AP NEWS

US ties Japan 2-2 in Women’s World Cup tuneup

February 28, 2019
1 of 6
United States' Alyssa Naeher, right, looks on as Japan's Yui Hasegawa (14) celebrates her goal with teammates during the second half of SheBelieves Cup soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Chester, Pa. The match ended in a 2-2 tie. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Jill Ellis watched her team lose a chance to beat a rival in the final minutes. The U.S. women’s soccer coach did not, however, lose any confidence ahead of the Women’s World Cup.

Alex Morgan scored her 99th international goal, but Yuka Momiki responded with a stoppage-time equalizer and Japan tied the United States 2-2 on Wednesday night in the SheBelieves Cup tuneup tournament for the World Cup.

Megan Rapinoe also scored for the Americans in a rematch of the last two World Cup finals.

“I feel like the result was disappointing, for sure,” Ellis said. “But I thought the performance in both halves, there were some really good things.”

Emi Nakajima scored in the 67th minute for eighth-ranked Japan after a poor clearance from Tierna Davidson, and Morgan chested home the go-ahead goal in the 76th minute off a pass from Christen Press — a minute after Press entered the game.

“It’s not my first chest goal with the national team,” Morgan said. “At the end of the day, a goal is a goal. I don’t care what part of the body it comes off of.”

Ellis called Press’ immediate impact “freaking awesome,” and indicated she could push for a starting spot in a loaded frontline.

“Something you look at going into the World Cup is your depth and if you have players who can change the game,” the US coach said. “She’s posing a lot of challenges now in terms of selection because I thought she was an instant game-changer for us.”

Momiki stunned the crowd with a 91st-minute goal from close range. Japan finished with two shots on goal, scoring on both of them.

“We made two mistakes in the back that cost us,” Ellis said.

The match was part of the opening day of the round-robin tournament that features four of the world’s top 10 teams. England beat Brazil 2-1 in the first game of the doubleheader at Talen Energy Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

Exactly 100 days before the World Cup kicks off in France, Ellis deployed a mostly first-choice lineup with the exceptions of the injured Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn.

In the 23rd minute, Tobin Heath beat defender Saori Ariyoshi to the end line and set up Rapinoe for an easy tap-in goal.

Rapinoe had other scoring opportunities in the first half, including a 39th-minute free kick that goalkeeper Erina Yamane pushed off the post. Japan’s best chance came in the 11th minute when Kumi Yokoyama smashed a shot off the crossbar.

“That’s a very organized team, and I think it was actually the best we’ve ever broken Japan down,” Ellis said. “Ironically, (we beat them 4-2) last year but we feel better about this performance.”

The Americans moved to 28-1-8 against Japan, with the only loss coming in the 2011 World Cup final. The U.S. beat Japan in the 2012 Olympic final and in 2015 World Cup final behind a hat trick from Carli Lloyd.

Lloyd, who grew up about 30 miles from Talen Energy Stadium, entered the game for Morgan in the 85th minute to a rousing ovation from the hometown crowd. She took the final shot of the game, but it was easily saved.

“I think we needed about 10 more minutes to get another goal,” Heath said. “I hate that when the game kind of cuts you short. I think we definitely had control of the game and momentum, especially at the end. We always have that last kind of push.”

The Americans will face England in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, and close out the tournament against Brazil in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday.

“Having this disappointing tie right now, all eyes are on England,” Morgan said. “They’re a good team defensively, they’re very organized, so it will be a tough challenge for us.”