U.S. women draw 1-1 vs. Japan

The U.S. women played Japan to a 1-1 draw in the Algarve Cup opener Wednesday in Portugal.

The U.S. created scoring opportunities and controlled the ball, but the team's lone goal came in the 59th minute when forward Sydney Leroux slid to block a clearing attempt from Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane and the ball bounced into the open net. 

"I think the center-back played to the goalie and the goalie kind of just took a touch and looked to play someone, and I pressured her and slid and hit it," Leroux said of her 27th international goal. "It kind of ricocheted perfectly off my foot into the net. I thought I could get it. She was very lackadaisical, so I said, 'OK, I'll pounce,' and I got her." 

The U.S. outshot Japan 20-8, but Japan captain Aya Miyama tied the score with a late free kick.

"I thought we did more than enough to win the game, and we had enough chances to probably win two or three games," U.S. coach Tom Sermanni said. "But it's the classic tale that if you don't take your chances when the game is at one-nil. It's always very dangerous, particularly when you are playing quality opposition. One free kick, which was a bit questionable, and suddenly the score is one-all."

The U.S. extended its overall unbeaten streak to 43 games (36-0-7) dating to March 2012, when it lost to Japan during group play at the Algarve Cup.

"I think overall it was a good match for both sides," forward Christen Press said. "There was a lot of good possession out there, but it was the first game of the tournament so we had to shake our legs out a bit. I think we are a little disappointed not to come away with the win after having the lead, but I think we are moving in the right direction as a team."

The U.S. faces Sweden and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage on Friday in Albufeira and ends the first round against Denmark on March 10, also in Albufeira. Forward Alex Morgan is not participating due to an ankle injury.

The U.S. has won the tournament in nine of 18 previous trips.

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