CHICAGO (Via U.S. Soccer) – The U.S. Women’s National Team will close out the Tournament of Nations against Japan on Aug. 3 (7 p.m. PT; ESPN2) at StubHub Center in Carson, California.
LAST TIME OUT
The USA and Japan met twice in June of 2016, playing friendly matches in Commerce City, Colorado, and Cleveland, Ohio. Those two matches were the first meetings between the two teams since the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final. In Colorado, the USA and Japan played to a wild 3-3 draw on June 2 that saw the USA go down 2-0 after 22 minutes, only to roar back to take a 3-2 lead heading into stoppage time on goals from Alex Morgan, one in each half, and a dramatic 89th minute header from hometown hero Lindsey Horan. The referee added four minutes to the end of the second half and Japan equalized in the third minute of stoppage time. The USA out-shot Japan 16-7 in Colorado, but Japan put four shots on goal and scored three of them. The three goals for each team during the 3-3 draw on June 2 equaled the highest-scoring draw in WNT history.
On June 5, the USA defeated Japan 2-0 in Cleveland in front of more than 23,000 fans with goals from Julie Ertz and Alex Morgan, in a match that was abandoned in the 76th minute due to inclement weather. The USA put in a dominant performance in the Cleveland before the rains came, controlling large swaths of the game and generating numerous goal scoring opportunities while holding firm defensively. The USA held Japan to just two shots on goal.
USA vs. Japan
The USA and Japan have a long history dating back to 1986, the second year of the U.S. WNT program, but of course it’s the more recent meetings which have forever linked these two countries together in women’s soccer history. The USA has dominated the series with a record of 26-1-7 and has outscored Japan 97-25. The lopsided score at Canada 2015 was an aberration when looking at recent meetings between the two countries. Of the 12 meetings since 2011, all but two have been decided by two goals or less. The USA’s lone loss in regulation to Japan occurred on March 5, 2012 in Faro, Portugal, during the 2012 Algarve Cup, a 1-0 setback. The penalty kick loss in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final officially counts as a tie.
In Focus: Asako Takakura
Asako Takakura, who is one of the pioneers of Japan women’s soccer, was appointed as the first female coach of Japan’s senior Women’s National Team on April 27, 2016. The four-time Asian Women’s Coach of the Year made her national team debut at the age of 16 and was a midfielder in her playing days. She earned 79 caps for Japan while scoring 30 goals. She played in the 1991 and 1995 World Cups, as well as the 1996 Olympics. She most recently coached Japan to a third-place finish at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea where the U.S. U-20 WNT fell to Japan 1-0 in the Third-Place match.
While Japan experienced a period of ascension in women’s soccer from 2011-15, several players, including legendary Japanese captain Homare Sawa, retired after the World Cup Final loss to the USA. Japan then failed to qualify for the Olympics, only the second time in its history to do so. Japan fell in the rankings from fourth in the world to seventh, and long-time head coach Norio Sasaki, who led Japan to its greatest triumphs, including three straight world finals, stepped aside.
Japan is experiencing a resurgence of late, not only with a new head coach but also with its young roster. Of the 22 players most recently called up for a 3-0 win in an international friendly against Costa Rica on April 9, 2017, 17 players had less than 20 caps. Additionally, 16 players on the roster were born in 1992 or later, with all six forwards being 23 years old or younger.
At StubHub Center
The U.S. Women are extremely familiar with Southern California, having played 21 matches and held numerous training camps in the area. The USA has played 11 matches at StubHub Center in Carson, going 11-0-0 while scoring 42 goals and allowing just three. The most recent match at the SHC was a 5-0 win against Romania on Nov.13, 2016, in the final match of the year.