Sydney Leroux (#2) in action for the United States in an Algarve Cup match against Japan on March 5, 2014, in Parchal, Portugal. (Photo: Paulo Cordeiro/isiphotos.com)
PARCHAL, Portugal -- The United States women's national team conceded a late goal and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Japan on Wednesday in the Group B opener for each at the 2014 Algarve Cup.
In their first meeting since the 2012 Olympic Games gold medal match (an encounter which the U.S. won, 2-1), Sydney Leroux gave the Americans a 59th minute lead, before Aya Miyama leveled with seven minutes remaining in normal time.
Despite a distinct advantage in attempted shots (20-8), the USA’s goal came as a result of Leroux sliding to block a clearance from Japan goalkeeper Erina Yamane and directing the ball into an open net.
Miyama, Japan's captain, struck off a free kick from 35 yards out, hitting a severe knuckler that diving goalkeeper Hope Solo could only parry into the upper right corner.
The U.S. created multiple scoring opportunities throughout the afternoon, including a Carli Lloyd effort that was called back for offside in the second minute. Leroux had a header cleared off the line early in the second half, saw a shot from distance in the 73rd minute crash off the left post and missed just wide in the last minute.
Up next for the Americans will be Sweden on March 7 in Albufeira, Portugal. The winners of Group A and Group B will advance directly to the March 12 final.
NOTES: The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 43 games (36-7-0) dating back to March of 2012, when it lost to Japan, also at the Algarve Cup.