After just 76 minutes played, the United States Women’s National Team’s (USWNT) second friendly against Japan was called because of inclement weather, giving the U.S. a 2-0 win.
The win comes just days after the two teams battled to a 3-3 draw in Colorado, and while Japan looked much the same as they did on Thursday night, the United States came out looking like a completely different team.
From the opening whistle, the U.S. was pressing hard, controlling the ball, playing well in the attack and putting shots on goal to pressure Japan’s defense and goalkeeper. All aspects of the U.S.’s game was stronger than on Thursday, and it was clear that the team had learned from the mistakes made in the first friendly.
Defender Julie Johnston struck first for the U.S. in the 26th minute, running in to knock an Allie Long pass into the back of the net on a play that originated from a free kick. Although Japan claimed the U.S. was off-sides on the play, the flag remained down and the goal stood.
Alex Morgan scored the final goal of the match in the second half when Crystal Dunn crossed the ball to her in front of the goal, and Morgan quickly one-touched it up and past the goalkeeper for the goal.
Before either team could put any more points on the board, the game was postponed and eventually called due to heavy rain and lightning in the area.
After a relatively disappointing performance Thursday night, the USWNT looked much more organized and together on Sunday, much to the relief of fans, especially with the Summer Olympics looming on the horizon.
Although it was predicted that Head Coach Jill Ellis may rotate in some new players to the lineup as she continues to make final Olympic roster decisions, the starting XI was almost identical the first match’s. The only difference was Christen Press starting in the #10 position over Mallory Pugh, who was said to not dress for the game because of illness.
The formation was advertised as a 4-3-3 with Morgan as the lone striker with Heath and Dunn on the wings, but Press tended to press up higher, converting the formation into more of a 4-2-2 with Morgan and Press up top. Press was an integral part of the attack and created several opportunities in the U.S.'s final third, but the game was called before she could score a goal.
Less than a minute into the game, Dunn passed a through ball in to Press, who took a shot that was deflected by goalkeeper Erina Yamane. Alex Morgan got the deflection and attempted another shot, but it was bounced around some finally landing at Allie Long’s feet. Long took yet another shot, but the ball was cleared and went out for a goal kick.
In the 5th minute, Dunn again generated the attack, driving the ball down the right flank before cutting inside for a shot that sails just high of the crossbar. Just moments later Press centered the ball to Tobin Heath, but the pass goes just behind Heath’s back foot and rolls to the feet of Long. Long takes a shot on goal, but it was easily saved by the goalkeeper.
Japan got its only real look at goal in the first half after Johnston took down a Japanese player in the 13th minute, resulting in a yellow card for Johnston and a free kick for Japan, but the shot went over the crossbar.
The second half played out much the same way as the first. The USWNT dominated the ball, putting multiple shots on goal while Japan’s attack continued to struggle.
Japan saw its only other real chances on goal come in the second half of the match, starting in the 63rd miutes when they moved the ball into their final third and looked eager for a shot on goal. However, Hope Solo had other thoughts in mind, coming out to stuff the ball just outside the six to prevent Japan from capitalizing on the opportunity.
Their next attempt came just minutes later when Mizuho Sakaguchi fired a shot off at goal, but it was no real threat and was easily stopped by Solo.
The game was delayed about 10 minutes later because of heavy rains and lightning in the area. Eventually the game was called, and the USWNT’s 2-0 lead resulted in a win and another clean sheet for Hope Solo, her 99th career shutout.
Despite giving the U.S. a win, the severe weather robbed both Jill Ellis and fans a look at what the substitutes, many of which are on the bubble for the Rio roster, could do. Although it was good to see that the USWNT has the capability to play well against strong opponents, the shortened game time makes it much harder to predict the final 18 players for Rio.
Ellis has claimed from the start of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) season that club play would be taken into consideration when deciding the Rio roster, and that club play may have just increased in importance for several players including Whitney Engen, Allie Long, Samantha Mewis, Heather O'Reilly and Emily Sonnett.
The USWNT players will now return to the NWSL to finish out the month with their respective club teams. The USWNT next plays against South Africa on July 9 in Chicago, the first of two Olympic send-off matches.
USA v JPN
USA-Julie Johnston (Allie Long), 26’
USA-Alex Morgan (Crystal Press), 62’
USA: Hope Solo; Kelley O’Hara, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn (C), Meghan Klingenberg; Morgan Brian (Lindsey Horan, 57’), Allie Long, Christen Press; Crystal Dunn (Ali Krieger, 75’), Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath
Subs Not Used: Whitney Engen, Samantha Mewis, Alyssa Naeher, Heather O’Reilly, Emily Sonnett
Head Coach: Jill Ellis
JPN: Erina Yamane; Yuri Kawamura (Saori Ariyoshi, 56'), Hikari Takagi, Saki Kumagai, Rumi Utsugi (C); Ami Sugita (Emi Nakajima, 46'), Mizuho Sakaguchi, Yu Nakasato, Rika Masuya (Mayu Sasaki, 65'); Yuika Sugasawa (Sonoko Chiba, 46'), Mana Iwabuchi (Kumi Yokoyama, 64')
Subs Not Used: Tomoko Muramatsu, Ayaka Yamashita, Sakiko Ikeda
Head Coach: Asako Takakura
USA-Julie Johnston (caution), 13’
JPN- Yuika Sugasawa (caution), 36’
Referee: Marianela Cruz (CRC)
Asst. Referee 1: Nelly Alvarado (CRC)
Asst. Referee 2: Shirley Lopez (HON)
4th Official: Melissa Pastrana (HON)