CONCARNEAU, France – The U.S. Under-20 national team dropped a 1-0 decision to Japan 1-0 in a Group C match at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in the opener for both teams Monday.
The Americans had their chances to earn at least a point, but fell victim to a long-range effort from Honoka Hayashi in the 76th minute that flew over leaping U.S. goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, skimmed off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced over the line.
The U.S. will take on Paraguay in its second Group C game on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. ET (FS2, UNIVERSO). Paraguay fell to Spain, 4-1, in the other Group C game of the afternoon.
Both teams took time finding their rhythm in the first half. The U.S. pushed forward early with a few dangerous runs, but both defenses were stout and limited any real scoring opportunities.
Japan nearly took the lead in the 30th minute when a mishit clearance landed at the feet of forward Saori Takarada as her looping header hit the crossbar. Japan kept the ball alive in front of the net and sent another looping header on fame that Ivory saved, flying to tip it into the air and the caught it on the way down before she was smashed into the goal by a Japanese player. A foul was called.
Aside from a header off a corner kick that midfielder Jaelin Howell pushed wide early on, forward Sophia Smith had the best U.S. opportunity of the first half when she raced into the left side of the box in the 41st minute. Japan goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh was quick off her line to snuff out the shot to keep the game scoreless.
Japan took a bit more of the attacking initiative in the second half, but only threated the goal a handful of times and could not get behind the U.S. defense due to some excellent play from center backs Samantha Hiatt and Naomi Girma as well as outside backs Isabel Rodriguez and Kiara Pickett.
The U.S.’s best chance to take the lead came in the 70th minute when substitute Abigail Kim sprinted down the right side and crossed into the middle, but forward Erin Gilroy couldn’t turn her well-struck header on goal.
After Hayashi’s strike, the USA pushed hard for the equalizer and had five quality chances to knot the match.