As Reign FC’s Megan Rapinoe and the United States continue preparation for the World Cup this summer, they kick off their annual spring tournament, the SheBelieves Cup. This year’s competition is Brazil, England, and Japan, and the U.S. will first face off against Japan on Wednesday, February 27 at 4 PM PT. The match will air on FS1.
Earlier in the day, Jodie Taylor and England face off against Brazil at 1 PM PT in a match that streams on USSoccer.com.
After making it to the World Cup final in 2015, Japan has gone through a rebuilding period with an eye toward 2019. They didn’t qualify for the Olympics in 2016, but have been slowly making progress. They won the 2018 AFC Championship — Asia’s World Cup qualifiers — with a 1-0 victory over Australia. Under relatively new head coach Asako Takakura, Japan has been successful integrating young talent with established veterans like Reign FC’s Rumi Utsugi.
While the U.S. has gotten the better of Japan in recent years — winning 3-0 in the 2017 Tournament of Nations and 4-2 in the same tournament last year — Japan could give them some trouble. Their technical skills are unrivaled, and when Japan’s ball possession and movement are firing on all cylinders, they are so fun to watch and dangerous for opponents.
Where Japan continues to have challenges is on the defensive side. They are organized defensively, but can struggle against fast and physical teams. They also haven’t found a strong goalkeeper, which has remained a weakness in the last few years.
Regardless of today’s outcome, it’s great to have women’s soccer back in a meaningful way. The World Cup is now just over three months away, and the NWSL preseason begins this coming Monday. Enjoy every moment of it, including today’s match, before the season blows right by you.
Japan XI: Erina Yamane (GK); Aya Sameshima, Saori Ariyoshi, Saki Kumagai, Risa Shimizu; Kumi Yokoyama, Rikako Kobayashi; Yui Hasegawa, Arisa Matsubara, Emi Nakajima; Hina Sugita.#USAvJPN— Rachael McKriger (@RachaelMcKriger) February 27, 2019
23’ - Tobin Heath works the ball beautifully down the right side and sends it toward Megan Rapinoe, who calmly finishes
67’ - Japan evens it up on a poor U.S. clearance
76’ - Alex Morgan scores her 99th U.S. goal, and the USWNT goes up 2-1!
90’ - Darn, the U.S. can’t hold on. Japan equalizes through a lovely team goal.
Japan provide a late twist and score a last-minute equalizer against the USWNT! pic.twitter.com/xCoKzCm9fF— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 28, 2019
FINAL: The U.S. draws with Japan in the first round of the SheBelieves Cup.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Wednesday, February 27, 4 PM PT
Location: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA
Join the Discussion
This is your USA v. Japan gamethread. Watch and discuss with us.