USWNT draws against Japan to open Algarve Cup tournament

Sydney Leroux

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By CAITLIN MURRAY

Facing their toughest challenge of the year, the U.S. Women’s National Team tied Japan 1-1 Wednesday to open the prestigious 2014 Algarve Cup on a goalkeeper error forced by Sydney Leroux.

The USWNT went into Wednesday’s match with a 42-game unbeaten streak, with their last loss being at the 2012 Algarve Cup against Japan. Though the unbeaten streak survived, the U.S. struggled to finish chances in their first match against the reigning World Cup champions in two years.

It seems to be a testament to the closeness of these two sides that the USWNT’s goal came from an unusual forced error by Japan’s 23-year-old goalkeeper Erina Yamane in just her fifth cap. With the ball at Yamane’s feet from a routine back pass in the 59th minute, Leroux charged the keeper to block a clearance that deflected back into the net for an easy goal.

Japan equalized in the 82nd with a soaring free kick from Aya Miyama 30 yards out. A diving Hope Solo was able to get a hand on it, but only enough to deflect it into the side netting behind the line. The bulk of Japan’s chances up to that point were from distance, but never really tested Solo much.

Coming out in a 4-4-2, coach Tom Sermanni benched mainstay forward Abby Wambach and started Leroux with Christen Press up top in only their third time starting together. Alex Morgan was left off the Algarve Cup roster due to injury.

The USWNT outshot Japan 20-8, but settling for poor shots, and compact defending from Japan, stymied what might have been a field day against a lesser team for the U.S.

Since Sermanni had declared 2013 was for experimentation and 2014 is about results, Wednesday’s match-up was the USWNT’s first serious threat of the year. Japan, No. 3 in FIFA’s world rankings, had memorably beaten the No. 1-ranked USA for the 2011 World Cup in dramatic fashion in a penalty kick shootout.

The Algarve Cup will continue to be a good test for the American side as Sermanni looks to whittle down a deep bench for next year’s World Cup – the USWNT faces No. 6-ranked Sweden Friday. The matches are not being broadcast in the U.S.

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What do you think of this result? Does the USWNT have more work to do before they are ready to seek redemption against Japan at next year’s World Cup? What do you think of the Leroux/Press pairing?

Share your thoughts below.

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38 Responses to USWNT draws against Japan to open Algarve Cup tournament

  1. Catman says:

    Not to take away from her ability as a soccer player but I have a huge crush on Sydney Leroux, she is absolutely gorgeous.

  2. Christine says:

    Everything in the final third was pretty awful for the US today. HAO was a menace once again, but everyone else was just meh. Pinoe in particular was incredibly off today. In general, they were too bunched in in the center of the park and there were wasted opportunities to get the ball out on the flanks (particularly to HAO). For the next match, I’d like to see some changes. Specifically, Steph Cox continues to underwhelm–is KO ready to go the full 90? How about Sauerbrunn as a holding midfielder and either Carli or Brian (or maybe even Press?) as the attacking mid underneath a lone striker (Syd or Abby)? Need some better creativity and thinking in the final third to finish those chances. I except to see that Friday morning.

  3. Ian says:

    The US completely outplayed Japan. I think this preformance is a huge step in the right direction. Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux were out hustling everyone.

    • Samuel says:

      Outplayed? Japan owns the USWNT.

    • user222 says:

      outplayed? it doesn’t matter if you don’t convert your chances….

      Japan failed to break the tie late in the game, by luck the US didn’t lose… although US is a much better team player by player, Japan could again surprise the US.

      • Landy Cakes says:

        outplayed is what you say when you vhave many many more chances but don’t convert them.

  4. Ann says:

    Japanese defense was pretty solid so I was impressed with them. They effectively shut down some of our players and forced couple of turnovers. I was disappointed with Rapinoe’s performance. At same token, I was pleased with Heather O’Reilly and was little bit perplexed to see her to sub off. She was easily one of the better players on the pitch today. I hope to see the team perform better in the next game against Sweden!

