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Global Apr 01, 2012

Alex Morgan scores as U.S. Women’s National Team draws 1-1 with Japan

U.S. forward Alex Morgan equalized for the U.S. Women’s National Team with 17 minutes remaining in the match to earn a 1-1 draw with Japan in the first game of the Kirin Challenge Cup.

“It was an important game for us and excellent environment,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “I am so grateful that we got this kind of game. We can learn from how we played in the first half and how we changed it in the second half. It is great when you have such a big crowd watching and cheering when it really matters, and today it did.”

The USA will now have a quick turnaround, traveling south to Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, to face Brazil on Tuesday, April 3, at Fukuda Denshi Arena. Kickoff is at 7 a.m. ET and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Fans can also follow along on’s MatchTracker or via Twitter @ussoccer_wnt.

Morgan’s goal came with a bit of controversy as it was initially nullified for offside. Chinese referee Li Juan then sprinted over to the assistant referee who had put her flag up, conferred briefly, and then correctly signaled for a U.S. goal.

Replays showed that not only did the pass to Morgan come off the foot of a Japanese defender, but she was also in an onside position when U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd was dispossessed in a dangerous position in the center of the penalty area. Morgan took her chance expertly, darting behind two Japanese defenders to collect before slotting her left-footed shot across the face of the goal into the lower right corner from about eight yards out.

It was Morgan’s team-leading 12th goal of 2012 and 10th since she earned a spot in the starting lineup at the end of January for the championship game of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Canada. The USA defeated the hosts 4-0 with Morgan scoring twice. The goal also upped Morgan’s career total to 22 in 37 caps.

Like the meeting 27 days ago in group play at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, the USA started slowly, playing a choppy first half that saw the superbly technical Japan side control possession and take the game to the Americans.

The U.S. team found a rhythm for a short time about 13 minutes into the game on the cold night with the ball moving quickly on the slick field. The Americans earned three corner kicks in four minutes, but they were all well defended by Japan. The best chance came in the 14th minute when a short corner kick was played from Lauren Cheney to Heather O’Reilly on the right wing. O’Reilly chipped her cross into the pack of players and Rachel Buehler got her head on the ball, but it bounced right to Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori.

Buehler, who played a fine match in the middle of the U.S. defense with captain Christie Rampone against the wonderfully crafty and deceptive Japan, had to stretch to clear a ball in the 22nd minute when Japan captain Aya Miayama got into a dangerous position off a counter attack down the left side and crossed. One minute later, Nahomi Kawasumi latched onto the ball just outside the penalty area on the left side and unleashed a sizzling drive that went wide right of the diving Hope Solo’s net.

Japan’s pressure paid off in the 32nd minute after a deft series of touches got Japan in behind the U.S. defense. The ball was lifted over the back line and into the penalty area for Yukari Kinga, who timed her run perfectly and found herself squared up with Solo at the right post. She cut the ball back into the middle and Solo made a spectacular save on the first shot, but the ball rebounded right back to Kinga, who plowed her chance into the right side of the net from two yards out past the sliding Amy LePeilbet.

Morgan almost tied the score four minutes before halftime. She broke free down the left side, but took the ball a bit too deep into the penalty area and had a sharp angle for her left-footed shot. Nevertheless, she almost sneaked her attempt inside the right post but it skipped just inches wide.

The Americans played a much better second half and managed to out-shoot Japan 5-4 in the second half (for the entire match, Japan had a 10-8 advantage). The first of those shots after the break came in the 49th minute when Lloyd struck a free kick that sailed just over the goal from 25 yards out and struck the top of the net.

Japan’s counter-attacks were dangerous in the second half and in the 62nd minute the ball was tackled hard off of Lloyd’s foot in the midfield. In a matter of moments, several quick touches put Kawasumi behind the U.S. defense, but she struck her hard and low shot just wide left from 12 yards out on a chance that likely would have sealed the match.

Morgan’s speed stretched Japan all night and she had another nice look at the goal in the 67th minute when she ran onto a long ball up the middle, collected and cut inside to her left foot at the top of the penalty area. Unfortunately, Morgan slipped as she was shooting and sent the ball high over the goal from 20 yards out.

