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Alex Morgan hat trick highlights USWNT’s 4-2 win over Japan

The USWNT kicked off their second annual Tournament of Nations with a rousing win over an old foe.

2018 Tournament Of Nations: Japan v United States
Alex Morgan, right, scored a hat trick to lead the USWNT to a 4-2 win over Japan.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The United States women’s national team defeated Japan, 4-2, in the teams’ first match of the 2018 Tournament of Nations. Alex Morgan led the U.S. with a hat trick, followed by a single from Megan Rapinoe. Mina Tanaka and Moeno Sakaguchi scored for Japan.

Morgan put the U.S. in the lead in the 18th minute thanks to a central run by Christen Press, whose through ball found Megan Rapinoe in stride on the near side. Rapinoe one-timed a cross for Morgan, who easily knocked her shot past Japanese goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita.

But the U.S. would enjoy their lead for less than two minutes, as Japan’s Mina Tanaka beat all four of the American defenders before chipping netminder Alyssa Naeher for the equalizer.

Morgan put the hosts back in the lead in the 26th minute, though, this time connecting midair with a lofted ball in from the far flank by defender Emily Sonnett. Morgan used her head to redirect the ball, denying Yamashita the necessary time to react to make the save.

Morgan nearly completed her hat trick in the first half, but was unable to do so before the halftime whistle, leaving the score 2-1 in favor of the USWNT at intermission.

However, she put away what seemed to be her inevitable third goal of the night in the 56th minute, assisted by Tobin Heath, who entered the match in the 54th minute. Heath took the ball down the near sideline and evaded a defender to keep the ball in bounds before dancing around a pair of defenders and sending in a lofted cross that deflected off Japan’s defense. The deflection fell right to Alex Morgan, who put it away for the hatty and the game winner.

Rapinoe, who has been in phenomenal form for the USWNT since 2016, added on of her own in the 67th minute to finish out scoring on the night for the U.S.

However, Rapinoe’s would not be the last goal, as Japan’s Sakaguchi, who had been going back and forth with Heath since the American midfielder entered the match, got a little bit of revenge, blasting a long-range curler just out of Naeher’s reach to pull one back for the visitors. Her goal, Japan’s second of the night, was the first of her international career.

With the win, the U.S. are now tied with Australia with three points a piece, but the U.S. sit atop the tournament table with four goals to Australia’s three.

Australia opened this year’s Tournament of Nations with a rousing 3-1 win over Brazil. An own goal by defender Poliana opened up scoring on the day, with Tameka Butt and Sam Kerr contributing singles for the reigning tournament champions. The North Carolina Courage’s Debinha scored the lone tally for Brazil.

The Tournament of Nations will continue on Sunday, July 29 at Pratt and Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn. Japan will take on Brazil at 4:15 pm ET in the first of two matches on the day, with the USWNT facing Australia at 7 pm ET to close out the doubleheader.