  5. Corinne says:

    Unfortunately we didn’t have a proper playmaker on the pitch today. Alex can drop back and playmake when the need arises, but both Christen and Sydney are very independent-minded during run-of-play and a duo of that similarity up front doesn’t produce, unfortunately. I’d love to see Hagen get some minutes with either of them, or even see what a Sydney-ARod or Christen-ARod pairing could do.

    A few people pointed out that Tom may be giving Pinoe these minutes to help her work through the rust. I hope they’re right and I hope it pays off. I wasn’t impressed by her today. And, unfortunately but not too shockingly, Tobin played as Tobin did. I’m very ready to be done on that front, please.

    • Slicey says:

      I agree with everything you said. Especially Tobin. She and Averbuch are just never going to happen at the senior level. Can we please be done with them? Tobin has excellent ball skills, but never makes enough of an impact in game situations.

      And we need forwards that can score off passes into the box instead of just on one-v-one breakaways. Really need to get A-Rod into the mix more to see what she can do when paired with one of the younger forwards.

    • jones says:

      Do people clamoring for A-rod remember how useless she was under Pia? She was the epitome of a player that used speed to beat opponents one-v-one and then did very little with the ball. Leroux at least has more dimensions to her game. Perhaps A-rod has become a more well-rounded player now, but seeing her under Pia was exasperating. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt; it’s also possible she just didn’t pair well with Wambach but would do better with Leroux or someone else. We’ll see.

      • The Garrincha says:

        Pretty much with you there Jones. A-rod was very ones dimensional before Pia, however Pia never challenged or addressed this(conjecture).
        A-rod is improving under the new regime and new found love for family life and the game.

        P.S. all due respect Cox, is their 7th best defender .

    • Snake says:

      Seriously? Anyone can have an off game or several off games, especially right after returning from injury. Even Leo Messi was off at the end of 2013. He’s healthy now and his form has returned. Those ready to give up on Tobin Heath apparently have short memories!

      She was MVP of the NWSL Championship game last year after missing the semi-finals with an injury. She dominated in that game and her free kick for a goal was awesome! Anyone remember the 2012 Olympics? She played in all six matches, starting and playing the entire match in four of them. She had three assists, against France, Colombia, and New Zealand. Against France, at the 66th minute, she ran down the left flank with the ball received from a through pass from Megan Rapinoe, and sent a crossing pass to Alex Morgan who scored the last goal of the match making the final score 4–2. Against Colombia, she played a 1–2 pass with Wambach for her 2nd assist. Her third assist came in the quarter final match against New Zealand, at the 87th minute, when she provided a long ball down the left flank to Sydney Leroux, who scored, sealing the match at the final score of 2–0. Everyone has off games, even the best players in the world. The best coaches are able to see that and don’t make rash changes based on under-performances in one or two games!

  6. Fabio says:

    Thanks for that very insightful comment Catman…

    Poor showing for the USWNT, playing teams out of the FIFA top 5 has really hurt them.
    Rapinoe was looking sluggish and worn out on the wing and she should have been subbed for Heath. Press looked lacklustre out there compared to Leroux. I’m a fan of both of them but I don’t think they complement each other up top. Brian and Lloyd did good work in the centre of the field. Sauerbrunn and Engen worked well together throughout the match, minus the last couple of minutes. Personally I don’t think Cox should creep up the wing, as her decision making was poor and led to a lot of ball losses. Solo didn’t look as fresh either in my opinion…perhaps the fellow GKs aren’t competitive enough to bring out the best in Solo.

  7. orangecleats says:

    An obvious comment about this game is that the finishing for the US was just bad. There were too many bad decisions in the final third and a disconnect between players. On the plus side, the defense looked good. The midfield was mostly fine too, until the point where they had to connect with the attack or finish their shots themselves. I really didn’t understand the decision to sub out HAO and put in Tobin on the right side. Anyway, it was an interesting game, I think it gave the team some food for thought.

