U.S. WOMEN WILL TRAVEL TO JAPAN FOR TWO MATCHES IN MAY; REMATCHES OF 2004 OLYMPIC QUARTERFINAL WILL SEE USA FACE JAPAN ON MAY 7 IN KUMAMOTO AND ON MAY 9 IN OSAKA
U.S. Women Will Make First Trip to Japan Since 1998;
USA and 11th Ranked Japan Will Play Before Japan Men’s National Team on May 9
CHICAGO (April 6, 2006) – The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team will travel to Japan for a pair of matches in early May, facing Japan on May 7 in Kumamoto and again on May 9 in Osaka. It will be the USA’s first games since the 2006 Algarve Cup in March. Both games are in southern Japan, with Kumamoto located on the most southern island of Kyushu and Osaka on the main island of Honshu.
The matches in Japan will mark the eighth and ninth games of the year for the U.S. women, all of which have been played abroad, before they come home to play the first domestic contest in July.
The U.S. team will begin a slew of domestic matches this summer starting with a game against Sweden on July 15 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota live on at 5 p.m. CT on ESPN2 (tickets). The U.S. team will then take on Canada on July 30 at SAS Soccer Park live at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Telemundo (tickets). More matches will be announced in the upcoming weeks.
“The two games in Japan come at a good time to bridge between the Algarve Cup and our domestic matches this summer,” said U.S. head coach Greg Ryan, whose team opened Residency Training Camp on April 2 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. “As we saw at the 2004 Olympics, Japan is a very difficult team to play against, and probably more so on their home soil. Their technical style and ability to keep possession will be a great test for our young team.”
The first match on May 7 at the 32,000-seat KK Wing Stadium will be the first meeting between the teams since Aug. 20, 2004, a 2-1 U.S. win during the quarterfinals of the 2004 Olympics. The match will kick off at 1 p.m. local time (Midnight ET). The second leg will be played at the 50,000-seat Nagai Stadium with a kick off of 4:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET). It will serve as the opening game of a doubleheader that also features the Japanese Men’s National Team in one of their final 2006 FIFA World Cup tune-ups against Bulgaria. Nagai hosted three 2002 FIFA World Cup matches.
The U.S. women last visited Japan in 1998 for a three-game tour that took the Americans through Tokyo, Kobe and Yokohama, where they played at the eventual 2002 World Cup Final venue. The USA got three wins on that tour by scores of 2-1, 2-0 and 3-0. The USA is 14-0-3 all-time against Japan, but the improving Japanese side strung together three straight draws against the USA with a 1-1 tie in 2000, a 0-0 result in 2003 and another 1-1 deadlock in 2004, before the Americans came out on top, 2-1, at the Olympics on goals from Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach. No other team has ever tied the United States women three times in a row.
While the U.S. women have made numerous trips to China over the years, the two-game set in Japan will mark just the third trip to the Asian Confederation for matches not in China. Prior to the trip to Japan in 1998, the USA had visited Taiwan in 1987. During that trip to Japan in 1998, Lilly set the world record for international appearances for women with her 152nd cap, a number she has since more than doubled.
Japan sits 11th in the current FIFA Women’s World Rankings and has participated in all four FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments. In fact, the USA played Japan in both the 1991 Women’s World Cup (a 3-0 win in group play) and at the 1995 FIFA Women’s World Cup (a 4-0 win in the quarterfinal). Japan’s best player is midfielder Homare Sawa, a veteran of the WUSA with the Atlanta Beat. The crafty Sawa is widely hailed as one of the top creative midfielders in the world and captains a team that has become increasingly difficult to beat.
At the 2004 Olympics, Japan played in the three-team Group E and upset Sweden, 1-0, on a goal from forward Eriko Arakawa, then fell to Nigeria by the same score. In the Olympic quarterfinal against the USA, Lilly scored in the 43rd minute, but Japan equalized through Emi Yamamoto in the 48th. The USA needed an unusual goal from Abby Wambach to win the game. The tally came after Shannon Boxx beat the Japanese offside trap and raced in uncontested at Japanese goalkeeper Nozomi Yamago before laying a short pass back to Wambach who tapped it into the open net.
The U.S. women have also learned their qualifying road to the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup as CONCACAF unveiled the format for the 2006 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which will be held in the United States at venues to be determined in late November. The final qualifying tournament will feature a six-team, single-elimination type format with the top two teams qualifying directly for the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China, and the third-place finisher earning a berth to a two-game home-and-away playoff against the third place finisher from the Asian Confederation. The USA and Canada will earn byes to the semifinal round of the Women's Gold Cup, meaning the USA will have to win just one game to earn a spot in China.
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