The United States Women’s National Team needed a draw or better to capture its third SheBelieves Cup title in five tries. Megan Rapinoe, Christen Press, and Lindsey Horan all scored to make sure of that outcome in a 3-1 USWNT win over Japan at a sold out Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX.
The U.S. women finished 3-0-0 in the event — all against teams rated 13 or higher in FIFA’s current world rankings — outscoring their opponents 6-1 and extending their unbeaten streak to 31 games. The United States also improved to 29-1-8 against the Japanese.
Vlatko Andonovski replaced goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher with Adrianna Franch for the final game of the tournament, behind a back line of Crystal Dunn, Tierna Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper, and Kelley O’Hara. Horan and Sam Mewis flanked Julie Ertz in the midfield, while Rapinoe, Press, and Tobin Heath led the attack up top.
After leaving the goal for late on Sunday, it took only seven minutes for the USWNT to break through against the Japanese. Lindsey Horan stole the ball in the attacking third and was immediately pulled down from behind by Mina Tanaka, who was booked for the foul. Rapinoe stepped up and drilled the free kick over the wall — and goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita — and into the net from about 25 yards out to put the U.S. ahead, 1-0.
Japan settled into the game a bit after that but couldn’t generate much of an attack, due to sloppy passing and good U.S. pressure. The United States simply waited for a mistake and pounced. That came in the 26th minute when Yamashita’s errant pass found Rapinoe, who sent a quick pass to Press at the top of the area. Sitting in the gap between the two center backs — who were not expecting the sudden change of possession — Press calmly chipped Yamashita to make it 2-0.
CHRISTEN PRESS, WHAT DID YOU JUST DO? pic.twitter.com/Gl7nHbsS5O— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 12, 2020
The Japanese nearly got one back before the break. Narumi Miura skipped a shot wide of the far post from the left side in the 41st minute. Two minutes later, Tanaka headed a corner kick cross right at Franch from just in front.
That was it for the good scoring chances and the teams went to the locker rooms with the USWNT leading, 2-0.
Japan tested Franch in the 51st minute off a set piece. The initial ball in was knocked to the top of the area and passed back for Maya Doko to smash toward frame. Franch scrambled to her right to make the save, and then was saved from having to deal with the rebound attempt by the offside flag.
Two minutes later, Mewis played in Horan but the Portland Thorns star midfielder took a heavy touch and Yamashita collected.
Japan finally got on the board in the 58th, working the ball into the penalty area due to some slick passing — combined with some passive defending by the Yanks. The ball ended up on the foot of Mana Iwabuchi, who smashed it home to make it 2-1.
Game on! Iwabuchi cuts the U.S. lead in half. pic.twitter.com/7BbyQZpNBk— Our Game Magazine (@OurGameMagazine) March 12, 2020
The U.S. seemed to switch off in the second half and the goal didn’t wake the Americans out of it. Japan nearly drew level a couple of times. A good set piece delivery should have found the head of Saki Kumagai in the 64th minute at the back post. Three minutes later, second-half sub Mallory Pugh turned the ball over in the midfield to start the Japanese break. The flag came up as the U.S. was about to clear the danger but the flag was erroneously up anyway to thwart the chance. Miura then took a shot from a tight angle that got through Franch in the 75th minute but it hit the far post and somehow stayed out.
Those missed opportunities — as the Japanese had the U.S. practically on the ropes — eventually came back to bite Japan when the United States eventually regained its footing.
Second-half sub Carli Lloyd had a goal on a plate set up for her by Pugh in the 79th minute but the captain fired her shot wide of the post. That was the first sign that things were starting to turn back in the Yanks’ favor.
The U.S. then took control in the 83rd minute on a corner kick. Pugh’s delivery to the near post was met by Horan and she smashed her free header just inside the near post to make it 3-1.
The U.S. then saw out the three minutes of stoppage time to capture the tournament.
Final 2020 SheBelieves Cup Standings
- United States: 3-0-0, 9 points
- Spain: 2-1-0, 6 points
- England: 1-2-0, 3 points
- Japan: 0-3-0, 0 points
The USWNT will be back in action April 10 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT, when the Australians come for a visit.