  8. SKB says:

    Not sure I would call Japan’s defense “solid.” After all, our only goal was scored on a GK blunder. We also had 20 shots on goal to their 8. Plus, their defense strategy was “Let’s have half the team bunch up in front of the goal.” There’s nothing solid about that at all.

    The team as a whole looked sloppy. I expect a certain amount of growing pains under a new coach, but Sermanni has had a full year to work out the bugs in the lineup. Certain players consistently underperform, while others continue to be solid in their roles. I can only imagine the underperformers are personal favorites of the coach. Enough experimentation, already!

    Syd was on fire today, and Pinoe was very un-Pinoe. I haven’t been a fan of Press from the start. Morgan’s injury likely hurt our chances of a win today, but there were a lot of other variables at play. Passing was questionable, and I didn’t see a lot of the aggressive play the USWNT usually displays against heavy opponents like Japan. They played tougher against Russia.

    Overall, a disappointing draw that feels like a loss.

    • Jimmy says:

      Stop experimenting? Say what? Why? Now is a great opportunity to experiment!

      This is the Algarve Cup, not the WC! How much are you really going to learn about all the newbies in an 8-0 thrashing of Russian? You’ll learn more about your players against japan, germany, etc than against new zealand or russia. Experiment now do when the tournament doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

      • SKB says:

        Sermanni said (and I paraphrase here) “2013 was for expermenting, 2014 is for results.” I didn’t see the results today…were you maybe watching a different game?

        Ask any player in any sport how they prepare for games when they don’t know if they’ll be on the starting lineup vs when they know they’ll start a game. There’s a completely different mindset when you know you’re part of the starting 11. (Or 9. Or 15…depending on the sport) Right now, the USWNT lacks this certainty. We’re not going to see them at their best until Sermanni gives his players this level of comfort.

        The team looked sloppy out there. Watching the Sweden/Denmark game now, and Sweden looks strong. They play against these two teams like they did today, and there’s an early exit in the cards.

        • Jimmy says:

          Calm down now. You don’t have to be snarky here with your “did you even watch the game?” comment.

          Where in my original post did I say they looked brilliant? I stand by what I said. Experimenting at the Algarve Cup against good teams with the World Cup over a year away is a good thing! It’s nothing more than a glorified friendly.

          • SKB says:

            It’s obvious you and I saw different things in the game and were watching it differently.

            My response was anything but snarky, nor was it anything but calm. Consider switching to decaf. You might enjoy internet interactions a little more.

            OK…that last bit was snarky, but you probably read it that way anyway, so…

            • Jimmy says:

              LOL
              You still don’t get it!

              I did not comment at all on how the team played today! Yet, you keep trying to bring it back to that.

              I said now is a good time to experiment and tweak the line up. Nothing more, nothing less.

              I would enjoy Internet interactions more if you wanted to reply to my actual comment and not you perceive it to be.

  9. Lauren says:

    Leroux and Press are an interesting combination. Both offer speed while Leroux can also offer size as a target forward, but I still think that the pairing of Wambach with Leroux. Press, Morgan (pick one) offers the best dynamic. I say let’s continue to combine size & strength with speed up top.

    • jones says:

      yes, though I think Sermanni has his eye towards the future – Wambach isn’t a 90 minute player anymore and he probably wants to see how they do without her against a top team. I have seen Leroux and Morgan play very well together at the youth level (I know, not the same) and also on rare occasions with the senior team and I think as a pair those two have the most potential.

      I’m still unsure about Press; I think she hasn’t been great recently but has shown well in the past. Maybe he has to tinker with her role on the team. Overall though I am glad they finally have some quality opponents to figure things out.