Solo came up huge for the USA in the 69th minute as Kawasumi once again got behind the U.S. defense in the right side of the penalty area. Solo came out hard and made herself big on the slide as she swept the shot away with her body for a corner kick.

The Japan defense seemed to be cracking in the 72nd minute when Wambach picked off another pass deep into the USA’s attacking third and played a square pass to Lloyd. Her first touch took her into the penalty area, but her sliding shot from 10 yards out went right at Kaihori as Lloyd appeared to be tugged down by a defender.

That set the stage for another dramatic score from Morgan, but after the tying goal, the Americans did not create another really good chance before the final whistle.

It was not due to lack of trying, as Sundhage sent on Tobin Heath for Shannon Boxx right after the equalizer, moving Cheney from wide left into the center midfield, and then sent on speedsters Amy Rodriguez and Sydney Leroux for the last nine minutes of regulation time plus stoppage.

The USA did have to fend off a Japan push at the end that earned two corner kicks, one of which produced a shot from Mizuho Sakaguchi that she skied over the crossbar after the ball dropped to her at the top of the penalty box.

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Additional Match Notes:

  • This was the first draw of 2012 for the U.S. team which is now 9-1-1 on the year with the loss and tie coming against Japan.
  • The USA has now failed to beat Japan in three consecutive games, a rare feat for a U.S. opponent, but one Japan accomplished in three consecutive meetings with the USA between 2000-2004 when the teams tied three times.
  • The meeting with Brazil on April 3 will be the first between the teams since the historic quarterfinal at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in which Abby Wambach scored the latest goal in World Cup history to tie the score, and the Americans went on to win in a dramatic penalty kick shootout.
  • Sydney Leroux’s nine-minute appearance was just her ninth career cap.
  • The USA has been shut out just once in the past 60 matches, that coming in the 1-0 loss to Japan at the 2012 Algarve Cup in Portugal.
  • Alex Morgan has scored in six out of the last eight matches for the USA.
  • Wambach moved into sole possession of ninth on the USA’s all-time caps list, passing Shannon MacMillan with her 177th appearance for the USA.

– U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report –

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Japan
Date: April 1, 2012
Competition: Kirin Challenge Cup
Venue: Yurtec Stadium; Sendai, Japan
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Local / 6:30 a.m. ET
Attendance: 15,159
Weather: 46 degrees, cold and clear

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        0 1 1
JPN                         1 0 1

JPN – Yukari Kinga 32nd minute
USA – Alex Morgan 73

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet, 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 19-Rachel Buehler, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 12-Lauren Cheney, 7-Shannon Boxx (17-Tobin Heath, 73), 10-Carli Lloyd, 9-Heather O’Reilly (8-Amy Rodriguez, 82), 13-Alex Morgan (11-Sydney Leroux, 82), 20-Abby Wambach
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 16-Lori Lindsey, 14-Stephanie Cox, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 21-Ashlyn Harris, 22-Whitney Engen, 23-Meghan Klingenberg
Head coach: Pia Sundhage

JPN: 1-Ayumi Kaihori; 2-Yukari Kinga, 4-Saki Kumagai, 5-Aya Sameshima (15-Saori Ariyoshi, 67), 14-Asuna Tanaka; 16-Kyoko Yano, 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (20-Yuika Sugasawa, 86), 8-Aya Miyama (capt.), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi, 11-Shinobu Ohno (13-Rumi Utsugi, 86), 17-Yuki Nagasato (7-Kozue Ando, 61)
Subs not used: 3-Chiaki Minamiyama, 12-Miho Fukumoto, 18-Megumi Kamionobe, 19-Megumi Takase, 21-Manami Nakano, 22-Yuri Kawamura, 23-Kana Osafune, 24-Yumi Uetsuji
Head coach: Norio Sasaki

Statistical Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 8 / 10
Shots on Goal: 3 / 5
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Fouls: 14 / 5
Offside: 0 / 3

Misconduct Summary:

Referee: Li Juan (CHN)
Assistant Referee: Shiho Ayukai (JPN)
Assistant Referee: Kumi Sunaga (JPN)
4th Official: Mariko Iwaki (JPN)

Bud Light Woman of the Match : Rachel Buehler

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