Japan scores late to draw USWNT 3-3 in pre-Olympic friendly

hope solo 2

by TOM SLATER

For a few minutes, it looked like a patented late-minute victory for the United States Women’s National Team.

But Japan had other plans.

Japan wouldn’t be denied and scored a stoppage-time goal playing down a woman to draw with the United States, 3-3, in Dick’s Sporting Goods Stadium in Commerce City, Colo. Thursday night.

After three of the four added minutes, Kumi Yokoyama scored the equalizer for Japan — who played the final 30-plus minutes a woman down. Yokoyama finished a four-pass buildup that saw her take a pass from Mizuho Sakaguchi and slotted it to the right of Hope Solo.

The United States had seemingly climbed out of its first two-goal deficit in nearly 12 years and looked poised to beat Japan, 3-2, on an 89th minute score by hometown girl Lindsey Horan.

The United States scored its final two goals after Japan was forced to play more than the last 30 minutes of the match down a player and trying to hold onto a 2-1 lead.  Japanese captain Yuki Ogimi accumulated her second yellow card of the day on a silly foul on defender Julie Johnston in the 57th minute.

The Americans quickly equalize minutes later when Alex Morgan headed in a free kick from Tobin Heath for her second goal of the game. It was Morgan’s 18th multiple-goal game of her career and third this year.

Horan got the deciding goal when Kelley O’Hara sailed a serve to the center of the goal. Yamashita came out to win the ball but Horan was more than able to get up and nod it home. The goal ended a tough night by Yamashita, who had her hands on all three goals.

Japan had the United States on its heels for most of the first half. After the Americans had the better of the play for the first 12 minutes or so, Japan began stringing passes together and kept possession deep in the United States end. With the US defense on its heels, Japan cashed in with 15 minutes gone. Mana Iwabuchi took a short pass and turned inside away from Morgan Brian 20 yards away from goal. Iwabuchi cut again to put ball on left foot away from Becky Sauerbrunn and bent a left-footer inside the far post as Hope Solo had no chance on the play.

The goal was only the second given up by the Americans in 2016. And it was the first time they trailed all year.

Japan didn’t let up and the lead was doubles in the 22nd minute. The United States defense was again exposed as they couldn’t clear the ball and Japan kept possession and moved the point of attack. Emi Nakajima was given a great ball on the right wing and served the box where Ogimi  beat Kelley O’Hara to the spot and one-timed it past Solo for a 2-0 lead.

The goal marked the first time the United States trailed by two goals since November 2004 in a 3-1 loss to Denmark — a span of 117 matches.

The United States woke up five minutes later when Crystal Dunn got in between the seam of the Japanese defense, turned on a pass from Julie Johnston and found Mallory Pugh on the right wing. The teen used her speed to penetrate and then slotted a pass to Morgan at about the penalty mark. Morgan hit a low shot that was mishandled by Ayaka Yamashita made no mistake in cutting the lead in half. The goal was Morgan’s 65th international goal and it was Pugh’s team-leading sixth assist of 2016.

Nakajima almost made it 3-1 just before half when she one-timed a ball from 20 that beat Solo but clanged off the crossbar and out of play.

She came close again in the 54th minute when she had all sorts of time 20 yards from goal and went for the right post but the shot swerved just wide.

The two teams will meet again Sunday afternoon in Cleveland.


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