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Global Jun 18, 2012

U.S. Women defeat Japan 4-1 in Olympic tune-up [Video Highlights]

The U.S. Women’s National Team picked up a big win in its second-to-last exhibition match before the 2012 Olympics, defeating Japan 4-1 in a highly entertaining match-up as forwards Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach scored twice each. With two victories in Sweden, the USA takes the title of the Volvo Winners Cup with a match between Japan and Sweden still remaining on June 20 in Gothenburg.

The U.S. team will now head into a week-long break before coming together for its Olympic Send-Off game on June 30 against Canada at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. MT and the match will be broadcast live on NBC.

Morgan showed early that it would be a great afternoon for the United States in the third match of the year between the two 2011 Women’s FIFA World Cup finalists. Her goal on the cusp of the third minute shocked Japan and set the tone for the rest of the match. Wambach made it 2-0 just six minutes later as the USA scored on two of its first three shots of the game and created a bushel of dangerous chances throughout the 90 minutes. The USA fired 19 shots to Japan’s nine, and while the Japanese had seven corner kicks to the USA’s one, the Americans put 11 shots on goal while Japan had just two.

Japan pulled a goal back on a spectacular diving header in the 28th minute, but the Americans put the game away with two more goals after the break, the first on a splendid individual effort from Morgan and the second on a Wambach header.

“I think we had the ability to play to a lot of strengths today” said U.S. WNT head coach Pia Sundhage. “Abby had a great game, Alex Morgan had a great game as well, and so did the midfield. We changed the wing players a little bit [from the Sweden game] and we dominated the midfield which is a hard thing to do against Japan, who keeps the ball all the time. I think they were dangerous, but we also we controlled the game for the most part and in the defense as well. The back four did a great job with the six up front.”

Sundhage made two changes to the starting lineup that played against Sweden in a 3-1 victory two days ago as Kelley O’Hara returned to the starting lineup at her usual left back spot, moving Amy LePeilbet over to right back. Sundhage also gave Tobin Heath, who scored the USA’s third and clinching goal against Sweden, the nod at left midfield while Megan Rapinoe lined up on the right. Lauren Cheney, Heath and Rapinoe had been on field at the same time this year for only 52 minutes, but that midfield combination along with Shannon Boxx out-played Japan on both sides of the ball. When Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly came on in the midfield during the second half, the Americans didn’t let up.

The first U.S. goal came off a long kick from U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo that was flicked on by Wambach with her head to Heath. The skillful midfielder collected and then played a perfectly weighted pass through to Morgan into the left side of the penalty area. Her first touch took away of bit of her shooting angle, but it didn’t matter when she smashed her left-footed shot over Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori, stretching the net from 10 yards out.

The USA doubled its lead in the 10th minute after some great defensive pressure deep in Japan’s defensive third forced a turnover that was followed by a slick series of U.S. possession that got Rapinoe free down the left side. She danced her way free to cross and hit a driven ball on the ground that Wambach slid to meet in the middle of the goal, redirecting her shot past Kaihori and into the net from a few yards out.

The USA controlled the tempo of the match with some of its best ball-possession of the year, which in turn created enough quality chances over the course of the game that the final score line could easily have been higher. The American defensive pressure also helped in creating the numerous scoring opportunities as the U.S. did a fine job of forcing Japan into uncomfortable positions and turnovers all game.

Japan got brief life when it scored off a play that originated from a corner kick. The USA initially cleared the service but it was played back out to Aya Miyama on the left side and she whipped in a perfect first-time cross to the near post that was met by Yuki Nagasato on a flying header. She did well to redirect her shot into the left corner past Solo.

The U.S. team was unperturbed by the goal and two minutes later Wambach brought down a Morgan cross inside the six-yard box. She was able to volley at the goal from close range, but it went right into the gloves of Kaihori.

In the 30th minute, Morgan raced past the Japan defense down the right flank, cut toward goal and shot to the far post. Kaihori got a piece of the ball with her body, but it caromed off the right post. Wambach was following the play and, when several Japan defenders overran the rebound, Wambach was able to strike a volley from close range only to watch it once again stick to the hands of Kaihori.

Two minutes after that, Rapinoe sprinted with the ball down the right flank and hit a heavy shot from the right side of the penalty area that was pushed away with a spectacular leap by Kaihori. Morgan had a chance at the rebound and it was several anxious moments before Japan could clear.

The USA had three chances inside the last three minutes of the first half. In the 42nd minute, Wambach received a throw-in deep on the left sideline and was able to turn and cut past her defender. It seemed that she was tugged down by a defender as she sent her shot into the left-side netting, but got no call.

In the 44th minute, a Japan giveaway allowed Morgan to blaze down the left flank with Wambach open in the middle. But, the young forward got a bit too much power on her cross and it flew past her strike partner and through the goal area.

Just before the halftime whistle, Rachel Buehler won the ball with a hard tackle well inside the Japan half and played Wambach into the left side of the penalty area. She held off a defender and made room for her left-footed shot that pummeled Kaihori in the chest.

Sundhage made two substitutions at halftime, sending on Lloyd for Rapinoe and Becky Sauerburnn for Buehler. Lloyd had a fine half and was dangerous on several occasions while winning several crunching tackles in the midfield, including one that knocked Rumi Utsugi out of the match. In the 59th minute, Lloyd won a ball at the top of Japan’s defensive third, pushed it forward and then played Morgan behind the defense. Morgan had a great look at the goal, but lost her balance and stumbled as she shot high and wide right.

