USA drops opener to Japan at Under-20 Women's World Cup

The USA's record at the Under-20 Women's World Cup is impressive:

-- Three championships,
-- One third-place finish;
-- Two fourth-place finishes; and
-- Berths in the quarterfinals in all eight tournaments.

But it has its work cut out if it wants to get out of the group stage in 2018.

The USA dropped a 1-0 decision to Japan in its opening game at France 2018 and still has to face European champion Spain, which beat Paraguay, 4-1, in the first Group C match played in the small Breton town of Concarneau on Monday.

Both the USA and Japan had their chances, but the match was decided on Honoka Hayashi's shot from more than 30 yards out that skimmed under the crossbar and beat American keeper Laurel Ivory in the 76th minute.

In the 31st minute, Ivory made a brilliant save to deny Saori Takarada, whose initial header hit the crossbar and follow-up attempt was tipped over the goal.

Sophia Smith, 17, entered the game with a nine-game goal-scoring streak, but she was denied in the 41st minute by Japan's American goalkeeper, Hannah Stambaugh, after she broke to her left and had a clear shot on goal.

The USA had several late chances after Japan went ahead. In the 90th minute, Stambaugh pushed away Jaelin Howell's header directed at the top corner. On her second header three minutes later, Howell beat Stambaugh, but Riko Ushijima, one of two Japanese defenders well-positioned on the line, cleared the ball away.

Next up: Paraguay on Thursday at the Stade Guy Piriou in Concarneau (TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, FS2, Universo).

Aug. 6 in Concarneau
USA 0 Japan 1. Goal: Hayashi 76.
USA -- Ivory, I.Rodriguez (Fox 84), Hiatt, Girma, Pickett, Villacorta, Howell, Gilroy, Sanchez (Kim, 63), Smith, DeMelo (Pinto 72).
Japan -- Stambaugh, Minami, Ushijima, Takahashi, Kitamura, Hayashi (Fukuta 89), Miyazawa, Nagano, Takarada (Endo 61), Miyagawa (Muraoka 84), Ueki.
Referee: Gladys Lengwe (Zambia).
Att.: 2,332.

Shots: 10 / 14
Shots on Goal: 3 / 4
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 3
Fouls: 6 / 12
Offside: 2 / 3
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