The USA vs Japan rematch was going at a steady clip before the skies opened up over Cleveland and steady, heavy downpour complete with lightning sent the players and fans inside FirstEnergy Stadium.
Starting XI: Hope Solo, Kelley O'Hara, Julie Johnston, Becky Sauerbrunn, Meghan Klingenberg, Morgan Brian, Allie Long, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath
Subs: Samantha Mewis, Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Heather O'Reilly, Emily Sonnett, Lindsey Horan, Alyssa Naeher
The United States was theoretically supposed to come out in a 4-3-3 with Allie Long and Christen Press sitting in the midfield ahead of Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath and Crystal Dunn providing width. In practice, Press moved up a little higher than that, acting just about as a second forward with Alex Morgan, which allowed her to get into dangerous positions in and around the box, though she ultimately didn't get a goal.
Japan was still committed to pressuring the US all over the field, but both teams were slower, having just come off a full 90 at altitude a few days ago. Much time was spent trying to stay settled and maintain possession while patiently looking for a way out the team's own half.
Crystal Dunn continued to show off her prowess as a creative force, several times bending balls around the back line for Alex Morgan. If Alex Morgan has been better on the ball recently, her service has also increased its quality, and Dunn has shown this year for both club and country that even when she's not scoring, she's an incredible offensive threat.
The first goal came in the 27', originating from a free kick that crossed the 18 to Allie Long, who put the ball back across the face of goal for Julie Johnston running in at the back post. Johnston was about half a step offside, but the ref counted the goal.
Alex Morgan and Christen Press continued to work together to create danger around the goal, while Japan's pressure kept forcing very quick play from the US in the back. After that first goal, the US spent long stretches penned into their own half, looking for a way out. Morgan Brian was being marked thoroughly enough to keep her from helping to solve that pressure too much; neither was Allie Long quite connective enough to distribute to anyone running into space. There were a few long balls attempted over the top for Alex Morgan, but Japan effectively cut those out.
Teams went into the half at 1-0, with the US outshooting Japan six to one, with five shots on goal to zero SOG for Japan.
The second half started brightly with Alex Morgan again testing Japan's keeper with a blast at close range. Press also continued to create opportunities, including a cross right across the face of goal for Heath that didn't quite get under Heath's feet correctly.
Head coach Jill Ellis made her first sub in the 57', pulling Morgan Brian for Lindsey Horan. Instead of working Brian on a nagging injury in two high-pace games so close to each other, it might have been more beneficial to start Horan instead of continuing to sub her in.
The United States' second goal came in the 62' as the US quickly moved the ball up the field to Dunn, who weighted it perfectly around a defender and into Alex Morgan's waiting feet.
The US continued to push back at Japan, putting together some good ball movement around the box; sometimes it ended in retreat and sometimes it ended in service, like Kelley O'Hara's 68' cross to the far post that ended up being punched out. With Japan's 6'2" goalkeeper Erina Yamane in net, aerial battles tended to end this way, but the buildup itself was solid.
The 75' saw what would ultimately be the US' final sub, with Dunn coming out for Ali Krieger, who barely set foot on the field before the rain came down like curtains. Ultimately, the game was called in the 76'.
Still, 75 minutes is enough to get a sense for how the game went and how it might have ended. Japan was not putting balls on frame and Hope Solo was not nearly as tested as she was in the last match, though the defense had some slip-ups - once again, Klingenberg getting caught high, and some uncharacteristically bad touches from Becky Sauerbrunn.
Sports are funny, so there's no way to definitively say the United States would have won this one, but it was certainly a different game from the 3-3 tie on Thursday, and good practice for the compressed schedule of the Olympics when the team will certainly face the same high pressure on increasingly weary legs.
Players now return to their NWSL clubs for a few weeks before their Olympic sendoff friendlies against South Africa in July.