March 5, 2014
FIT TO BE TIED
Leroux has lone goal in 1-1 tie with Japan
PARCHAL, Portugal - The U.S. Women's National Team did enough to win, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Japan in the first Group B match for both teams at the 2014 Algarve Cup.
|Sydney Leroux scored as the US Women opened their Algarve Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw against Japan on Wednesday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Despite creating the vast majority of dangerous scoring chances, the USA's lone goal was a bit quirky, coming in the 59th minute when forward Sydney Leroux slid to block a clearance from Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane, and the ball bounced back into an open net.
Leroux sprinted down the right wing and passed back to Christen Press, whose shot was saved by Yamane. The Japanese goalkeeper received a pass back from her centerback and was just a bit too casual for the speedy Leroux, who sprinted hard from the keeper's left side and managed to ricochet the attempted clearance into the net from 12 yards out.
The USA might have had a few more goals. In fact, the U.S. put the ball into the Japan net just 72 seconds into the match, when Leroux' shot hit a defender and bounced to Carli Lloyd, who finished her volley but from an offside position. Lloyd led a U.S. midfield that won numerous balls in dangerous spots, allowing the American counter-attack to flourish while putting Japan's back line on their heels for most of the game.
Leroux had a multitude of chances in both halves. In the 29th minute, she out-muscled a defender into the right side of the penalty area, but stuck her shot into the side-netting outside the right post. The USA counter-attacked with tremendous speed, creating numerous dangerous situations down the wings and in the 32nd minute, Heather O'Reilly got free down the left, but her cross on the ground just eluded Leroux who was sliding through the goal box.
The Americans were going against the wind in the first half and as soon as they switched sides, the attack picked up steam. The USA fired 16 shots after the break to Japan's three, and just four minutes into the second half, O'Reilly put Press behind the defense with a through-ball. Her shot brought a save from Yamane, who knocked it away for a corner kick, and Leroux headed the ensuing service on goal, but it was cleared off the line by a defender.
In the 73rd minute Leroux smacked a shot from distance off the outside of the left post and then she had a great chance to win it in the 89th, bulling her way past a defender into the right side of the penalty area, but cut her shot just past the far post from 15 yards out.
Japan was content to sit back for most of the match, but made a push with about 15 minutes left and got a questionable call in the 83rd minute when Becky Sauerbrunn was called for a hand ball while blocking a service that appeared to hit her chest. Japan's captain Aya Miyama took the freekick from about 35 yards out, hitting a wicked knuckler that diving U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo could only parry into the upper right corner to tie the score at 1-1.
Japan also had a chance to win it late. In the 87th minute, Rumi Utsugi sent her volley wide left from close range as U.S. defenders converged.
The tie extended the USA's current overall unbeaten streak to 43 games (36-0-7) dating back to March of 2012 when it lost to Japan during group play at the Algarve Cup.
Up next for the USA will be Sweden on March 7 in Albufeira, Portugal (8:30 a.m. ET), in a match that will have major implications for the USA's Algarve Cup championship game aspirations. The team must win the group to advance to the final.