[KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP] Alex Morgan scored with 17 minutes remaining for her team-leading 12th goal in 10 games in 2012 to
earn the USA a 1-1 draw with host Japan before a crowd of 15,159 in Sendai in the first game of the Kirin Challenge Cup.
The goal had initially been waved off for offside, but Chinese referee Li Juan then sprinted over to the assistant referee, who had put her flag up, conferred briefly and then correctly signaled for a goal.
Replays showed that not only did the pass to Morgan come off the foot of a Japanese defender, but she was also in an onside position when U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd was dispossessed in the center of the penalty area.
The meeting with world champion Japan was the second in less than a month. Japan beat the USA, 2-1, at the Algarve Cup.
Japan's pressure paid off in the 32nd minute when a ball was lifted over the back line and into the penalty area for Yukari Kinga, who laid the ball off to Yuki Nagasato, whose first shot was spectacularly saved by Hope Solo, but the ball rebounded to Kinga, who plowed her chance into the right side of the net.
"It was an important game for us and excellent environment," said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage. "I am so grateful that we got this kind of game. We can learn from how we played in the first half and how we changed it in the second half. It is great when you have such a big crowd watching and cheering when it really matters, and today it did."
The USA will next face Brazil on Tuesday at Fukuda Denshi Arena. The meeting will be the first between the teams since their quarterfinal match at the 2011 Women's World Cup.
April 1 in Sendai
Japan 1 USA 1. Goals: Kinga 32; Morgan 73.
Japan -- Kaihori, Kinga, Kumagai, Sameshima (Ariyoshi, 67), Tanaka; Yano, Sakaguchi (Sugasawa, 86), Miyama, Kawasumi, Ohno (Utsugi, 86), Nagasato (Ando, 61).
USA -- Solo, LePeilbet, Rampone, Buehler, O'Hara; Cheney, Boxx (Heath, 73), Lloyd, O'Reilly (Rodriguez, 82), Morgan (Leroux, 82), Wambach.
Referee: Li Juan (China).