2019 SheBelieves Cup Recap: Japan scores a late equalizer against the USWNT
Source: Chris Szagola-AP

2019 SheBelieves Cup Recap: Japan scores a late equalizer against the USWNT

The USWNT will rue their inability to close out the game as they allowed Japan to come back into the game on two separate occasions.

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Kudzi Musarurwa

Score: USA 2 - 2 Japan

Goals: Rapinoe (min. 23), Nakajima (min. 67), Morgan (min. 76), Mokimi (min. 90+1).

Yellow Card: Kumagai (min. 38).

Japan shocked the hosts this evening with a resilient performance to come back from being a goal down twice and finish with a draw. The current Asian Games champions used a lot of inexperienced players tonight to match up with a close to full strength United States Women's National Team, and their head coach will be proud of the performance they put in.

The result leaves the USWNT in second place at the 2019 SheBelieves Cup while Japan are now in third.

Megan Rapinoe tries to escape Risa Shimizu's tackle | Source: USA TODAY Sports
Megan Rapinoe tries to escape Risa Shimizu's tackle | Source: USA TODAY Sports

A moment of brilliance puts the US up at the break

In a game that saw a flurry of chances early on, it was the USWNT who managed to break the deadlock. The home team pressed Japan early in the match and forced their opponents into some uncharacteristic turnovers. The first chance of the game fell to Mallory Pugh in the fifth minute when Tobin Heath found enough space to play the ball into the penalty area but her effort was weak and straight at the goalkeeper. The USWNT had another chance a minute letter when Rose Lavelle's cross was deflected onto the crossbar but no one in blue was able to get to the rebound first.

After the first ten minutes, Japan grew into the game and almost took the lead themselves in the 11th minute when some lovely interplay set Kumi Yokoyama through on goal but she also saw her effort from a narrow angle hit the crossbar and bounce away. With Japan controlling the game, the USWNT then found the opening goal in the 23rd minute against the run of play. A long ball from Julie Ertz found Heath who headed for the byline before cutting the ball back. Rapinoe arrived with a late run and tucked the ball away with ease into an empty net. That would be the scoreline at the end of the first half despite the opportunities created by both sides.

Japan found a way past the USWNT defenders twice to tie the game | Source: USA TODAY Sports
Japan found a way past the USWNT defenders twice to tie the game | Source: USA TODAY Sports

Substitutes make the difference in the second half

The second half saw the USWNT try varying formations, oscillating between a 4-3-3, a 5-2-3 and a 3-4-3 as they tested Japan's tactical accumen. It made for a slower tempo in the second half with both sides only creating half chances for themselves. The game broke open in the 67th minute however as Japan found an unlikely equalizer. A cross field ball from Yui Hasegawa found Emi Nakajima near the top of the box. Nakajima tried to play a one-time ball to Hina Sugita but it was blocked by Tierna Davidson. Unfortunately for Davidson, her block fell right into the path of Nakajima who took a touch before curling the ball past a diving Alyssa Naeher into the far corner of the net.

The USWNT looked to respond quickly but it took the introduction of Christen Press in the 76th minute to spark the hosts back to life. After getting forward initially, Press then worked the ball with Rapinoe before picking out Morgan at the near post and the Orlando Pride striker chested the ball home from close range. Japan were undeterred however and their own substitutes responded with an impact of their own. As the game started to die down, the USWNT lost the ball in their own third and Japan quickly transitioned forward. Hasegawa broke through on goal but decided to unselfishly square the ball to substitute Yuka Mokimi who thumped the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

On the balance of play, the USWNT may feel a little let down due to their control of the game in the second half but the warning signs had been there all game long. Japan just needed to be more effective in the final third to really threaten the US goal and they managed to do so twice, giving themselves a respectable opening day draw.

USA: Naeher; O'Hara (Sonnett, min. 46), Dahlkemper, Davidson, Dunn; Ertz, Pugh (Press, min. 75), Lavelle; Heath, Morgan (Lloyd, min. 85), Rapinoe.

Japan: Yamane; Sameshima, Ariyoshi (Oga, min. 59), Kumagai, Shimizu; Yokoyama (Momiki, min. 80), Kobayashi (Ikejiri, min. 59), Hasegawa, Matsubara, Nakajima (Endo, min. 81); Sugita.

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