May 18, 2011

US Defeats Japan 2-0 in Rematch

The result was the same as four days earlier, but it was much better performance out of the USWNT tonight as they defeated Japan by a 2-0 margin in Cary, North Carolina.

Pia Sundhage went with the exact same lineup as she did Saturday and early on, the game appeared much the same as well. Japan put high pressure on the United States' defense early on and this created a bit faster tempo. The Japanese had the better of possession for the first 20 minutes of the match, but the American defense was solid and Japan was unable to get a good scoring chance.

The United States appeared to grow stronger as the first half progressed and once again, they were able to strike first in the 28th minute of the match. Shannon Boxx sent a long cross-field pass to Heather O'Reilly who gained possession on the right side near the end line. O'Reilly was able to beat a defender to the outside and sent a beautiful cross back to an open Amy Rodriguez. Rodriguez finished, in spite of Japanese keeper Ayumi Kaihori getting her hand on it, and the United States led 1-0.

Sundhage made one halftime substitution, sending in Amy LePeilbet at left back for Stephanie Cox. LePeilbet had been nursing an injury and did not appear in Saturday's match. The United States turned up the pressure in the second half, creating chance after chance.

Two more substitutions were forthcoming in the 60th minute as Alex Morgan and Lori Lindsey entered the match for Rodriguez and Boxx. Boxx had one of her best all around performances in this match.

It didn't take long for Morgan to get into the mix, as Carli Lloyd sent a long ball over the top of the Japanese back line. Morgan timed her run perfectly and was able to beat Kaihori to the ball tipping it past her. Morgan gained control just outside the six-yard box on the left side, but took a bit long to set up her shot as defender Azusa Iwashimizu made a great sliding save just before the ball reached the goal.

Three minutes later, it was the Lloyd-Morgan connection again, this time with Lloyd sending a beautiful ball through to Morgan who got within eight yards of the goal. This time it was Kaihori making a great save to rob Morgan.

The Americans kept knocking on the door and it finally opened in the 69th minute. Lloyd sent a ball wide right to O'Reilly, who this time cut inside with the ball. She hit a well-placed strike from 15 yards out just inside the left post to put the US up by a 2-0 score.

USWNT goalkeeper Hope Solo got her sternest test in the 81st minute as Karina Maruyama hit a solid strike that appeared to be heading just under the crossbar as a leaping Solo tipped the ball over the net.

The match ended in a well-earned US victory. Their next match will be June 5, in what will be a rematch of the Concacaf semifinal where Mexico stunned the US and nearly put American World Cup hopes on the ropes.

Other World Cup teams in action today:
Mexico 3 (Morales, Perez, Cuellar), Costa Rica 0
France 1 (Bussaglia, pk), Scotland 1 (Ross)
Canada 2 (own goal, Julien), Switzerland 1 (Crnogorcevic)