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2023 SheBelieves Cup - USA 1-0 Japan: Mal and Murphy make the difference in a tricky fixture

The USA faced a test against Japan and passed

2023 SheBelieves Cup - Japan v United States Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

After a solid win against Canada to begin the SheBelieves Cup, the USWNT would greet Japan in Nashville looking to keep their 2023 win streak going. Thanks to a goal late in the first half from Mal Swanson, the Stars and Stripes would do just that. The game was well played by both sides as each team stayed organized and tried to breakthrough their opponent’s defenses. Casey Murphy would have a stellar game in goal making some huge plays to keep the score 1-0 as that would be the final in Nashville.

The USA lined up with a few changes in the XI with only Ashley Sanchez, Lindsey Horan, and Alex Morgan returning as starters.

Japan set up in a 4-4-2 with a strong XI featuring Manchester City’s Yui Hasegawa, Saki Kumagai of Bayern Munich, and Hina Sugita from the Portland Thorns.

Gifs of a cagey game

Japan would be a good test for the USA. The team features players with solid technical skills and are well organized tactically. Each team tried to open the other out and the opening 30 minutes was fairly back and forth. The USA had a solid chance in the 15th as Lynn Williams sent a shross toward the Japan goal that keeper Yamashita tipped into the crossbar and kept out of the net.

Minutes later, Sofia Huerta would gift Japan a chance as the team picked off her poor pass and created a good chance for the visitors.

As the half ticked on, there wasn’t much to say other than... Japan was really well organized and making the most of their time on the ball while the USA was really well organized and finding it challenging to pick apart their opponents. It seemed like the teams would go into the locker rooms with that being the story of the half until a long ball was played to Alex Morgan at midfield. The forward passed it into space for Mal Swanson to run onto and the striker outran her defender and beat Yamashita in a one v one to make the score 1-0.

That would be the score at the half and when the USA returned for the second 45, Emily Sonnett came on for Sofia Huerta. The second half transpired much as the first with each team playing solid soccer, but not being able to do much to unlock the opposition’s defense.

The second half substitute procession would also begin as Andi Sullivan and Trinity Rodman came in for Ashley Sanchez and Lynn Williams. Swanson and Morgan would soon follow them as Ashley Hatch and Megan Rapinoe entered the fray.

As the game entered the later stages Japan began knocking on the door as a shot from Fuka Nagano from the top of the 18 went just inches over the bar. Naomi Girma also made a kick save in front of goal and minutes later Casey Murphy made a diving save to keep things at 1-0.

Murphy would once again be called upon in injury time as she once again made a stop from point blank range to keep Japan out of the net. In the end, that would be the difference as Japan put forward a tireless effort to try and find an equalizer that ultimately went for naught.