After rallying from two goals down to forge a late lead, the United States settled for a 3-3 draw when 10-woman Japan equalized in stoppage time in front of a packed house at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce, Colo.
Alex Morgan’s brace erased a 2-0 deficit and Colorado native Lindsey Horan scored what looked like a match-winner in the 89th minute only to have Kumi Yokoyama score in the 93rd minute to return things to level.
It was Mana Iwabuchi that put Japan ahead in the 14th minute when she found just enough space to curl a shot from outside the 18-yard box around Becky Sauerbrunn and into the far, upper 90 where a diving Hope Solo never had a chance.
Eight minutes later, Yuki Ogimi made it 2-0 when she made a fine finish on a right-sided cross by Emi Nakajima. The play concluded an extended period of Japanese possession brought on when their high press forced the U.S. backline to turn it over on an entry into midfield.
The U.S. fought back though. Morgan cut the lead in half with a bit of help from Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita who let what should have been a routine save sneak by her. The buildup was pretty though with Julie Johnston finding Crystal Dunn in midfield who played to Mallory Pugh on the right flank and then back into the box where the Japanese defense left Morgan with a bit too much space.
The next pivotal moment of the match came early in the second half. Already on a yellow Japan captain Ogimi fouled Julie Johnston from behind and the shown the door leaving Japan to defend a woman down for more than a half hour. What seemed to be an inevitable equalizer came just five minutes later from Morgan. Tobin Heath whipped a clinical free kick into the box that Morgan got a head to against a defender and scored off Yamashita’s hand from close range.
Down to 10 and suddenly in a level match Japan took a more defensive approach and allowed the United States to set up shop just off the outskirts of the final third. In the 89th minute, the U.S. broke through to lead for the first time. Kelley O’Hara lifted a high, probing ball to the top of the six. Horan and three Japanese players including Yamashita converged on it and Horan got her head on it and popped in into the untended goal.
Japan did not settle for defeat though. Their possession style suddenly returned and Japan were able to knock the ball around in midfield. After a throw-in deep into stoppage time they completed six consecutive passes the last of which went from Mizuho Sakaguchi to Yokoyama who stepped in undefended and beat an out-of-position Solo to the keeper’s right to tie the score 3-3.
The meeting was the first between the teams since Carli Lloyd’s first-half hat trick paced the United States to a 5-2 win in the World Cup final 11 months ago. They will play again Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.
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