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Alex Morgan Returns to Starting Lineup in U.S. Victory over Colombia

It suggests the former Cal star might be the U.S. soccer team's starting striker in the CONCACAF event
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Former Cal star Alex Morgan was back in the starting lineup for the U.S. Woman’s National Team, which beat Colombia 2-0 Tuesday night in a lightning-interrupted friendly in Sandy, Utah. But the question now is whether Morgan will be the Americans’ starting No. 9 in the CONCACAF tournament starting July 4.

Morgan made her first start for the USWNT since the Oct. 21, 2021 friendly against South Korea. And she nearly had the play of the day, using a high one-touch boot off a cross to knock a shot squarely into the crossbar of the goal. She also created some opportunities for teammates, and was given a lot of credit for creating space during the second half of Saturday's 3-0 victory over Colombia.

However, the bottom line is that Morgan did not score in her one half of action in Saturday’s win or in her 70 minutes of action on Tuesday. And as the team’s No. 9 (or striker), she is expected to be the team’s chief scoring threat. Plus, the Americans' attack was noticeably more effective in the final 20 minutes, after Morgan had gone off.

Nonetheless, former U.S. star Julie Foudy, who did the commentary for the ESPN telecast of Tuesday’s game, left no doubt who she thinks should occupy the No. 9 spot in Mexico for the CONCACAF tournament.

“I don’t think that’s the best game Alex Morgan has played; you can see the disappointment in her face,” Foudy said as Morgan left the field in the 71st minute. “But I still think she’s the starter at No. 9 [in the CONCACAF tournament]. That seems like a no-brainer to me.”

Morgan was one of three candidates that the USWNT twitter site offered for Woman of the Match:

Much of the support for Morgan to occupy that critical striker position is based on her production in the National Women’s Soccer League this season. She leads the league with 11 goals in just 10 games, with much of the season remaining. Last season the top NWSL scorer finished with 10 goals.

The U.S. will need scoring from players like Morgan to solve the defensive stance opponents are likely use against the Americans. Colombia used that kind of strategy and it stymied the U.S. attack most of the game. The only goal scored Tuesday before the 45-minute lightning delay was an own goal when Sofia Huerta’s shot ricocheted off Colombia’s Manuela Venegas and into the goal 22 minutes into the match. Morgan had helped set up that goal by saving the ball and getting it to Huerta just inside the 18-yard box.

Defender Kelley O'Hara added a second goal in the 77th minute, shortly after play resumed, to complete the scoring

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It certainly was not an overwhelming demonstration of offensive power by the Americans, although it should be noted that three key U.S. players – Alana Cook, Andi Sullivan and Sophia Smith (who scored two goals Sunday) – were not in uniform, as head coach Vlatko Andonovski managed players’ minutes heading into the CONCACAF event. 

The CONCACAF tournament, which also serves as a qualifier for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, will be played in Mexico. The U.S. opens with a game against Haiti on July 4, followed by a July 7 match against Jamaica and a July 11 match against Mexico. The top two teams from each of the two groups advance to the semifinals, and those four teams will qualify for next year’s World Cup.

It seemed like Morgan’s days with USWNT might end after she played sparingly in the 2021 Olympics, but if she performs well in the CONCACAF event it might indicate whether she has a shot to be on the U.S. roster for the 2023 Women’s World Cup or even the 2024 Olympics. The debate as to which player should be the No. 9 for the Americans might be more intense if Catarina Macario had not suffered an ACL injury on June 6, putting her out of action for the near future.

Now that spot might be reserved for Morgan, who is still ranked the as the 36th-best player in the world, even though she will turn 33 years old two days before the Americans play their opening CONCACAF natch.

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Cover photo of Alex Morgan by Jeffrey Swinger, USA TODAY Sports

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