Moments later Morgan made up for that miss when she took advantage of a sloppy Japan pass in the back, latched onto the ball while running horizontally across the back line before burning past three Japan defenders into the right side of the penalty area. She cut her right-footed shot at an angle back across the goal and into the left corner past Kaihori from just outside the right side of the goal box.

At the time of Morgan’s second goal there were than 30 minutes left in the match and the USA had the game in control, but the teams still traded chances.

In the 70th minute, Mizuho Sakaguchi hit a screamer that Solo pushed off the top of the crossbar. Five minutes later, Japan captain Miyama also got some pepper on a shot from distance that Solo had to turn away with a diving save to her right.

With 10 minutes left, Lloyd picked off the ball in the midfield and sprinted at the goal, but she sent her driven shot just outside the right upper corner. Sundhage sent on young forward Sydney Leroux for O’Hara in the 81st minute and the USA went with a 3-4-3 for the final minutes of the game.

O’Reilly, who had come into the game for Cheney in the 68th minute, had an active run during her 20 or so minutes. In the 83rd minute O’Reilly, had a good chance after Wambach had got under a throw-in to send a header to her inside the penalty area, but she bounced her shot right at Kaihori. In the 86th minute, Lloyd hit a searing drive straight into the midsection of Kaihori after running onto a Japan clearance.

The USA got its fourth and final goal more than two minutes into stoppage time as O’Reilly crossed from the right side. Her service was blocked up in the air, but she was able to volley the falling ball first-time, sending it over just over the head of defender Aya Sameshima. The ball bounced in front of the goal and Wambach was able to get inside her defender to head it down, with the ball grazing her left shoulder as it slipped into the lower left corner from just inside the six yard box.

Additional Match Notes:

  • The U.S. win broke a winless streak of three matches against Japan that began in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final. Norway remains the only team in the world to have held the USA winless in four consecutive meetings, having beaten the USA four times in a row twice in the ’90s and early ’00s.
  • The USA upped its record to 13-1-1 on the year.
  • Abby Wambach’s goals gave her 138 for her international career in 181 games. She sits only behind Mia Hamm (158) on the USA all-time scoring list.
  • Alex Morgan upped her career goal total to 27 in just 41 caps, moving her into a tie for 16th place on the USA’s all-time scoring list with Joy Fawcett.
  • Morgan’s two-goal game was her sixth multiple-goal game of the year, all coming in the past 11 matches.
  • Morgan leads the team in scoring with 17 goals this year and is gunning to become just the sixth U.S. player to score 20 goals in a calendar year.
  • Morgan is also tied for 11th all-time for goals in a year with Shannon MacMillan (2002) and Wambach (2006).
  • Heather O’Reilly’s 37th career assist moves her past Michelle Akers into ninth all-time on the U.S. all-time assist list.
  • U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage used six substitutions, also giving time to Amy Rodriguez, who came on for Morgan in the 69th minute.

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

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Japan
Date: June 18, 2012
Competition: Volvo Winners Cup
Venue: Örjans Vall Stadium; Halmstad, Sweden
Kickoff: 1 p.m. local (7 a.m. ET)
Attendance: 1,309
Weather: 63 degrees, partly cloudy

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                         2 2 4
JPN                          1 0 1

USA – Alex Morgan (Tobin Heath)              3rd minute
USA – Abby Wambach (Megan Rapinoe)     10
JPN – Yuki Nagasato (Aya Miyama)             28
USA – Alex Morgan                                   61
USA – Abby Wambach (Heather O’Reilly)    90+2

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (2-Heather Mitts, 69), 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 19-Rachel Buehler (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 46), 5-Kelley O’Hara (11-Sydney Leroux, 81); 15-Megan Rapinoe (10-Carli Lloyd, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx, 12-Lauren Cheney (9-Heather O’Reilly, 68), 17-Tobin Heath; 13-Alex Morgan (8-Amy Rodriguez, 69), 20-Abby Wambach
Subs not used: 14-Meghan Klingenberg, 16-Lori Lindsey, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 21-Jill Loyden, 22-Christen Press
Head coach: Pia Sundhage

JPN: 1-Ayumi Kaihori; 2-Yukari Kinga, 5-Aya Sameshima, 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi, 16-Kyoko Yano (14-Asuna Tanaka, 83); 8-Aya Miyama (capt.), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi (22-Karina Maruyama, 71), 10-Homare Sawa (4-Saki Kumagai, 57), 13-Rumi Utsugi (19-Megumi Takase, 79); 11-Shinobu Ohno (7-Kozue Ando, 58), 17-Yuki Nagasato
Subs not used: 12-Miho Fukimoto, 15-Saori Ariyoshi, 18-Megumi Kamionobe, 20-Ami Ohtaki
Head coach: Norio Sasaki

Statistical Summary: USA / JPN
Shots: 19 / 9
Shots on Goal: 11 / 2
Saves: 1 / 7
Corner Kicks: 1 / 7
Fouls: 16 / 7
Offside: 3 / 5

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Rachel Buehler (caution)     24th minute

Referee: Linn Andersson (SWE)
Assistant Referee 1: Susanne Borg Pilhamre (SWE)
Assistant Referee 2: Anna Nyström (SWE)
4th official: Sara Persson (SWE)
Woman of the Match: Abby Wambach

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