The second friendly between the United States and Japan made it 76 minutes before the thunder, lightning, and heavy rains rolled in over FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Ali Krieger had just been subbed on by head coach Jill Ellis for Crystal Dunn, and less than a minute later, the referees were waving the players off the field and benches. Meanwhile, the 23,535 fans up in the stands scrambled for cover and endured a rain delay of about an hour before the match was finally abandoned.
U.S. Soccer is still waiting to hear a definitive answer from FIFA if the match and statistics will stand as official.
Prior to the inclement weather, this game had already proved a very different sort than the first meeting on June 2. The Americans had a much stronger opening, including a flurry of shots in the first minute. Julie Johnston opened scoring this time around, after Japan miscleared a Tobin Heath free kick in the 27th minute. Meghan Klingenberg was able to retrieve the ball, pass it to Allie Long, who then sent it across the face of goal to Johnston, who looked offside.
Alex Morgan continued her scoring ways of 2016, with the assist on the goal coming from Crystal Dunn in the 62nd minute.
Here are the takeaways from the second USA v Japan friendly:
What did we just say about Alex Morgan? Three goals in two matches against a quality side like Brazil is never a bad thing, but it’s especially great for Morgan. But she was more than just goal-scoring in these two matches, and she’s been more than just finishing in the NWSL as well. She’s reading the game better than ever. Add in quality service from players like Crystal Dunn, who’s also making leaps and bounds in the playmaking division this season so far on the NWSL side, and everything’s starting to come together for USA.
Alex Morgan has 11 goals in 11 #USWNT games this year.
She has 7 goals in 22 games in all of 2015.
— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) June 5, 2016
A beauty by Alex. Great timing for her to be closing in on full confidence w Oly's fast approaching. https://t.co/AWNBQASc3A
— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) June 5, 2016
This wasn’t the same challenge as last time — Japan still had spells of possession, but decided to copy the American defensive lapses and questionable marking from the June 2 game. They also favored clearing the ball out of their defensive third over control. The team definitely learned more from game one against Japan, but the rebound is just as important for morale.
Goalkeeping improved between the two games thanks to Erina Yamane, but the entire sequence that led to Johnston’s goal was uncharacteristic for the Nadeshiko.
Hope Solo is one game closer to 100 shutouts — As expected, Solo started today’s game against Japan. Unlike Thursday’s match, she had considerably less to do. Still, it’s another inch closer to the record, which she now has a chance to set in Chicago on July 9. At this point, it’s unlikely that either Alyssa Naeher or Ashlyn Harris get a start before Rio.
From the U.S. Soccer release prior to the game: “Solo has earned shutouts against 28 different countries, including four against Japan. With 195 caps, Solo is the leader for caps by a goalkeeper in world and U.S. history, and is five away from becoming the first goalkeeper in U.S. and world history to hit 200, which she will likely reach in the Olympics.”
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@ussoccer_wnt) June 5, 2016
Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons had some fun with this vine of Allie Long — And Alex Morgan kept the fun going.
?? – Hey Allie, you good for Chicago away next week?
?? – ??
?? – Boomhttps://t.co/dPUvkzrUSL
— Mark Parsons (@mparsons_1) June 5, 2016
Ali Krieger’s going to feel that storm the most — Krieger’s still outside looking in on a starting back four spot with Jill Ellis, and not getting another fifteen minutes to prove her worth has to sting. In the meantime, there’s still Washington Spirit matches, but it’s not the same as coming in off the bench and making an immediate mark on the game.
Ali Krieger with only 1 start in last 9 games for #USWNT.
— John D. Halloran (@JohnDHalloran) June 5, 2016
The Spirit travel to Boston to take on the last-place Breakers on June 10, then host the Orlando Pride on June 18. It could be the best of both worlds for Krieger: put on the moves offensively on the wing against the Breakers, then shut down Alex Morgan and co. at the Plex. But with the Olympics so close, regaining that starting spot in the back four is a very tall mountain for Krieger to climb.