(March 5, 2014)-The U.S. Women’s national soccer team are in Portugal taking part in the Algarve Cup, their 19th appearance in this multination tournament. Seeking their unprecedented 10th win the U.S. opened up play today with a 1-1 draw against Japan.
This was a rematch with a team that the U.S. faced in two of their biggest games of the past few years. The two met in the 2011 final game of the Women’s World Cup with Japan delivering the stunning loss in penalty kicks to the American women. The U.S. was rewarded however a year later when the two played in the gold medal match at the London Olympics and the U.S. ladies earned their third consecutive gold medal.
Although this game was lopsided as far as an offensive attack with the U.S. Women out shooting Japan 20-8, it was the lone goal by Sydney Leroux in the 59th minute that allowed the U.S. to walk away with the draw. Leroux took advantage of a poor clearance by Erina Yamane the Japanese goalie and was able to knock the ball past her into an open net.
Japan however came back with a free kick in the 83rd minute, which Aya Miyama was able to convert with a beautiful strike into the upper right net of the goal.
Coach Tom Sermanni played a mix of veterans as well as some of his younger players that he has been trying to work into his lineups over the past few months. Christen Press and Leroux earned the starts on the forward line with Abby Wambach resting the whole game. Fellow forward Alex Morgan did not make the trip to Portugal as she is still rehabbing an ankle injury.
Midfielder Tobin Heath made a long awaited appearance with the national team after taking several months away from the team to rehab a foot injury. She entered the game in the 73rd minute albeit wearing a mask to protect a recent broken nose. Veteran defender Christie Rampone sat out the game as Whitney Engen and Stephanie Cox saw full game time on the defensive line alongside Ali Krieger and Becky Sauerbrunn. Sauerbrunn was awarded the captains band to wear throughout the match.
Sermanni spoke with U.S. Soccer after the match with his thoughts concerning the draw.
“I thought we did more than enough to win the game, and we had enough chances to probably win two or three games. But, it’s the classic tale that if you don’t take your chances when the game is at one-nil. It’s always very dangerous, particularly when you are playing quality opposition. One free kick, which was a bit questionable, and suddenly the score is one-all.”
The U.S. Women are in Group B alongside Japan, Denmark and Sweden. Next up for the Americans is their match against Sweden and their former coach Pia Sundhage on Friday March 7th.