CHICAGO (March 21, 2012) â€“ U.S. Womenâ€™s National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has named a 23-player roster that will travel to Japan in early April to compete in the Womenâ€™s Kirin Challenge Cup against 2011 FIFA Womenâ€™s World Cup champion Japan and Brazil.
The U.S. will open against the hosts at Yurtec Stadium in Sendai on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. local (6:30 a.m. ET), before traveling south to face the Brazilians on April 3 at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba at 8 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET).
Both matches will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
In the newly created three-nation tournament, Japan will also face Brazil April 5 at Homes Stadium in Kobe. The competition features three of the top four teams in the current FIFA Womenâ€™s World Rankings.
â€œAny time we get to play top teams, itâ€™s always valuable,â€ said U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd. â€œThe more quality teams we can play, the better off we will be heading into the Olympics. Weâ€™ve lost to Japan the last two times weâ€™ve played them and playing them in Japan is going to be a huge match. As a team, there are some things we need to work on, but we canâ€™t get better unless we play great teams. We donâ€™t get these opportunities too often so we have to embrace them and try to accomplish the things we need to do before we get to London.â€
Sundhage is bringing the same 23 players that were in Portugal at the 2012 Algarve Cup as she continues the process of narrowing the roster down to the 18 players who will represent the USA in the 2012 Olympics.
This will be the third trip for the U.S. Women to Japan after facing the Japanese three times in three different cities in 1998 and twice in two different cities in 2006. The match in Sendai will be the second meeting between the two Womenâ€™s World Cup finalists since that tournament, as Japan pulled off a 1-0 victory against the USA on March 5 during group play at the Algarve Cup in Portugal. It was Japanâ€™s first-ever victory over the USA in regulation time.
Sendai, located on the east coast of northern Japan, suffered catastrophic damage from the magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake on March 11, 2011 (just nine days after the USA had played Japan in the 2011 Algarve Cup), which triggered a massive, destructive tsunami. Yurtec Stadium, which was built in 1997 and seats 20,000, was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami.
Chiba, which is a large suburb of Tokyo, is located near the east coast of central Japan. Fukuda Denshi Arena, which was completed in 2005, seats 18,500.
The USAâ€™s most recent meeting with Brazil was one for the ages. The USA weathered a controversial ejection and played more than an hour of the 2011 FIFA Womenâ€™s World Cup quarterfinal with 10 players before dramatically tying the score in the 122nd minute on Abby Wambachâ€™s now famous header goal, the latest ever scored in a World Cup.
The USA heads to Japan with a record of 9-1-0 on the year with just one of the games played on home soil. Forward Alex Morgan leads the USA in scoring in 2012, having found the net 11 times in the nine matches she played. Morganâ€™s hat trick (the first of her career) against Sweden in the third-place match of the Algarve Cup on March 5 made her the 15th player in U.S. history to reach double-figures in goals during a calendar year.
Wambach heads to Japan with 134 career goals and nine in 2012. Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux have seven goals each, while Amy Rodriguez has six.
Roster by Position - Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Hope SoloÂ
DEFENDERS (9): Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley Oâ€™Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather Oâ€™Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby WambachÂ