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USWNT draws Japan 1-1 in Kirin Challenge Cup opener

Alex Morgan

It is rare – extremely rare – that any team develops a nice streak of results against the United States women. Japan, however, have done exactly that. A 1-1 draw in Sendai on Sunday gives Japan three straight results against the U.S.

The Americans won’t like to hear it, but Japan can now accurately claim to have the collective number of the U.S.

It started on July 17 when the Japanese claimed their first-ever World Cup crown in a thrilling penalty shootout victory over the Americans. Japan again topped the Americans in last month’s Algarve Cup and now it is the Nadeshiko again picking up a result; this time a draw, but a very convincing one.

Japan looked the better side throughout much of the match, maintaining possession and keeping cool on the ball.

The Americans, meanwhile, were defined by rather sloppy play. One giveaway led to the next, a recipe for disaster against a team like Japan – one that hardly gives away the ball. The U.S. struggled piece together much beyond using physical attributes to best Japan, a criticism that, even sometimes unjustly, continues to haunt the Americans.

Evidence of that came from the only two legitimate chances the U.S. had in the opening 45 minutes: A Rachel Buehler header from a short corner kick in the 14th minute and a 41st minute left-footed Alex Morgan strike from an acute angle in which Morgan simply out-ran the Japanese defenders. On both chances, Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori was up for the occasion.

A beautiful sequence in the 32nd minute provided the breakthrough for Japan when Nahomi Kawasumi slipped Yukari Kinga in behind the U.S. defense. Kinga sent a low cross into the path of Yuki Nagasato and her shot was saved point-blank by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. But Kinga was still lingering in her advanced position and tapped in the rebound to give Japan the 1-0 lead at the break.

There were signs of encouragement for the Americans in the second half, culminated by the equalizer – initially ruled offside until the center ref overruled her lineswoman – came from the left foot of Alex Morgan in the 72nd minute. That was Morgan’s 12th goal of a very productive year thus far.

Signs of encouragement were there for the Americans in small spurts, but Japan’s dictation of the game is something to be marveled. Both these teams now move on to play Brazil; the U.S. doing so on Tuesday and Japan on Thursday.

Highlights below (also known as evidence that Abby Wambach’s finger wagging changes the minds of referees):



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