U.S. Women’s National Team Falls to Japan at 2012 Algarve Cup

U.S. Soccer Federation

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U.S. Soccer FederationU.S. will Play Sweden for Third Place

In a match short on attacking chances for both sides, the U.S. Women’s National Team fell to Japan 1-0 in the first meeting between the two countries since the historic 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final last summer in Germany. 

Japanese substitute Megumi Takase headed home Aya Miyama’s corner kick service in the 84th minute and the USA’s furious push for the equalizer did not come to fruition. 

The Americans entered the match needing a win or a tie to advance to its 10th consecutive Algarve Cup championship game, and as the contest entered its final stages, it looked as if a 0-0 draw would be good enough to earn the Americans a shot at their third consecutive and ninth overall title in this tournament. 

However, with about six minutes left, Japan put together one of its few deep penetrations into the U.S. defensive third in the second half, crossing from the right side to the far post where defender Amy LePeilbet, who was under pressure from an attacking player, had to head the ball over her own end line for a corner kick. 

Miyama’s service flew to the far post and Takase met it with a thunderous header, powering the ball into the right side of the net from just outside the six yard box. The goal came off Japan’s only corner kick of the game and its only shot of the second half. 

“I think in the first half, we looked very nervous and the decision-making was off,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “Too many times we gave away the ball in situations when we were not even under pressure or in tight spaces. We couldn’t keep the ball enough to be dangerous. When you give away the ball against Japan, they keep it. It’s so much defending.

“Mentally and physically, that’s tough, but I am happy with the changes we made at halftime and even parts of the first half where we tried to play more direct. I think we looked more dangerous and came up with a couple of chances, but overall you could tell there is a lot of things to work on and especially looking at Japan, their technique and how they keep the ball. They should be role models for the world, the way they play.” 

The USA will now play for third place against Sweden, a 4-0 loser to Germany in the final match of Group A, on March 7 in Parchal. The match will kick off at 5:15 a.m. ET. 

A jittery U.S. team put together a poor first half in which Japan had the majority of possession while the Americans struggled to string passes together. Still, the U.S. actually put the ball in the net just seven minutes into the game after Abby Wambach headed a long Christie Rampone free kick to Alex Morgan inside the six-yard box. The young forward volleyed her chance into the left corner but it was immediately waved away for offside. 

The USA’s best chance of the half came in the 26th minute as Morgan ran onto a long ball over the defense, out-muscled a defender and struck a left-footed drive off the base of the right post from 16 yards out. 

Sundhage gave starts to Lauren Cheney at right midfield and Amy Rodriguez on the left. But by the beginning of the second half, Sundhage had changed out three-fourths of her midfield. Sundhage sent on Lori Lindsey for Carli Lloyd in the 31st minute and then switched out both flank players at halftime, inserting Megan Rapinoe and Heather O’Reilly. She also sent on Stephanie Cox for Kelley O’Hara at left back to start the second half. 

The U.S. did have more of the game and better possession in the second half, but Japan still held the ball very well, although at times the team seemed in no rush to get forward. Outside of several low crosses that U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo had to snag, and the winning goal, Japan did not threaten the U.S. net after the break. 

While the Japanese did well at times to possess the ball in front of the USA’s back line, the Americans’ team defense did a fine job of keeping the dangerous players away from the goal and no one got behind central defenders Rachel Buehler and Rampone all afternoon. 

On the other end, Morgan caused the Japanese trouble with her speed and tenacity all match, but she had several crosses from dangerous spots blocked or cleared and failed to find the frame on a few other decent chances. In the 57th minute, Morgan was able to beat Japanese goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto to a ball in the right side of the penalty area. As Morgan touched it by her, she went to ground, but it was unclear if she had made contact with the Japanese ‘keeper. Morgan popped to her feet immediately still in possession of the ball, but her cross found no one in the center of the box. 

One minute later, Cox sent in a driven cross from the left flank. The ball was headed up in the air and fell to Morgan, who blasted her volley just over the crossbar. 

