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Alex Morgan's Return to USWNT Helps Americans Top Colombia

How will former Cal soccer standout be used Tuesday after being inserted in the second half, when the U.S. scored all three goals?
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Former Cal star Alex Morgan made her return to the U.S. Women's National Team on Saturday, and she was an integral factor in the Americans' second-half surge that led to a 3-0 victory over Colombia in a women's soccer friendly in Commerce City, Colorado.

It leads to questions about how she will be used in Tuesday's friendly against Colombia and in the CONCACAF tournament next month.

Morgan made her first appearance for the USWNT since October 2021 on Saturday. She was not in the starting lineup, but was inserted at the start of the second half after a scoreless first half.  She did not record a goal, but her presence created opportunities for her teammates.

ESPN.com's report of the game included this excerpt:

Morgan -- in her return to the team after a nine-month hiatus -- replaced Hatch to start the second half, and that substitution, along with the insertion of Ashley Sanchez in place of Lindsey Horan, immediately changed the tone of the game for the Americans.

The field opened up with Morgan on the pitch, and that led to three second-half goals by the Americans -- two by Sophia Smith and one by Taylor Kornieck. Colombia's focus on defending Morgan led to Morgan being pulled down in the penalty area, creating a U.S. penalty kick. The penalty kick was stopped by the Colombia goaltender Catalina Perez, but the effect of Morgan's presence was noted in the CBS Sports report on the game:

After halftime, head coach Vlatko Andonovski made adjustments, bringing on Morgan and Ashley Sanchez in place of Ashley Hatch and Horan. The impact was immediate as Morgan's presence began to draw more players to her, giving the midfield more open space and opportunities to break the lines with incisive passes. 

"I'm happy to get some minutes. I got in behind quite a bit, drew the penalty, but overall I think it just opened up more in the second half in general. So I think I had more space to play as well," Morgan said after the game. 

The Americans play another friendly against Colombia on Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah, as they prepare for the World Cup qualifying session at the CONCACAF competition starting July 4 in Mexico.

It will be interesting to see how Morgan is used in that contest and in the CONCACAF event..

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"We don't know what we're gonna see [in qualifiers]," Morgan said. "Obviously, you know, we might have teams who kind of sit off us. We might have teams to come at us straight up. It's a good preparation tool for us against Colombia twice. You know, them kind of having a five back, and really sitting back, and kind of not allowing us to play through them. You know, we might see that. So, it's just a great game for us in preparation."

With Catarina Macrario sidelined for the foreseeable future after suffering a torn ACL in May, the Americans need to find a replacement for the No. 9 role. The options are Ashley Hatch, who started Saturday's game, and Morgan.

The ESPN.com story said this:

Now, it's down to Morgan and Hatch to fill that No. 9 role. Hatch is not done having a say -- and Andonovski praised her after the game when asked -- but Morgan reminded the world Saturday why she has been the team's dominant forward of the past decade, scoring 115 goals and winning a pair of World Cups over 190 caps.

Morgan evolved her game through the years to be more multidimensional than she typically gets credit for, but she is still a very different player from Macario. That means the approach that was being developed this spring will require some retooling at a crucial stage.

Morgan turns 33 years old on Saturday, and she is now a mother, as shown in the twitter photo below.  There were hints that her time with the USWNT might be over after she was used sparingly in the 2021 Olympics and was not particularly productive as the Americans limped to a bronze-medal finish.

However, she has had a rebirth of sorts.  She plays for the San Diego Wave of the National Women's Soccer League, and she leads the league in goals with 11 in 10 games.

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Cover photo of Alex Morgan hugging Sophia Smith is by John Leyba, USA TODAY Sports

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