Match Report / USWNT

SheBelieves Cup Match Report: U.S.A. 2 – 2 Japan

Fans who braved the frigid February air at Talen Energy Stadium Wednesday night saw a rematch of the last two women’s world cups, as rival powerhouses U.S.A. and Japan faced off to open the 2019 SheBelieves Cup.

Jill Ellis’s squad came out in a 4-3-3 formation and playing a possession-based style, comfortably moving the ball back when necessary and trusting that when the right opportunities arose, the firepower of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Tobin Heath up top could capitalize.

In contrast, Japan played a transitionally oriented 4-4-2, always pushing the ball diagonally forward and relying on their speed to beat the USA’s defense. The result was a largely U.S.-controlled match with the occasional threatening opportunity from the Japanese squad.

It came as no surprise that the U.S.A. scored first. After consistently beating her defender on the wing throughout the first 20 minutes, Tobin Heath did just that again in the 24th minute. Heath pulled a quick move with the ball at her feet, took the ball to the endline and passed it into the center of the box, where Megan Rapinoe was running in to knock in the easy goal.

It did come as a slight surprise that Japan started the scoring in the second half, as the U.S.A. had more chances in the first 20 minutes. Still, Japan capitalized on an unlucky step from the U.S. just inside the penalty box. Versatile U.S. defender Crystal Dunn reached her foot out to block a cross from Japan, but in shifting her weight she failed to either clear the ball entirely or gain possession. The ball was a sitting duck for Japanese midfielder Emi Nakajima, who blasted it past Alyssa Naeher to even the score.

U.S.A. would respond not long after, however. After coming on in the 75th minute for Mallory Pugh, Christen Press made an immediate impact. Gathering the ball on the wing outside the penalty box, Press used her skill and speed to give herself just enough space to cross the ball in. Star forward Alex Morgan crashed the near post and chested Press’s pass past Japanese keeper Erina Yamane. U.S.A. were up once more.

It wouldn’t be enough seal the match though, as Japanese midfielder Yui Hasegawa gathered the ball at the top of the box in stoppage time. Tapping it past the U.S. backline, Hasegawa crossed the ball neatly to the far post. Forward Yuka Momiki met the ball there and hit it in. Japan had tied the match again, and the final whistle blew minutes later.

As if the past two world cup finals had not been enough to confirm the rivalry between these two teams, this match made it that much clearer. Two sides with completely different styles played some of their best soccer, resulting in the 2-2 draw.



GK – Alyssa Naeher; D – Kelley O’Hara, Abby Dahlkemper, Tierna Davidson, Crystal Dunn; M – Julie Ertz, Mallory Pugh (Christen Press – 75′), Rose Lavelle; F – Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd – 85′), Megan Rapinoe

Unused Subs: Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett, Samantha Mewis, Becky Sauerbrunn, Andi Sullivan, Casey Short, Jessica McDonald, Emily Fox, McCall Zerboni


GK – Erina Yamane; D – Saori Ariyoshi (Risako Oga – 58′), Aya Sameshima, Saki Kumagai, Risa Shimizu; M – Hina Sugita, Arisa Matsubara, Yui Hasegawa, Emi Nakajima (Jun Endo – 80′); F – Kumi Yokoyama, Rikako Kobayashi (Mayu Ikejiri – 58′)

Unused subs – Ayaka Saitoh, Rei Takenaka, Rumi Utsugi, Nana Ichise, Moeno Sakaguchi, Yuka Momiki, Moeka Minami, Asato Miyagawa

Scoring Summary

24′ – USA – Megan Rapinoe (Tobin Heath)

67′ – JAP – Emi Nakajima

77′ – USA – Alex Morgan (Christen Press)

90 +1′ – JAP – Yuka Momiki (Yui Hasegawa)


Disciplinary Summary

38′ – Yellow Card – Saki Kumagai


  1. Not sure why Davidson and Pugh continue getting minutes. Pugh is sloppy and Davidson cannot pass.

  2. Fun game to attend, despite the late Japan goal. Not that it matters much, but Sonnet did come on for O’Hara after halftime. I was surprised they didn’t use more subs… thought I saw they get 6 in this tourney.

  3. There is a special place in hell for someone who charges 30$ for a knit cap at a February game,.

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