Monday, March 5, 2012
Japan again gets best of U.S. women
By Scott French
No Algarve Cup title for the U.S. women's national team this year.
The Americans' Women's World Cup title-game rematch with Japan didn't go their way, a 1-0 loss in Monday's Group B final ending their run of 10 successive finals at the annual event in Portugal.
Megumi Takase headed home a corner kick from former L.A. Sol star Aya Miyama in the 84th minute to send the Japanese, who prevailed on penalties in last year's WWC final in Germany, to the Algarve championship match Wednesday against the Germans. A draw would have sent the U.S. to the final.
The U.S., shut out for the first time in 58 matches -- since November 2008 -- will meet Sweden in the third-place game. The Swedes lost the Group A finale to Germany, 4-0.
“I think in the first half, we looked very nervous and the decision-making was off,” U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage told U.S. Soccer's website. “Too many times we gave away the ball in situations when we were not even under pressure or in tight spaces. We couldn’t keep the ball enough to be dangerous.
“When you give away the ball against Japan, they keep it. It’s so much defending. Mentally and physically, that’s tough. … Overall you could tell there is a lot of things to work on and, especially looking at Japan, their technique and how they keep the ball. They should be role models for the world, the way they play.”
The U.S., preparing for this summer's London Olympics, had won eight Algarve titles since 2000, including seven of the last nine. Germany in 2006 and Sweden in 2009 overcame the Americans on penalties in the final.
“I think, more than anything, it opens our eyes to areas we can improve in,” U.S. midfielder Heather O’Reilly told media afterward. “Better now that we have this experience than later during the Olympics. I think we have a lot to learn from and a lot grow from, but we’re trying to pull the positives out of it.”
Sundhage's starting lineup included Redondo Beach's Shannon Boxx, Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan, Lake Forest's Amy Rodriguez and Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach, plus former UCLA All-American Lauren Cheney. Sydney Leroux, who wrapped her UCLA career last fall, came on for Wambach in the 72nd minute.