Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan looked to have scored the game winner but shoddy defending allowed Japan to draw the USWNT 2-2 on the first day of the SheBelieves Cup at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. Megan Rapinoe and Morgan each gave the U.S. the lead in the game only to see porous defending give Japan a path back into the match.
The United States is now 28-1-8 in the all-time series and is 5-0-2 in Chester, PA.
Morgan started up top and wore the captain’s armband.
The USWNT press gave Japan fits early but the Yanks struggled to take advantage. Mallory Pugh took a cross from Tobin Heath in the middle of the box but couldn’t get much on her shot as she was shoved from behind and it was easily saved by Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane. Two minutes later, Rose Lavelle failed to get just the slightest touch required on a corner kick cross to tap the ball into the open net at the back post.
Morgan sent a perfect ball forward in the eighth minute to spring Megan Rapinoe in behind the defense but as she slowed to control it and take a shot, she had the ball nicked from behind and the chance went wanting.
Japan survived those early opportunities for the USWNT and started to grow into the game, getting forward for the first time in the match’s 10th minute and earning a corner when Tierna Davidson headed a cross behind and out of danger.
Kumi Yokoyama nearly gave the Japanese the lead in the 11th minute. Just moments after Morgan and Rapinoe had combined to clear a corner kick cross, Yokoyama drove into the right side of the box and fired, hitting the crossbar with the first good chance for Japan in the match.
After about five good minutes of play by Japan, the game settled in a bit and the U.S. finally struck in the 23rd minute. Heath took a pass from Pugh, turned and made a quick, marauding run to the end line. Once there, she cut the ball back across the box where a wide-open Rapinoe simply tapped it in to make it 1-0.
A Morgan steal in the 30th minute set up a counter. As the Pride striker dragged a defender wide, Rapinoe fired a shot wide of goal. Eight minutes later, Morgan poked the ball past Japan defender Saki Kumagai, who impeded the forward and brought her down, setting up the USWNT with a dangerous free kick. Rapinoe went for goal and Yamane got a glove on it to knock it off the post and out for a corner.
That was the last good opportunity of the half and the USWNT took its slight 1-0 lead into the break. The USWNT had a 6-2 advantage in shots (3-2 on goal) and had five corners to two for Japan. The U.S. held 55% of the first-half possession.
Kelley O’Hara checked out at the half for Emily Sonnett.
The U.S. attack continued to fizzle in the final third after halftime and that slim 1-0 lead was finally punished by Japan in the 68th minute. Crystal Dunn gave far too much room to Emi Nakajima on Japan’s right side. Her first touch nutmegged Dunn but fell weakly for Davidson but the defender’s clearance was poor and went right back to the Japanese winger. Nakajima beat Dunn to the loose ball and fired home to make it 1-1.
Nakajima equalizes for Japan. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/1OTcro3LVD— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) February 28, 2019
After a dangerous opportunity for Mayu Ikejiri nearly gave Japan a gift lead in the 75th minute (she shot wide after slipping in behind the defense), Jill Ellis sent Christen Press on for a largely ineffective Pugh. The substitution nearly immediately paid off when she got up the right side and took a shot in the mouth. No foul was given despite Press stopping her attack but she soon regained control again out on the right wing. Press sent a cross into the box that Morgan was able to direct inside the near post with her chest to make it 2-1 in the 77th minute. It was Morgan’s 99th career international goal.
Morgan had a couple of half chances in the 79th and 83rd minutes from just outside the box but couldn’t keep the first one down and sent the second one wide. Shortly after that, she made way for Carli Lloyd.
But the U.S. couldn’t close out the match. Once again the Japanese easily unlocked the U.S. defense. Davidson stepped up as Ertz failed to win a challenge in the defensive end. that allowed Yui Hasegawa to slip between Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper and center for an easy finish by Yuka Momiki in the 91st minute.
Japan equalizes. 2-2. pic.twitter.com/BxsWH2A7Zo— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) February 28, 2019
The USWNT couldn’t recover from the second defensive gaffe and the game ended 2-2. The United States and Japan are tied for second in the SheBelieves Cup standings behind England, which won the first match over Brazil, 2-1.
The U.S. will face England on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN.