In a heartbreaking draw against its former World Cup final opponents, the U.S. Women's National Team failed to keep out Japan in the dying minutes of an intense match. The game was an incredibly rough one for a friendly in which Japan had essentially nothing to play for, considering they failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. However, that didn't stop the Japanese from coming out fast and early, surprising the U.S. with their high-pressing intensity.
Mallory Pugh got to strut her stuff after just recently graduating from high school as Jill Ellis featured her in this rather mixed lineup.
Today's #USAvJPN Starting XI: Solo; O'Hara, Johnston, Sauerbrunn (c), Kling; Brian, Long, Pugh; Dunn, Morgan, Heath. pic.twitter.com/UMTjX0bBEY— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) June 3, 2016
The U.S. started slowly, as Japan looked to get going right out of the gates. The visitors held the ball well and had solid passing throughout the midfield leading up to their forwards. Within 13 minutes, Mana Iwabuchi found the net for the World Cup runners-up through a great piece of individual skill. The step overs and quick release would pay honest tribute to Ronaldo, a genuinely excellent, curling strike.
WOAH! There's no stopping that, even if your name is Hope Solo. 1-0, Japan. #USAvJPN https://t.co/vhAADe7koA— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2016
This was followed minutes later by another solid play from the visitors, which is when things started to look grim for the U.S.
Gorgeous cross, terrific finish. Japan up, 2-0. Ogimi this time. pic.twitter.com/4eqaVYxyR2— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) June 3, 2016
However, USWNT and Orlando City Pride star Alex Morgan pulled one back for the U.S. after a brilliant cross from the young Pugh in the 27th minute.
Mallory Pugh --> Alex Morgan --> GOAL, #USWNT https://t.co/kcNOr9bZix— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2016
The U.S. then got a bit of a helping hand from a moment of irrationality. Yuki Ogimi flew in with a rash challenge on Julie Johnston from behind and was justly sent off for doing so. Morgan quickly capitalized on the personnel difference off a set piece and netted her brace for the night.
Alex Morgan's 10th goal of the year and 66th for the #USWNT has this baby tied up, 2-2 on @FS1! #USAvJPN https://t.co/pNIU4iudYB— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2016
Morgan nearly had a hat trick opportunity later off a poor Japan clearance but rushed her shot. The Pride forward was dangerous throughout the match.
Towards the end of the game, the ladies in blue built towards what would seem to be a late winner from Lindsey Horan.
Lindsey Horan thought she had a late winner for the #USWNT against Japan... #USAvJPN https://t.co/BJJvAYC6HE— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2016
But the 10-player Japanese stole away the victory with an even later equalizer after captain Becky Sauerbrunn got a little aggressive and ended up pulling the back line out of shape at just the wrong time.
... but Kumi Yokoyama said 'Nah, ah' and stole a draw deep into stoppage time. What a game! #USAvJPN https://t.co/e8hUjBXCF9— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 3, 2016
Japan refused to be sat down throughout the entire game and the U.S.'s quality shined brightly going forward, but not so much at the defensive end.
The teams will meet again on June 5 for the USWNT's final friendly before heading to Rio. As usual, Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris did not see any game time, backing up starter Hope Solo.