to seeing what she and the team have to offer against Tokyo Beleza Verdy on Wednesday.