[ALGARVE CUP]The USA opens play at the Algarve Cup in Portugal Wednesday against Japan at Belavista Municipal Stadium in Parchal (kickoff: 7:45 a.m. ET). The match is the first between the two teams since their meeting in the 2012 Olympic gold-medal game, but it has even greater significance as it is two years to the day since Japan handed the USA its last defeat, at the Algarve Cup.
The USA heads into the annual event with a 3-0-0 record in 2014, a 16-0-3 record since Tom Sermanni took charge in 2013 and a 36-0-6 record since the defeat to Japan in 2012. The 42-game unbeaten streak puts the USA within nine games of tying the U.S. record unbeaten streak of 51 games (43-0-8), set in 2004-07.
The USA comes into the tournament with close to a full-strength roster. The notable absentee is Alex Morgan, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.
GOALKEEPERS (3):21-Jill Loyden (Sky Blue FC), 18-Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers), 1-Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (9):14-Stephanie Cox (Seattle Reign FC), 6-Whitney Engen (Tyresö), 25-Meghan Klingenberg (Tyresö), 11-Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), 19-Kristie Mewis (Boston Breakers), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), 3-Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), 16-Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Morgan Brian (Virginia), 17-Tobin Heath (Paris Saint-Germain), 22-Sarah Killion (UCLA), 10-Carli Lloyd (WNY Flash), 12-Samantha Mewis (UCLA), 9-Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), 15-Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (5): 13-Sarah Hagen (Bayern Munich), 2-Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), 23-Christen Press (Tyresö), 8-Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), 20-Abby Wambach (WNY Flash)
JAPAN. Japan will be led by Homare Sawa, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and a former WUSA and WPS player. Sawa and the other 10 starters from the 2012 Olympic gold-medal game are in Portugal.
The 10 players on Japan’s roster based abroad include two who will play in the NWSL for the first time: Aya Sameshima (Houston Dash) and Nahomi Kawasumi (Seattle Reign FC). Japan also has four players based in Germany, three in England and one in France.
Japan is prepping for the 2014 AFC Women's Cup that serves as qualifying for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. The tournament will take place in May in Vietnam, where Japan is grouped with Australia, Jordan and the host country in the first round.
The top five teams will qualify for Canada 2015, so Japan is all but a shoo-in to return for its title defense. (North Korea, the fifth of the big five of Asian soccer, is banned from taking part in the 2015 Women's World Cup.)
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Miho Fukumoto (Okayama Yunogo Belle), 18-Ayumi Kaihori (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 21-Erina Yamane (JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies)
DEFENDERS (7): 2-Yukari Kinga (Arsenal Ladies/ENG), 3-Azusa Iwashimizu (NTV Beleza), 4-Saki Kumagai (FFC Frankfurt/GER), 5-Aya Sameshima (Houston Dash), 12-Megumi Kamionobe (Albirex Niigata Ladies), 19-Saori Ariyoshi (NTV Beleza), 20-Kana Kitahara (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
MIDFIELDERS (9):6-Mizuho Sakaguchi (NTV Beleza), 7-Kozue Ando (FFC Frankfurt/GER), 8-Aya Miyama (Okayama Yunogo Belle), 9-Nahomi Kawasumi (Seattle Reign FC), 10-Homare Sawa (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 13-Rumi Utsugi (Montpellier/FRA), 14-Asuna Tanaka (FFC Frankfurt/GER), 22-Nanase Kiryu (NTV Beleza), 23-Emi Nakajima (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
FORWARDS (4):11-Shinobu Ohno (Arsenal Ladies/ENG), 15-Megumi Takase (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 16-Mana Iwabuchi (Hoffenheim/GER), 17-Yuki Ogimi (Chelsea Ladies/ENG).