U17 WNT defeats Japan at NTC Invitational

U17 WNT defeats Japan at NTC Invitational
by J.R. Eskilson
February 16, 2016

CARSON, Calif. — The U.S. captured its third straight NTC Invitational Championship on Monday with a 2-1 win against Japan at the Glenn ‘Mooch’ Myernick Field on a warm afternoon in Southern California. 

The U.S. did the damage in the first half and then saw out the result in the second half with a stout performance from the defense and goalkeeper Laurel Ivory. Earlier in the tournament, the U.S. defeated England 2-0 and then topped Korea Republic by the same score. Japan trounced Korea Republic 5-0, but was held to a 1-1 draw against England, which gave the U.S. the top spot heading into the final game of the competition on Monday. 

The U.S. went on the attack from the opening whistle and found success through center forward Civana Kuhlmann, who outworked the Japan defense for much of the afternoon. Kuhlmann had a role in both of the goals for the U.S. on the day. 

Japan snapped the U.S. shutout streak after 210 minutes with a goal in the 30th minute. 

The U.S. U17 WNT is next in action at the CONCACAF Championship, which kicks off on March 3, as they attempt to qualify for the 2016 U17 World Cup. 

U.S. U17 Women’s National Team 2-1 Japan 

Ashley Sanchez put away the opener in the 10th minute. The play started with right center back Karina Rodriguez. The UCLA commit hit a ball behind the Japan defense in an effort to break the high pressure from the visitors. Civana Kuhlmann did well to win the foot race to the ball and then hold off the defenders. The striker played the ball to Brianna Pinto who worked her way to the end line and hit a cross to the center of the box. Sanchez was on the far post and knocked the cross down and then punched it in. 

Seconds later, the U.S. nearly made it 2-0 when Kate Wiesner put a couple of Japan defenders on skates and then dribbled along the end line on the left side of the U.S. attack. Wiesner put a teasing ball into the corner of the six-yard box. Japan was lucky that a retreating defender put the ball out for a corner kick. 

U.S. continued to look for Kuhlmann as the outlet througout the first half and nearly found another goal from the game plan in the 21st minute. Sanchez spun her defender off her back in the midfield and served a pass into the path of Kuhlmann, who looked like she timed her run well. However, the assistant referee put her flag up and deemed Kuhlmann had been on the wrong side of the second to last defender. 

The U.S. finally found the second goal of the game in the 28thminute when with Kuhlmann punishing the Japan defense again. Kuhlmann took on a pair of U.S. defenders on the dribble and then ripped a cross into the box for Pinto. A defender put her body in front of Pinto but she knocked the ball into her goal. 

Japan answered nearly immediately through the talented midfielder on a well worked goal. The final touch came from inside the box after Japan had looked from an opening in the U.S. backline down the right side of the U.S. defense. 

The U.S. looked gassed following the goal and Japan had a couple of chances to grab the equalizer. In the 39th minute, the U.S. defense was off balanced, which allowed a Japan attacker to sneak in on the wing unmarked. Goalkeeper Laurel Ivory came up big with a great stop on the shot from 12 yards out. 

With four minutes left in the half, Japan nearly beat the U.S. dense with a diagonal ball between the two center backs. However, a heavy touch from the Japan forward allowed Ivory to pluck the ball off the attacker’s foot and handle the danger. 

The U.S. went into the break with the lead. Head coach B.J. Snow elected to change the formation in the second half, as he brought off center midfielder Jaelin Howell and replaced her with winger Sophia Smith. The change pushed the U.S. into a 4-4-2 with Sanchez moving into a more central role off of Kuhlmann. 

The U.S., as a team, did well in the first part of the second half absorbing the pressure of Japan and limiting the chances as the visitors pushed for a goal in the early stages of the latter 45-minute period. 

Japan’s intricate passing found some success in the 62nd minute hone a passing sequence facilitated an open shot near the corner of the six-yard box. Ivory did well with his positioning before the shot and reacted well to the close range blast. The goalkeeper blocked the shot and then relied on her defense to clear the ball from danger. 

Snow turned to his bench again in the 65th minute when he called on Frankie Tagliaferi and Emily Smith to replace Rodriguez and Sydney Zandi. In total, the coach made six changes in the second half as he utilized his bench on a day when the temperatures reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The U.S., arguably, had the best chance in the second half. Sanchez picked off a pass along the Japan defense and found herself free on goal. The Japan goalkeeper did well to block the shot in the 77th minute and keep it close for the final minutes of the game. 

Japan had another look in the 90th minute when a pass split a pair of defenders and allowed a Japan forward to turn on goal from 14 yards out. The shot went wide of the goal and the U.S. killed off the three minutes of stoppage time to claim the title at the event. 

U.S. U17 WNT Starting XI: Laurel Ivory; Kennedy Wesley, Karina Rodriguez, Naomi Girma, Kate Wiesner; Sydney Zandi, Jaelin Howell; Alexa Spaanstra, Brianna Pinto, Ashley Sanchez; Civana Kuhlmann 

Subs: Sophia Smith for Howell 46’; Emily Smith for K. Rodriguez 65’; Frankie Tagliaferri for Zandi 65’; Rachel Jones for Spaanstra 74’; Taryn Torres for Pinto 85’; Isabel Rodriguez for Wiesner 85’ 

Related Topics: Pacific 12
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