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USWNT wins SheBelieves Cup with emotional win over Japan

In the fifth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team claimed the trophy for the third time on Wednesday night with a 3-1 win over Japan at Toyota Stadium.

It didn’t take long for the Americans to strike, after an early play that saw Japanese midfielder Mina Tanaka earn a yellow card when she toppled over Lindsey Horan. Megan Rapinoe nailed the back of the net from outside the box on a free kick in the seventh minute.

The recently-thriving Christen Press would join in on the scoring 20 minutes later in style to put her name in the scoring column. Rapinoe found Press with plenty of space on a counter attack, allowing the forward to score in her ninth appearance out of the past 10. From the top of the box, Press quickly turned and fired off a chipped shot that floated over Japan keeper Ayaka Yamashita and into the net on the far-post side.

Japan opened up the second half strong, forcing USWNT goalkeeper Adrianna Franch into a double-save situation with both shots coming from close-range. The Oklahoma State product held sturdy and withstood the initial attack from Japan, though it kept charging.

Pulling one back in the 58th minute, Emi Nakajima found Mana Iwabuchi in the box, and she beat Franch on the far-post side with a laser from the middle of the box.

Horan would seal the win in the 83rd minute for the Americans. A late corner-kick opportunity saw Mallory Pugh whip the ball into the box and Horan rose above the Japan defensive unit to smash it home from point-blank.

In addition to winning another competitive trophy, the win puts an exclamation point in the team’s ongoing lawsuit with the U.S. Soccer Federation over equal pay. Prior to the match, the team wore its warmup shirts inside-out in unison, hiding the U.S. Soccer emblem while the four World Cup stars above it were still visible.

Brad Smith ISI Photos

Woman of the Match

Horan’s early knock in the game was scary initially. When Tanaka fell over her, she was in the process of breaking her fall and she spent a few minutes on the ground recovering, and a stretcher was brought out to assist her.

She’d go on to finish a 90-minute shift and contribute the goal to ice it.

Moment of the Match

Rapinoe’s early goal was a symbolic moment for the team. After a week where the team’s recent form was outshined by the USSF lawsuit, it was none other than the decorated captain herself to bring the conversation about the team back to the on-field product.

Match to Forget

After Alyssa Naeher kept three clean sheets in the competition, Adrianna Franch won’t be too thrilled about conceding the goal in what was otherwise a solid, but not perfect performance.

The USWNT is back in action next against Australia on April 10th for a friendly in Salt Lake as it prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.


  1. What appeared to be an easy win at half-time turned out to be a real nail-biter towards the end as Japan regained some of that Samurai Spirit they once had and appeared to be heading towards a draw or better. However, the USA Firepower put it away at the end and provided some momentum going into the Olympics, where they may very well see both Japan & England (U. K.)

    What impressed me the most with the U. S. play were how the goals scored. All 3 were textbook!!! Megan’s Free Kick early on was perfectly placed right over the wall, curling to the left, right under the crossbar. The GK never had a chance. Christen’s #2 goal was a work of art. With her back to the goal, she took the pass from Megan, knew exactly how far the GK was out from the line, then turned and deftly chipped the ball just over the GKs head and just under the bar. IMHO, that is the most difficult shot in soccer, and something only world-class players can accomplish. Lindsey Horan’s #3 goal put the game away as her header off Madeline Pugh’s Corner Kick was slotted just inside the near post, as the GK never had a chance. Lindsey is a Power Player and demonstrated that power with a shot that was in the back of the net before anyone on the field could take another step

    The Japan goal was one which I have seen 1000 times in soccer. That is when a wing brings the ball all the way down, the defenders all race towards the goal line in an attempt to block any shot that would be coming, only to have the winger pass the ball behind the defenders charge to one or more unmarked teammates about 9 yards out from the goal, who, unmarked simply slam the ball through any opening they can find in the line of defenders. Its difficult for defenders to mark every attacker when running full speed towards their goal. So you have to give Japan credit for playing that one in a textbook manner.

    I don’t know if there will be many changes in the Olympic Team line-up from the one which was there for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Madeline Pugh made a GREAT serve on a corner kick to set up Lindsey Horan’s Header, and I like the type of skills that Madeline brings to the field. However, with 3 GKs required to be on the roster, Madeline would be the only possible change in roster that I would foresee.

    BTW, I don’t know if any of you noticed a ghastly officiating blunder in the first half. As Tyler points out in his post, Lindsey was down for more than 2 minutes after being pulled down early on. However, when the clock read 45:00, the referee calls half-time, without ANY add-on time. I know that the women’s program is trying to develop a corp of good officials, but to put someone in as referee who does not know the add-on time rule for lost minutes, in a match which could decide the winner of the SB Cup, is a step in the wrong direction. Someone must have clued her in at half-time because she allowed 3 minutes add-on at the end of the match when only 1 minute was actually lost in the 2nd half. Otherwise, the officiating on the field was good!! In the Spain match, I thought the USA got the worst of the calls.

    I was glad that all the players on the roster got a chance to play, other than our #2 GK, so that everyone had a chance to be seen against teams which very well may be our opponents in any round at the Olympics.

    • I dig your post, Bill! Mallory Pugh has a lot more competition than 4 years ago. Press, who is pushing for starter minutes, Rapinoe, Heath, Lynn Williams, & McDonald all are playing a lot. Olympic squad is 18 players, including 3 GKs. I know, Alex Morgan is pregnant, but when she comes back, she can also play winger, with Lloyd playing at a high level @ the 9. It’s really an “embarrassment of riches!” Pugh’s got game, USA is deeply talented at her position.


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