The U.S. Women's national soccer team will take on Japan in an upcoming international friendly double-header in a replay of the 2015 Women's FIFA World Cup final.
Jill Ellis' side will take on their World Cup rivals in the run-up to the Rio Olympics this summer at Dick's Sporting Goods Park—the home of MLS side Colorado Rapids—on Thursday, June 2, and again on Sunday, June 5, in Cleveland.
Read on for a preview of the upcoming friendlies, but first, here is the schedule and live-streaming information to ensure you don't miss any of the action:
|USA vs. Japan Friendly Schedule|
|Date||Time (ET)||Fixture||TV||Live Stream|
|Thursday, June 2||9 p.m.||USA vs. Japan||Fox Sports 1||Fox Sports Go|
|Sunday, June 5||12:30 p.m.||USA vs. Japan||ESPN 2||Watch ESPN|
The USWNT come into the match unbeaten in 2016, having won all of their 11 matches.
Incredibly, they've conceded just one goal in that time and netted a staggering 42, 10 of which came in their last two matches—friendlies with Colombia on the back of winning the inaugural SheBelieves Cup.
The USA are riding the crest of a wave right now, so it's of little surprise that Thursday's friendly at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City will be packed with supporters, per Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl:
Grant Wahl @GrantWahl
The USWNT-Japan game in Denver area didn't just sell out—it sold out in 10 minutes. Rockstars.2016-4-8 16:48:24
Indeed, the women's team's matches have been especially well-attended in recent months, per football writer John D. Halloran:
John D. Halloran @JohnDHalloran
Comparison of attendance for recent #USMNT/#USWNT home friendlies. https://t.co/8qR16gM3bu2016-5-29 14:22:32
Against an excellent team like Japan, fans should be in for a treat if the last two World Cup finals have been anything to go by.
USWNT won 5-2 in the final last year to avenge their defeat in the 2011 showpiece, which Japan won on penalties.
It's not likely to be quite so high-scoring this time around despite the number of goals the U.S. has been racking up of late—they've put plenty of minnows to the sword, but against bigger sides such as England, France, Canada and Germany, they've been limited to one or two goals.
The Chicago Red Stars' Christen Press netted in both games against Colombia. She now has 33 goals in her 66 international caps, which helped her continue her climb up the team's goalscoring rankings, per ESPN's Paul Carr:
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
33rd goal in 66 caps for Christen Press, passing Lindsay Tarpley into 16th on #USWNT career scoring list. Next up: Leroux/Heinrichs w/ 35.2016-4-10 18:37:41
Even more impressive has been Denver native Mallory Pugh, who has stood out despite all of her caps thus far coming before the age of 18:
Paul Carr @PCarrESPN
This was Mallory Pugh's last U.S. game before turning 18. She has 11 caps (5th-most for #USWNT before 18), 2 goals (3rd), 5 assists (1st).2016-4-10 20:04:43
Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn have also enjoyed some fine form this year, which bodes well for the U.S. against even Japan's organised and solid defence.
Further back, Hope Solo could earn the 100th clean sheet of her USWNT career if she can shut out Japan in both friendlies—making her the first goalkeeper in American history to do so.
Per US Soccer, Solo is happy to be back in action with the national team to prepare for the Olympics and is relishing the prospect of facing Japan once again:
It’s good to be back in camp. I think what’s great is that everyone is fit because we’ve been playing games in the NWSL. Of course, there’s a couple of people who are battling injuries like Carli Lloyd but she’s coming back healthy and strong. It’s nice to see everyone feel confident because we’ve been playing, we’ve been getting minutes. I think it makes for a short, strong camp where we can get in specific work.
We have two games against a great team. I know Japan doesn’t have a lot of their well-known players but we’re all really excited to see the younger, technical side of Japan. We don’t know what they’re going to bring but it will be great, and it will be a little bit different than what we’ve seen in the past.
In contrast with their opponents, the Japanese have endured some mixed form this year, as they suffered defeats to Australia and China PR in two of their first three matches.
Results have picked up since, with a 6-1 win over Vietnam and a 1-0 win over North Korea, but it's clear they'll be up against it on Thursday.
With the far superior form and the partisan crowd behind them, the USA shouldn't have too much difficulty winning here.