In the 63rd minute, it was Morgan again who got a good look at the goal. This time a nice build-up got the ball to Wambach with her back to goal near the top of the penalty area. She turned and slipped a pass through to Morgan, who evaded a defender, but her angled left-footed shot from the right side of the penalty box went wide left. 

In the 81st minute, Rapinoe had a go from distance, but her strike was saved by the diving Fukumoto at the right post. Young forward Sydney Leroux replaced Wambach in the 72nd minute and looked dangerous with several powerful runs, but she too could not find the net after scoring in the first two Algarve Cup games. 

Sundhage sent on Tobin Heath for LePeilbet in the 87th minute in a last ditch effort to find an equalizer, and the USA produced two golden chances in the waning moments. The first came after Shannon Boxx was taken down hard about 30 yards from the goal, but Rapinoe spun her free kick shot wide left. Then Boxx got on the end of a Cox cross off a free kick from the left side but agonizingly bounced her header over the goal from about 10 yards out. 

Additional Match Notes: 

The Americans suffered their first shutout of the year and first since a 0-0 tie with South Korea on Nov. 5, 2008. The U.S. Women had gone 57 games since last failing to score in a match.

It was the USA’s first loss of the year after eight consecutive wins to start 2012.

The loss broke a 31-match unbeaten streak in regulation time at the Algarve Cup. The USA had not lost a game in regulation at this tournament since March 18, 2004, a 3-1 setback to Sweden.

In Group A, Germany thrashed Sweden 4-0 and will face Japan in the title game in what will be a rematch of Japan’s epic quarterfinal victory over the Germans during the Women’s World Cup last summer.

The USA has failed to beat Sweden in the last three meetings between the countries. The USA lost 2-1 at the 2011 Four Nations Tournament in China, fell 2-1 in group play at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and tied 1-1 in an exhibition during the last match of 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. The USA out-shot Japan 7-5 but put just two shots on goal, its lowest total in recent memory. 

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

Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Japan 
Date: March 5, 2012 
Competition: 2012 Algarve Cup – Group B 
Venue: Estadio Algarve; Faro, Portugal 
Kickoff: 2:10 p.m. Local / 9:10 a.m. ET 
Attendance: 1,000 
Weather: 65 degrees, sunny, breezy 

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

JPN – Megumi Takase (Aya Miyama) 84th minute 

USA: 1-Hope Solo; 6-Amy LePeilbet (17-Tobin Heath, 87), 3-Christie Rampone (capt.), 19-Rachel Buehler, 5-Kelley O’Hara (14-Stephanie Cox, 46); 12-Lauren Cheney (9-Heather O’Reilly, 46), 7-Shannon Boxx, 10-Carli Lloyd (16-Lori Lindsey, 31), 8-Amy Rodriguez (15-Megan Rapinoe, 46); 13-Alex Morgan, 20-Abby Wambach (11-Sydney Leroux, 72) 
Subs not used: 2-Heather Mitts, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 18-Nicole Barnhart, 22-Whitney Engen 
Head coach: Pia Sundhage 

JPN: 12-Miho Fukumoto; 2-Yukari Kinga, 3-Azusa Iwashimizu (13-Rumi Utsugi, 65), 4-Saki Kumagai, 5-Aya Sameshima, 14-Asuna Tanaka (16-Kanako Ito, 90+3), 6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (20-Yuika Sugasawa, 79), 8-Aya Miyama, 17-Yuki Nagasato, 7-Kozue Ando (19-Megumi Takase, 65), 11-Shinobu Ohno (9-Nahomi Kawasumi, 65) 
Subs not used: 1-Ayumi Kaihori, 15-Saori Ariyoshi, 18-Nanase Kiryu, 21-Mai Kyokawa 
Head coach: Norio Sasaki 

Statistical Summary: USA / JPNShots: 7 / 5 
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4 
Saves: 3 / 2 
Corner Kicks: 1 / 1 
Fouls: 10 / 5 
Offside: 3 / 7 

Misconduct Summary: None 

Referee: Pernill Larsson (SWE) 
Assistant Referee: Sanja Rodak (CRO) 
Assistant Referee: Petruta Iugulsecu (ROU) 
4th Official: Jana Adamkova (CZE) 

Woman of the Match: Rachel Buehler

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