  10. The Garrincha says:

    Where is Tymrak? injured?. She is the most dangerous AM around.
    She really can go at defenders and create space,
    I also believe Sam Mewis can do this although unproven at the senior level.
    Go ladies! and maybe stick O’reilly, on Marozsan, (like glue).

    • Corinne says:

      Tymrak’s in La Manga, Spain with the U23 women for the Six Nations Tournament. We’re overcrowded in midfield depth anyway, so I’m not surprised that Sermanni “let” them take her.

  11. FRANK says:

    IDIDNT SEE THIS GAME WAS IT ANY GOOD

  12. Alga says:

    Thought the US looked okay today. Agree that Rapinoe was underwhelming – didn’t make very good decisions, especially when the right decision was to play a simple ball. Heath simply jogged around the field when she came on. She holds the ball too long, especially against a team like Japan who is tactically astute and can reposition themselves quickly. Press seemed to grow in confidence as the game went on. I’d give her another look if I were Sermani against another top level team, as she has potential. Leroux looked like she needed to change her shoes at half-time as she was slipping all over the place in both the first and second halves. Morgan Brian is impressive at keeping the ball and switching the point of attack. A calm presence for someone so young. The two center backs are okay but Cox and Krieger both surrender possession of the ball way too easily for my taste. They boom it away when they could use feet and then we have to chase to win it back as a result. Overall, not a bad performance. We dominated the match and had numerous chances. Japan is not the same with a 35 year old Sawa. She was the heart and soul of the 2011 team that won and they will have to transition when she retires for good (much like the US will have to do when Wambach retires).

  13. Gary Page says:

    I didn’t even know this game was on. Where is it being televised? A question I have just from the article is how Solo got beat on a free kick from 30 yards out. From 30 yards a GK should have enough time to reach almost anything.

    • Snake says:

      Game was not televised. There were a few websites that carried it online. I saw several professional games this weekend where players scored on free kicks from way out. There was even a free kick in the German Bundesliga last weekend where a guy scored from 41 meters out. Check it out:

      link to youtube.com

      So if it can happen in one of the top professional leagues in Europe, it can happen anywhere!

    • z says:

      It was an extremely well hit free kick that was also aided a good deal by the wind. Think of how Ronaldo hits free kicks and you’ll have an idea of the kind of knuckling behind it. She read the initial kick right but those two factors combined to carry it just beyond her. She did well to recover enough to get a hand to it.

  14. Anna W says:

    Sermani won’t last.

    • SKB says:

      I’ve been underwhelmed with his decisions after the success we had under Pia, but that’s a bold prediction by any stretch. Who would you rather see at the helm over Sermanni?

    • user222 says:

      I disagree… Sermani has a tougher job than Pia as the measuring stick is winning a World Cup… nobody gets too excited on Olympic gold medals. Pia got us two Olympic gold medals but missed on the one that counts.

      The depth chart for the USWNT is growing so rapidly and TS job is to evaluate all players but keep players that play as team, it takes time.

      A couple from this year’s crop of U23 WNT players could potentially be on the final senior team for Canada 2015… last year’s players were really good too and some suffered big injuries.
      On any other team, most of these players could be starters, the US talent is just too deep, this makes a coach’s job harder. It doesn’t help that we keep playing friendlies with Canada, Mexico and China.

      BTW, I heard that some of these players who do not make the final USWNT might end up playing for other countries like Canada, Ireland, Mexico.

      For all the glory that the USWNT has achieved, we only have two World Cups championships to show for. Germany was 0-2 and has tied us. Japan was a good 10yrs behind the US and it’s now just one WC championship behind the US.

      Sermani is a good coach but many will call for his resignation if we fail in Canada 2015.

  15. Big_Fan says:

    This was an unacceptable result. If we want to keep this #1 rating then we have to be able to put away lesser

  16. Cliff Rice says:

    Hello
    I am going to the above match this afternoon, would you like me to send you some photographs for your website? Let me know
    thank you
    Cliff Rice