Tonight marks the first of four matches for the U.S. Women’s National Team before the players head to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics. It's also the first of two games that will see the USWNT face off against Japan, the first encounters between the two countries since the 2015 Women’s World Cup Final.
The game — taking place at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado — kicks off at 6:30 p.m. PT and airs on Fox Sports 1, with pre-game coverage beginning at 6:00. Tickets to this World Cup Final rematch sold out in 10 minutes.
While the U.S. has gone undefeated in 2016, Japan hasn't seen the same success. Since the 5-2 final loss, Japan failed to qualify for the Olympics and replaced its respected head coach Norio Sasaki. Homare Sawa, a longtime leader for Japan who retired at the end of 2015, criticized Japan's players for lacking desire during the Olympics qualifying campaign.
Japan's new coach is Asako Takakura, a pioneer of Japan women’s soccer. The four-time Asian Women’s Coach of the Year made her national team debut as a player at the age of 16 and earned 79 caps for Japan, scoring 30 goals. She has been an integral part of the Japanese coaching infrastructure for years, leading Japan to the 2014 Under-17 Women’s World Cup title and the 2015 Asian U-19 Championship.
Takakura has brought a very young side to face the USWNT. No players are in their 30s, and the squad has an average age of 24. Seattle favorite Naho Kawasumi was not called in for the back-to-back friendlies against the U.S., and Japan will also be without one of their best playmakers in Aya Miyama, who is apparently not fully fit.
Japan has an incredibly strong youth development system. In fact, a week ago, Japan's U-20 side defeated the U-20 USWNT 5-0. So while the players might not be recognizable, their technical skill should still be on display.
Meanwhile, Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper Hope Solo will be looking for her 99th career shutout, making her the first U.S. goalkeeper to reach this milestone. Solo is already the leader for caps by a U.S. goalkeeper with 194 and is six away from becoming the first goalkeeper in U.S. and world history to hit 200.
U.S. Coach Jill Ellis brought 24 players into camp for the friendlies and will likely be using the match to help determine her top choices for the 18-person roster that will be named for the Olympics.
How to Watch
Location: Dick's Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
Time/Date: Thursday, June 2, 2016, 6:30 p.m. PT kickoff (coverage begins at 6:00 p.m.)
TV: Fox Sports 1
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