It was an offensive showcase for the USWNT against Japan on Thursday night in a 4-2 win to kick off the Tournament of Nations. The Yanks tallied four goals against Japan at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, with three coming from the Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan as she tallied her fourth hat trick in her international career.
The win moved the USWNT to an impressive 8-0-1 record in 2018. The U.S. is also now unbeaten in its last 17 matches and has outscored opponents, 53-15 throughout that stretch of games. The win over Japan saw young players and seasoned vets both make contributions, something that Jill Ellis has to mix well together moving forward.
Ellis chose this squad with Alex Morgan wearing the captain’s armband. Alyssa Naeher picked up her 30th cap in goal while Crystal Dunn racked up her 65th cap for the USWNT.
Morgan wasted no time pushing the action as she nearly won a foot race in the second minute but Japan dealt with the attack.
The opposition kept the ball in the U.S. final third for about two minutes, but solid defense from Dunn resulted in the U.S. regaining possession. Dunn sent in a nice cross in the seventh minute but Lindsey Horan sent a header over the bar to keep the early pressure on Japan.
Japan appeared to have the U.S. defense on its heels following the early pressure, but the USWNT dealt with each Japanese attack well. Dunn once again made a solid play on defense against Emi Nakajima to shut down the attack in the 11th minute.
Japan had numerous attacks in the first 15 minutes shut down by offside calls. The U.S. took advantage as Megan Rapinoe, who was very patient with her spacing, sent a great ball in to Morgan as the U.S. took the lead in the 18th minute.
Megan Rapinoe finds Alex Morgan to open up the scoring for the USWNT! pic.twitter.com/1yGcDc9siv— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 26, 2018
Mina Tanaka showed a beautiful individual effort just a minute later by beating Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson to equalize in the 20th minute on a beautiful chip over Naeher. The defense here by the U.S. was just poor and unorganized which showed in flashes throughout the first 20 minutes.
Well, that lead didn't last long...— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 26, 2018
Tanaka equalizes for Japan with a lovely chip! pic.twitter.com/c30qJ4cVrf
Christen Press, Rapinoe and Morgan continued the attack for the U.S. after the equalizer but could not get a quality chance. The U.S. attackers would dominate possession for the five minutes following the equalizer.
Morgan answered the call again with a solid header in the 26th minute. Dunn laid the ball all the way across to Emily Sonnett, who created an easy chance for Morgan to regain the lead for the U.S. with an excellent cross. Morgan’s header restored the U.S. lead.
Another one for Alex Morgan!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 26, 2018
Her header restores the USWNT's lead against Japan. pic.twitter.com/7ctT6DjNR8
The Yanks seemed to continuously work the wings and it killed Japan throughout the first half as the Japanese defense seemed lost with no answers on how to stop Rapinoe and Morgan.
Dunn got fooled as she tried to step up in the 32nd minute which led to a solid chance for Japan that turned into a corner. Japan could not capitalize on the corner though as the U.S. held pretty well on defense.
Morgan got another solid chance in the 35th minute but missed her shot wide of the left post as two defenders were in the area. Press played herself into the box and put a solid shot on target in the 40th minute to keep the Japanese defense on its heels.
Ayaka Yamashita made a beautiful save against Julie Ertz in the 42nd minute in a one-on-one situation as Ertz came into the box unmarked with plenty of space. But she appeared to be surprised about how open she actually was and should have done better after receiving a good service from Morgan.
The U.S. took its 2-1 lead into the break over Japan. It held the advantage in possession (54% to 46%) and shots (8-4) over the Japanese through 45 minutes.
The U.S. began the second half flat-footed as Japan got some nice chances in the first couple of minutes coming out the break. Japan seemed to gain better possession of the ball and play in the midfield as well, something that was a weakness in the first half.
Japan gave away possession in the 50th minute which gave the U.S. a beautiful chance on a solid hustle play from Press that led to a save from Yamashita to keep Japan’s hopes alive.
But the U.S. nearly picked up its third goal again in the 54th minute as Yamashita lost control of the ball on a corner, resulting in a shot from McCall Zerboni — who was subbed on to start the second half — that had to be saved at the line by the Japanese defense.
Press came off for Tobin Heath in the 54th minute and it did not take long for her to make an impact. Heath showcased some solid footwork as she worked the ball to Morgan, who completed her hat trick, blasting one under the crossbar to give the U.S. a 3-1 lead in the 56th minute.
ALEX MORGAN GETS HER HAT TRICK! ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/LfM18PvEyl— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 27, 2018
Ertz subbed off for Rose Lavelle in the 64th minute and Lavelle made her seventh appearance with the USWNT and did not disappoint. Rapinoe worked the ball into the final third and served a pass to Lavelle, who quickly returned it to Rapinoe. The Seattle Reign play-maker sent the ball past Yamashita to give the United States a 4-1 lead.
Naeher shut down the Japanese attack in the 69th minute with a save against Kumi Yokoyama but Japan continued to press, as Yuika Sugasawa missed a wide open chance just a minute later on a volley that went right over the crossbar.
Morgan got her sendoff in the 73rd minute as Carli Lloyd subbed on for her. She left the match with a hat trick and handed the captain’s armband to Lloyd for the final 17 minutes.
Japan’s attacking substitutions finally led to a goal by Moeno Sakaguchi as she cut inside on Heath and perfectly placed the ball past Naeher at the far post to bring Japan back within two goals with 15 minutes to play. Naeher was obviously upset with herself as she felt that the shot was savable.
Sakaguchi put Tobin Heath on skates and placed it in the corner to pull one back for Japan! pic.twitter.com/wpLm0pprCe— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 27, 2018
As the game entered the 85th minute, the U.S. appeared to play at a more passive pace being up two goals while Japan could find no answer to bring the game within striking distance. The defense of the U.S. continued to shut down every Japanese attack, frustrating the opposition. The defense continued to work the ball around to the midfielders and kept possession away from Japan as the game neared stoppage time.
Three minutes of stoppage time was awarded as the U.S. kept the ball in Japan’s final third and picked up the victory to begin the Tournament of Nations with a 4-2 victory.
Brazil Falls 3-1 to Australia
Brazil and Australia also faced off to start the tournament with the Matildas coming out victorious, 3-1. Orlando Pride’s Poliana conceded an own goal in the 10th minute while the Pride’s Emily van Egmond delivered the corner kick that ended with Tameka Butt’s goal to extend the lead to two goals before the break.
Sam Kerr would make the lead 3-0 early in the second half as the Matildas cruised to a 3-1 victory to start the tournament. Marta, Monica, and Poliana all started for Brazil while Camila came off the bench. Alanna Kennedy and the aforementioned van Egmond started for Australia in the victory. Marta got the assist on Brazil’s lone goal.
Australia and the U.S. top the table after their two-goal victories in the first day of action in the Tournament of Nations. The two sides will face each other on Sunday in Connecticut on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET. Brazil and Japan will face off at 4:15 pm ET. on Sunday as well.