Alex Morgan hat-trick fires USA over Japan in Tournament of Nations opener
Alex Morgan capped a seemingly effortless hat-trick by converting off a dazzling piece of footwork by Tobin Heath, and the US rolled to a 4-2 victory over Japan on Thursday night in its opening match of the four-team Tournament of Nations.
Megan Rapinoe also had a goal and an assist for the world’s top-ranked team, which hasn’t lost since the Americans dropped their opening match of the same tournament to Australia last year.
The rematch of those powerhouses is Sunday in East Hartford, Connecticut, after the Matildas opened the defense of their Tournament of Nations title with a on Thursday.
Morgan when she flicked a pass from Rapinoe past Japanese goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita. And her , when Emily Sonnett gathered a cross from Crystal Dunn and popped it ahead to Morgan, who headed in the goal.
The hat-trick was complete after Heath, who had just entered as a substitute, made two Japanese defenders look foolish along the end line. She then swung a centering pass that was deflected to Morgan, who since Olympic qualifying in February 2016.
– and a bizarre, foot-stomping celebration afterward – in the 66th minute as the US team ramped up the offense just as it begins ramping up for World Cup qualifying.
They can secure their spot next year in France during the Concacaf tournament in October.
The performance by coach Jill Ellis’s squad Thursday night wasn’t entirely without fault, though.
After scoring the opener on Morgan’s quick-twitch flick, the US defense quickly broke down, and and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for a matching goal.
Then, midway through the second half, Japan’s Moeno Sakaguchi made a nifty move against Heath before of the net to trim a three-goal deficit to two.
It was nonetheless a solid performance by the Americans in what has become a competitive rivalry with Japan. The teams split matches in the past two World Cup finals, and the US beat Asia’s top team in the gold medal match at the 2012 London Olympics.
Earlier Thursday, defending champ Australia built on an own-goal by Poliana and another mistake by the Brazilian defender in cruising to a 3-1 victory to open the tournament at Children’s Mercy Park.
Tameka Butt added a goal and an assist for the Matildas. Marta scored a late goal for Brazil.