USWNT breezes past Japan in Tournament of Nations opener

USWNT breezes past Japan in Tournament of Nations opener

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USWNT breezes past Japan in Tournament of Nations opener

The U.S. Women’s National Team started its final tune-up for 2019 World Cup qualifiers with a 4-2 win over Japan on Thursday in the Tournament of Nations at Children’s Mercy Park.

The USWNT had chances from the opening whistle, but it took until the 18th minute to find the back of the net.

Christen Press cut inside from her right wing position and found an open Megan Rapinoe on the left side of the box. Rapinoe sent a low cross into Alex Morgan, who despite having a Japanese defender draped all over her, calmly slotted the ball into the lower left corner of the goal.

Japan didn’t take long to respond, though. Just two minutes later, forward Mina Tanaka took the ball nearly 40 yards straight up the middle on her own, cutting between the center back pairing of Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper.

As Tanaka wound up for the shot, right back Emily Sonnett slid in with an attempted block, but the ball merely deflected off Sonnett’s foot, over the head of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, and slowly into the net to tie the game up at 1-1.

That was the pretty much the end of Japan’s good fortune.

Six minutes after Japan’s goal, Crystal Dunn—playing out of the left back spot—switched the field to a wide open Sonnett on the right side of the field. The right back lobbed the ball up and over Japanese defenders to the head of Morgan, who once again placed the ball perfectly into the lower left corner of the net.

Eleven minutes into the second half, forward Tobin Heath skillfully danced past defenders along the right side of the field, tiptoeing the touch line the entire way.

Some fancy footwork broke her free of the Japanese defense one final time along the end line, giving her space to send the ball to a waiting Morgan in the box, who completed her hat trick as she forcefully launched the ball into the top of the goal.

If the game wasn’t sealed at that point, Megan Rapinoe assured the victory in the 66th minute. Driving down the middle of the field, Rapinoe played a beautiful give-and-go with Rose Lavelle, putting Rapinoe in a one-on-one situation with Japan goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita, where the midfielder converted with ease.

Japan was able to pull one back in the 76th minute when midfielder Moeno Sakaguchi saw Naeher off her line and sent a lovely floater over the USWNT goalkeeper into the top right corner of the net.

Next up for the USWNT is Australia, which defeated Brazil, 3-1, to kick off the Tournament of Nations.

The USWNT takes on the Matildas at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 29, in Hartford, Connecticut.

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