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Five takeaways: USWNT 1-1 Japan

The United States women’s soccer team tied Japan 1-1 on Sunday in Sendai in a result that now gives Japan three-straight results against the Americans. It was a bit of a sloppy performance from the Americans, while Japan further impressed with its possession-oriented play. Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s match:

  1. First and foremost, credit to Shannon Boxx for her pre-recorded halftime interview with Julie Foudy, in which Boxx revealed that she has dealt with Sjögren’s syndrome for about a decade as well as, more recently, lupus. The latter is something one of my family members deals with and it can be a real beast to overcome, breaking down so many different parts of one’s body and causing flare-ups that come out of the blue. Boxx was one of the players who spoke-up in 2010 about the lack of rest after a long WPS season turned into near failure at World Cup qualifying. We all chalked that up to a veteran player needing a rest, but now we know there was far more to the story. For Boxx to have been playing world-class soccer for the past decade while dealing with both of those serious issues is absolutely beyond admirable. I’m not sure that word even does justice. She was my official vote for 2009 WPS MVP and now I’m even further impressed.
  2. Moving onto the game: The U.S. struggled in possession, but that’s a bit of a given when playing Japan – especially this Japan team. Japan is just too good on the ball. It’s really quite delightful to watch. Their succinct passing, superior vision and runs off the ball all lead to one harmonious effort on the field. The U.S., however, did not help itself when it managed to win the ball back. Errant passes and bad giveaways were too prevalent in the midfield and on the back line. Those have to be sorted out to avoid serious problems in the Olympics.
  3. This point is a by-product of the previous, but where was the U.S. attack on the evening? Aside from one opportunity on a set piece and a one-off chance from Alex Morgan, the Americans never settled into the first half. They looked a lot better in the second 45 minutes, but Morgan and Abby Wambach saw almost no action in the first half. Of course, Morgan came up huge again in the late stages to save the collective hind of the United States, but that cannot continue to be relied upon every game.  Some are questioning the management of this game (‘why no Megan Rapinoe?!’), but hey, the U.S. plays again in less than 48 hours. I would expect at least one or two changes in the line-up on Tuesday against Brazil.
  4. Japan was without leader Homare Sawa due to vertigo, but the team did not miss a beat. Sure, Sawa was missed and would have added even more quality for the world champions, but if nobody had mentioned she was missing from the game, would it be that obvious from the level of Japan’s play? No. The Nadeshiko looked just as good as they have over the past nine months – which is downright spectacular.
  5. Sawa may have been missing, but Japan does not lack big names and star players. Aya Miyama – the team’s new captain – is the most recognizable of those, but defenders Yukari Kinga and Saki Kumagai as well as Shinobu Ohno command serious attention. But one player maybe a little further off the radar who impressed a great deal on Sunday was Nahomi Kawasumi, who plays at INAC Leonessa in Japan. She was very active throughout the evening and forced American goalkeeper Hope Solo to to make a couple of big saves. Solo, by the way, still seems unwilling to launch long goal kicks or clear the ball with her right foot, perhaps suggesting a longer-lasting quad problem, an injury she re-aggravated at Olympic qualifying in January.

Here is that Shannon Boxx feature from ESPN:


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