After the U.S. Women's National Team came back from being down 0-2, Colorado native Lindsey Horan snagged the lead for the U.S. in the 89th minute, to give what we all thought was going to be a storybook ending in front of a sold out crowd at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Thursday night. That is, until Japan's drew some U.S. players out of position and Kumi Yokoyama put one past Hope Solo in the 3rd minute of stoppage time.
The Japanese team is known for their discipline, and that's exactly what we saw in this game. Not to say that the United States didn't have many (many) chances to open up the game, but somehow only three of those chanced landed in the back of the net. Japan started the game with amazing ball control, but Goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita handled the ball out of bounds in the 9th minute, giving the U.S. a first real chance with a corner kick. Unfortunately, the ball went through the box untouched, and nothing came of it.
Mana Iwabuchi put Japan on the board first with a goal in the 14th minute. The shot got through two U.S. defenders and snuck inside the post. It was actually a pretty nice goal. The entire stadium erupted into cheers of "USA" to boost morale, but unfortunately Emi Nakajima sent in a cross that Yuki Ogimi fairly easily booted in just eight minutes later. The last time the USWNT had been down 2-0 was on Feb. 8, 2015 vs. France (they ended up losing 2-0).
After that second goal, the United States started to pull it together and seemed to maintain more control over the ball. Crystal Dunn sent a peach of a pass down to Mallory Pugh, who chased it down and crossed it back in to Alex Morgan. What ended up being Morgan's first of two goals for the night bounced over the keeper's glove and finally got the United States on the board in the 27th minute.
The first yellow card of the match was given to Yuki Ogimi of Japan in the 39th minute after she fouled Kelly O'Hara.
Tobin Heath had a couple good opportunities, as did Crystal Dunn. A shot from Japan hit the crossbar in the 41st minute, but the last few minutes of the first half were relatively uneventful.
The United States came into the second half looking strong and put up a couple shots, then Japan blasted a couple shots, but it was mostly just back and forth. Things got really interesting in the 57th minute, when Ogimi received her second yellow card and was ejected from the game. Japan was going to play the rest of the game with 10 players.
Shortly after Ogimi's ejection from the game, Morgan blocked a defender's attempt to clear the ball in the 60th minute, but dribbled in and took a shot right at the keeper instead of laying it off to Pugh, who was making a run. In the 63rd minute, Pugh was laid out by Japan's Saki Kumagai, who received a yellow card for her efforts. Tobin Heath served up the free kick into the box. Morgan got a head (shoulder?) on it, and even though the keeper got a hand on the ball, the ball made it to the back of the net to bring the score up to a 2-2 tie.
At this point, both coaches were trying to get some fresh legs on the pitch, and Golden native Lindsey Horan subbed in for Morgan Brian to a roar of cheering from the local crowd.
For the next 10-15 minutes, the United States had about six decent scoring opportunities (including one that was practically handed to Morgan but she kicked low and within range of the goalkeeper), but nothing came of it until the 89th minute. O'Hara kicked the ball into the box from about 30 yards out and Horan headed it in, putting the U.S. up 3-2. What made Horan's goal even more special was that, just the day before the game, she had been questionable with a possible injury.
All the USWNT had to do was hold Japan off for four minutes of stoppage time. But, to Japan's credit, they never gave up. Even with a man down, they didn't park it in the back. Japan didn't continue to play as aggressively as they had in the beginning of the game, but they weren't just settling in for a tie (or a loss, apparently). Three minutes into stoppage time Japan linked together a few passes, drew Becky Sauerbrunn and Allie Long in, then passed the ball through, giving Kumi Yokoyama essentially a clear shot of the goal. Talk about a tie that feels like a loss...
At the post-game press conference, Head Coach Jill Ellis was obviously not pleased with the result, but had this to say, "overall a lot of emotions and a lot of takeaways, a lot of lessons from this game. To come back and show that resilience... I told them in the locker room at half time that we needed a response. Everything we're doing right now is to prepare us for the Olympic games. And then to fight back to get the two goals and then get ahead, it's about closing out the game. And that's obviously what's a little disappointing."
At least the U.S. Women's National Team doesn't have to wait too long for their next chance at Japan - the next game is Sunday, June 5 in Cleveland.