In the group play opener for the U.S. Women’s National Team both teams got a point as Japan and the USWNT played to a 1-1 tie. The USWNT out shot Japan 20-8 but could not finish in the final third. The team lacked decision making in an effort that was a continuation of coach Tom Sermanni‘s experimentation phase. However as Sermanni said, 2014 is about results so the USWNT needs wins during the rest of the Algarve Cup.
The USWNT had countless opportunities in the final third as Heather O’Reilly was again a force on the wing. Several crosses were just too far from their targeted players and the shots that were taken did not challenge Japan’s 6’1″ goalkeeper Erina Yamane. Christen Press and Sydney Leroux both got behind the defense and tried to go short side but missed the net completely. It was Leroux that forced an error by Yamane blocking a clearance attempt and potting home the easy rebound.
The equalizer came late after Japan had loaded up the back to stop any further scoring. After one of the only rushes in the second half for Japan, a free kick was earned in the 82nd minute. Aya Miyama beat Hope Solo with a blast from 30 feet that Solo barely got a hand on. The U.S. continued to press into three minutes of second half stoppage time but were unable to find the winner.
The USWNT extended their unbeaten streak to 43 matches with the last loss coming to Japan at the 2012 Algarve Cup. Japan is a tough test on paper as they are ranked third in the world. However, the performance must be improved in the final third. Press and Leroux combined for just the third time while Abby Wambach watched from the bench.
The U.S. had 15 shots in the second half compared to three from Japan and should have walked away with the win. Sermanni must emphasize finishing if the team wants to defend their Algarve Cup title.