United States, Japan draw 1-1 at Kirin Cup

ERIC TALMADGE Associated Press Published:

SENDAI, Japan (AP) -- Alex Morgan scored in the 72nd minute to give the United States a 1-1 draw with Japan, the team it lost to in the final of the Women's World Cup last year.

Yukari Kinga beat goalkeeper Hope Solo from close in to give Japan a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute of the Kirin Cup match.

The U.S. created opportunities on the right wing, but Japan's superior speed was dangerous on the counterattack.

The exhibition tournament features three of the top four teams in the world. The U.S. is ranked No. 1 just ahead of Germany, while Japan is No. 3. The other team competing for the title, Brazil, is No. 4.

"I told them to keep pushing until the end," Japan coach Norio Sasaki said. "We could have used more precision in our passes."

The U.S. women's squad went into the game with a big score to settle.

Until the World Cup, it had never lost to Japan -- and the Americans haven't beaten Japan since. Japan won the last encounter 1-0 in Portugal last month.

"This was a very important game for us," U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. "I'm very happy we had the chance to play against one of the best teams in the world, Japan, to prepare for the Olympics."

Sundhage said the game showed the team still has a lot of building to do.

"It was way too defensive in the first half," Sundhage said. "We didn't look as good as we did in the World Cup."

The U.S. plays Brazil on Tuesday. The final game -- Brazil versus Japan -- is on Thursday.