TSG’s Maura Gladys brings us home on the USWNT in 2011. Thanks for hard work, Maura.
If she didn’t prove it with her two goals and one in the 2011 World Cup, Alex Morgan proved last night that she deserves a spot in USWNT the starting lineup. Adding immediate spark and speed to a previously stagnant offense, Morgan came close to scoring several times, and set up the United States only goal of the night in a 1-1 tie against Sweden. This girl is not the future of U.S. Soccer. She is now.
Morgan was inserted into the game in the 74th minute, with the U.S. trailing 1-0. Up to that point, the squad had created several good chances, including a Shannon Boxx ringer off the crossbar, a few pushed wide by Amy Rodriguez and a header from Abby Wambach. But up to that point, the U.S. offense had been largely inconsistent and choppy, and their flow was getting broken up just as they were reaching the top of the penalty box, thanks to Sweden’s stout defense and disciplined back four.
But the minute Morgan’s feet hit the pitch, instant offense. First, Lauren Cheney sprung her with a precise ball behind the defense that Morgan ran on to and sent perfectly curving past the Swedish goalkeeper, only to be shut down by the pesky inside of the post.
Then in the 80th minute, the U.S. scored it’s only goal of the night, largely thanks to Morgan. Heather O’Reilly sent a ball over the defense to Morgan who yet again found herself behind the defense. Morgan collected the ball and fired it right at Hamamrstrom who deflected the tough shot right to the feet of a waiting Tobin Heath who struck it into an open goal.
Morgan found her way behind the defense several more times, fed by Lauren Cheney and O’Reilly, with Heath always running up with her, ready to crash or collect a loose ball.
Morgan’s spark had an affect on her teammates as well, especially Tobin Heath, who had seemed nervous and jittery up to that point, and Cheney who had a knack for finding Morgan through the back four.
You get the distinct feeling that had the youngsters been given more time, they almost assuredly could have netted a game-winner. Which goes back to a question we have been asking since this summer’s World Cup. Why isn’t Alex Morgan being used more effectively? As she continues to prove her worth that question is turning more from out-loud speculation to a pointed and spirited call in support of Morgan. Yes, she provides a lift coming off the bench, especially if the team is tied or trailing (which it seems to always be these days). But why let it get to that point when Morgan could score in the first half, giving the U.S. a comfortable lead and no need for a spark? All I want, all I yearn for, is to see Alex Morgan play more than fifteen minutes, preferably with Abby Wambach.
In order for that to happen, a Sundhage favorite, Amy Rodriguez, would need to be dropped from the starting 11, something that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon, especially now that Pia has switched to the 4-3-2-1, where A-Rod has operated a little bit more comfortably.
Sundhage has been stubborn about the situation, and in last night’s game Alex Morgan exposed that with undeniably stellar play that deserves more than a 15 minute run out.
A few more thoughts from the game:
-The 4-2-3-1 worked well last night, especially from a defensive perspective. All four outside backs, Ali Krieger, Becky Sauerbrunn, Heather Mitts and Stephanie Cox made several good offensive runs, rarely getting caught out of position on a turnover, a big concern for Pia going into the game. Sauerbrunn played great and looks poised to challenge for that outside left spot. Krieger has the right one all locked up though. She’s the closest thing the USWNT has to a shut-down defender, and there’s something inherently awesome in the way she pushes forward with the ball, striding up field, eating up the sideline with a steely look of determination.
-Barnhart was really only keeping Hope Solo’s goalmouth warm in her absence, but she proved again that she is a solid backup. She wasn’t really tested but made the saves that she needed to. Sweden’s 27th minute goal was a product of lax defending, poor positioning and a lucky swerve.
-Like I mentioned above, Amy Rodriguez will be in the lineup for the foreseeable future. As a favorite of Sundhage’s, she played the majority of this summer’s World Cup, despite being virtually useless. But she is operating so much better on the left in the 4-2-3-1 instead of paired with Abby Wambach up top. While she hasn’t found the back of the net yet, she is putting herself in good positions and leveraging her speed to blaze down the left sideline. However, her baby steps of form improvement pale in comparison to the strides that Morgan has made, and if room needs to be made, A-Rod should be first to sit. Try telling Pia that though.