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April 1, 2012
Morganís goal saves the day for U.S. Women

Alex Morgan scored for the sixth time in her last eight matches to give the U.S. Women a 1-1 tie against Japan.
Alex Morgan scored for the sixth time in her last eight matches to give the U.S. Women a 1-1 tie against Japan.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SENDAI, Japan - Alex Morgan scored with 17 minutes remaining to lift the U.S. Women into a 1-1 draw with Japan Sunday in the opening match of the Kirin Challenge Cup.

Morganís equalizer initially was called back for offside, but the assistant refereeís decision was reversed by referee Li Juan. Replays showed that not only did the pass to Morgan come off the foot of a Japanese defender, but she was also in an onside position when U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd was dispossessed in a dangerous position in the center of the penalty area. Morgan took her chance expertly, darting behind two Japanese defenders to collect before slotting her left-footed shot across the face of the goal into the lower right corner from about eight yards out. She leads the team with 12 goals in 2012.

The U.S. got off to an erratic start, and fell behind in the 32nd minute after a deft series of touches got Japan in behind the U.S. defense. The ball was lifted over the back line and into the penalty area for Yukari Kinga, who timed her run perfectly and found herself squared up with netminder Hope Solo at the right post. She cut the ball back into the middle and Solo made a spectacular save on the first shot, but the ball rebounded right back to Kinga, who plowed her chance into the right side of the net from two yards out past sliding defender Amy LePeilbet.

Morgan almost tied the score four minutes before halftime. She broke free down the left side, but took the ball a bit too deep into the penalty area and had a sharp angle for her left-footed shot. Nevertheless, she almost sneaked her attempt inside the right post but it skipped just inches wide.

The Americans played a much better second half and managed to out-shoot Japan 5-4 in the second half (for the entire match, Japan had a 10-8 advantage). The first of those shots after the break came in the 49th minute when Carli Lloyd struck a free kick that sailed just over the goal from 25 yards out and struck the top of the net.

Japan's counter-attacks were dangerous in the second half and in the 62nd minute the ball was tackled hard off of Lloyd's foot in the midfield. In a matter of moments, several quick touches put Kawasumi behind the U.S. defense, but she struck her hard and low shot just wide left from 12 yards out on a chance that likely would have sealed the match.

Morgan's speed stretched Japan all night and she had another nice look at the goal in the 67th minute when she ran onto a long ball up the middle, collected and cut inside to her left foot at the top of the penalty area. Unfortunately, Morgan slipped as she was shooting and sent the ball high over the goal from 20 yards out.

Solo came up huge for the USA in the 69th minute as Kawasumi once again got behind the U.S. defense in the right side of the penalty area. Solo came out hard and made herself big on the slide as she swept the shot away with her body for a corner kick.

The Japan defense seemed to be cracking in the 72nd minute when Abby Wambach picked off another pass deep into the USA's attacking third and played a square pass to Lloyd. Her first touch took her into the penalty area, but her sliding shot from 10 yards out went right at Kaihori as Lloyd appeared to be tugged down by a defender.

"It was an important game for us and excellent environment," said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. "I am so grateful that we got this kind of game. We can learn from how we played in the first half and how we changed it in the second half. It is great when you have such a big crowd watching and cheering when it really matters, and today it did."

After a quick turnaround, the US Women will face Brazil on Tuesday, April 3, at Fukuda Denshi Arena. Kickoff is at 7 a.m. ET and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

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