The match marked the second game in U.S. women's history on a synthetic Fieldturf surface and the U.S. team struggled with the hard ground throughout the match, while the technical Japanese seemed to thrive on it.
After some early U.S. pressure from the opening whistle, a talented Japan side put together a four-minute flurry from the 17th to the 20th minutes that challenged the U.S. and ended in a goal. In the 17th minute Aya Shimokozuru fired a volley off a corner kick that beat diving U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry and was headed into the right corner, but U.S. forward Lindsay Tarpley, who was standing at the left post, cleared it away.
In the 19th minute, Japanese forward Mio Otani got behind the defense, but with defender Heather Mitts putting a body on her, fired her shot right at Scurry, who made the save with her body before Mitts was able to clear.
Japan's pressure finally paid off in the 20th minute, as Eriko Arakawa beat the U.S. back line with yards to spare off a cross-field pass from Tomomi Miyamoto and raced in on Scurry for a one-on-one. From the penalty spot, the Japanese midfielder rolled her shot past Scurry's right foot and into the net from 12 yards out.
The U.S. did not fire its first shot until the 28th minute when Shannon Boxx blasted one from 22 yards over the net. Wambach had a chance in the 42nd minute, skipping a header over the crossbar off a driven free kick from Mia Hamm.
The second half was a different story for the U.S., though, with second half substitute and Chevrolet Player of the Game Aly Wagner making a difference in the midfield and defenders Christie Rampone and Brandi Chastain both creating danger on the right and left flanks, respectively.
Early in the half a great U.S. buildup sprung Rampone free down right flank and she hit a hard cross on ground that Hamm hit with a first-time shot at the near post, but spun the ball right into the hands of Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago.
The USA goal finally came in the 59th minute off another great buildup that started down the right flank. Midfielder Julie Foudy cut the ball back and launched a cross to Hamm, who volleyed the ball to the penalty spot. Wagner managed to get a head on the ball and flicked it to the far post, where Wambach ran onto the bouncing ball and struck a volley into the upper right corner to tie the game.
Immediately following the U.S. goal, U.S. goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill, who came on for Scurry at halftime, came up with a huge save, snuffing a one-one chance with Otani then scrambling to smother the rebound.
Japan would have two more great chances in the games final minutes as Tomoe Sakai hit a blast from 20 yards in the 87th minute that rattled the crossbar and fell dangerously to Otani, who tried to stuff the ball into the lower left corner of the goal, but missed just wide as Luckenbill applied pressure. Three minutes later Otani had yet another chance on a ball floated into the area, but her dangerous one-time strike was just off target.
U.S. forward Cindy Parlow had the last chance of the match, but drilled her volley off a corner kick over the crossbar in stoppage time. It was the third consecutive time the USA has tied Japan after winning the first 13 matches of the series.
The U.S. team now returns to the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif., for a week of training before breaking training for several weeks. The U.S. team will regroup in late June to prepare for their next match on July 3 vs. Canada in Nashville, Tenn. (7 p.m. CT on ESPN). The USA will finish its Olympic preparation with matches on July 21 vs. Australia in Blaine, Minn. (6 p.m. CT on ESPN2), and with an Olympic send-off match on Aug. 1 in Hartford, Conn. against China (3 p.m. ET on ESPN2).
U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM GAME REPORT
Match-up: USA vs. Japan
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium; Louisville, Kentucky
Date: June 6, 2004; Kickoff - 4 p.m. ET
Weather: Hot, humid; 82 degrees
1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
JPN 1 0 1
JPN - Eriko Arakawa (Tomomi Miyamoto) 20th minute.
USA - Abby Wambach (Aly Wagner) 59.
USA: 1-Briana Scurry (24-Kristin Luckenbill, 46); 21-Heather Mitts (3-Christie Rampone, 46), 4-Cat Reddick (6-Brandi Chastain, 46), 14-Joy Fawcett, 15-Kate Markgraf; 7-Shannon Boxx, 11-Julie Foudy-Capt., 13-Kristine Lilly; 20-Abby Wambach (12-Cindy Parlow, 72), 16-Lindsay Tarpley (10-Aly Wagner, 46), 9-Mia Hamm (8-Shannon MacMillan, 72).
Subs not used: 30-Christie Welsh
Head Coach: April Heinrichs.
JPN: 1-Nozomi Yamago, 2-Hiromi Isozaki - Capt., 4-Kyoko Yano, 5-Naoko Kawakami (15-Yasuyo Yamagishi, 88), 7-Emi Yamamoto (18-Miyuki Yanagita, 75), 8-Tomomi Miyamoto, 9-Eriko Arakawa (19-Karina Maruyama, 68), 11-Mio Otani, 13-Kozue Ando (16-Yayoi Kobayashi, 57; 21-Ayako Kitamoto, 88), 17-Aya Shimokozuru.
Subs Not Used: 3-Yumi Obe, 12-Shiho Onodera.
Head Coach: Eiji Ueda
Shots: 8 / 12
Shots on Goal: 3 / 7
Saves: 6 / 2
Corner Kicks: 3 / 6
Fouls: 5 / 5
Offside: 1 / 2
JPN - Hiromi Isozaki (Caution) 55th minute.
Ref: Clareth Jimenez Granados (Costa Rica)
AR1: Sharon Wheeler (USA)
AR2: Brenda Wright (USA)
4th: Sandra Hunt (USA)
Chevrolet Player of the Game: Aly Wagner