SheBelieves Cup: Late goal gives Japan draw against USWNT

USWNT Megan Rapinoe
CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA — FEBRUARY 27: Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States takes the ball as Hina Sugita #9 of Japan defends at Talen Energy Stadium on February 27, 2019 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Chester, Pennsylvania (February 27, 2019) — It was cold in Pennsylvania and the United States Women’s National Team certainly felt it. Hosting Japan in the first match of the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, the United States settled for a 2-2 draw.

Early on in the match, the United States picked up spots of momentum left and right. Chances were created up top by Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. However, Japan’s defense remained tight. Japanese goalkeeper Erina Yamane had a busy night, finishing her shift with four saves.

SheBelieves Cup: Late goal gives Japan draw against United States

Meanwhile, the playmaking picked up and proved fruitful in the 23rd minute. A cross from Tobin Heath found the boot of Megan Rapinoe, who knocked it past Yamane. However, after hanging onto a 1-0 lead at halftime, Japan bounced back.

The Japanese found their rhythm with a goal in the 67th minute from Emi Nakajima. However, less than 10 minutes later, the United States equalized. Just seconds after entering the match, Christen Press found Alex Morgan for a goal in the 76th minute.

Morgan’s goal is the 99th of her international career.

The win seemed almost locked for the United States as the match went into extra time. However, Japan had other plans for the SheBelieves Cup hosts.

Yuka Momiki found the back of USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s net in the 91st minute. With the draw, the United States split the points with the Japanese. In the earlier match, England defeated Brazil, 2-1, after two second-half goals from Ellen White and Beth Mead.

England currently holds first place in the SheBelieves Cup standings.

USWNT head coach Jill Ellis did some shifting with her lineup tonight. Making her return from injury was Kelley O’Hara, who started at right back. However, after 45 minutes, she parted the match in favor of Emily Sonnett. Meanwhile, Mallory Pugh shifted into a central midfielder with the absence of Lindsey Horan to a quadriceps injury.

Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper paired up at the centerback position. Davidson, who is coming off her own injury, was the defender that got beat on Japan’s second goal.

Three Takeaways

  1. So, the experiment isn’t over? Looks like Horan’s injury is messing with more than the USWNT can handle. Jill Ellis vowed that lineup experiments were over in 2018, right before World Cup qualifying. However, Ellis did her own experiment. After Horan was removed from the tournament and Danielle Colaprico was dismissed with an ankle injury, Ellis brought in defender Emily Fox. Meanwhile, Allie Long, a natural central midfielder, is sitting at home. The non like-for-like switch is going to hurt the United States, because Pugh won’t fit in the central defender role.
  2. Defense is crumbling for the USWNT: Pairing a rookie and an incredibly inconsistent defender together as the centerback pairing wasn’t Ellis’ smartest move tonight. Davidson looked downright bad, slow and incredibly rusty. Meanwhile, Dahlkemper seemed to be taking on too much. With her partner struggling, Dahlkemper found herself in more than one role, and it proved too much. Meanwhile, I still continue to protest Crystal Dunn being a left back when Casey Short can easily take over the job.
  3. Why did Sam Mewis fall down the ladder? Ellis has a bad rapport — and for good reason — for seemingly casting players aside without any explanation. She did it with Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg. Now, she’s doing it with Casey Short, Sofia Huerta and Sam Mewis. Meanwhile, Mewis has done nothing to garner the banishment from the starting lineup. Even her club coach, Paul Riley, tweeted furiously about Ellis’ decision. Someone should make Ellis answer to why someone with Mewis’ talent dropped so far down the ladder. Did I mention that Pugh isn’t a natural central midfielder? Meanwhile, Mewis is — but Ellis continues to ignore.

SheBelieves Cup table

What’s Next?

The U.S. Women’s National Team will have to brush this match off and prepare for a tough test against a talented England team. After an early goal from Brazil on a penalty kick, England came back firing on all cylinders in the second half. Because of that, they lead the SheBelieves Cup title race.

The match, slated for Saturday, is scheduled to kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET. Nissan Stadium, home of Nashville SC in the USL Championship, is the venue. The match will air on FOX.

Meanwhile, Brazil and Japan will face off at 2 p.m. ET. All non-United States matches are available to watch, via ussoccer.com.

 

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