Nearly a year after Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team topped Japan in the FIFA World Cup, they settled for a hectic 3-3 draw on Thursday to keep their undefeated season intact.
In front of a sellout crowd of 18,572 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., the U.S. overcame an early deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the final minutes. But Japan equalized the match in stoppage time to prevent its first loss since March.
The final result was a tough one, as the American women clawed back, only to have their comeback victory stolen in the final seconds. But as head coach Jill Ellis explained afterward, it could ultimately serve as a sound lesson leading up to the trip to Rio.
“That was a little disappointing because it was in our control,” Ellis said. “If this helps us in Brazil, it’s a tough lesson but I’ll take it. Everything we’re doing now is to prepare us for the Olympic Games.”
Japan jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, thanks to goals from Mana Iwabuchi and Yuki Ogimi in the first half. Fourteen minutes into the match, Iwabuchi used her left foot to send the ball between two USA defenders and just beyond Hope’s fingertips into the left side of the net.
Then in the 22nd minute, Emi Nakajimi cross kicked from the right corner to Ogimi, who slid the ball into the bottom left of the frame.
That’s when Alex Morgan took over to level the match at two, thanks to solid ball movement among her teammates. Mallory Pugh, who leads the team with six assists on the year, crossed to Morgan, who scored from just beyond the right corner of the box in the 27th minute, making it 2-1.
Between Morgan’s two goals, Ogimi picked up a pair of yellow cards, which resulted in an ejection and left Japan with just 10 players on the field.
Morgan scored her second goal in the 64th minute, just six minutes after Ogimi was sent off. This time, Tobin Heath found Morgan, who headed the ball toward the keeper. Just like with Morgan’s first shot, goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita got a piece of it on its way in, but not enough. Morgan leads the team with nine goals through 12 games of 2016.
The scoring kept coming for the U.S., as the women scored their third straight in the 89th minute. Kelley O’Hara lofted a pass to Lindsey Horan, who headed the ball into an empty net.
Japan continued to play aggressively during stoppage time. Kumi Yokohama beat her defenders before finding the left corner to equalize the contest at three in the 93rd minute.
The U.S. is now 25-1-7 all-time against Japan and 11-0-1 during 2016.
Hope is two wins away from having 150 for her career and two shutouts shy of 100. Three friendlies remain before the 2016 Summer Olympics, and Hope could become the first U.S. goalkeeper to reach 100 clean sheets before the USWNT leaves for Brazil.
Next on the calendar is another contest with Japan. This time, the two teams will square off at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday at 9:30 a.m. PT.