USA's Alex Morgan returns from 7-month injury layoff in Thorns' loss
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Alex Morgan's return didn't go as she had hoped.
Finally healed from an ankle injury that had kept her sidelined since last fall, Morgan made her long-awaited season debut for the Portland Thorns on Saturday night - but her team fell 5-0 to the Western New York Flash in a rematch of last season's inaugural league title game.
''It was hard for me, because I've been looking forward to this day for a long time,'' she said.
Morgan now heads off to training with the U.S. national team, along with Thorns teammates Allie Long and Tobin Heath. They'll join the Flash's Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd on the U.S. team for the first of two exhibition matches against France in Tampa, Florida, on June 14.
Morgan, who has 40 goals in 70 international appearances, first hurt her ankle during training late last October but she played a match against Brazil on Nov. 10. The Thorns are 4-3-2 this season and ranked fifth in the nine-team NWSL, which is in the midst of its second season.
Morgan had eight goals and five assists last season for the Thorns, who won the league's inaugural championship. Despite Morgan's return, the Thorns fell, but she appeared in good form. She challenged Western New York goalkeeper Lydia Williams on fast breaks in the 76th and 86th minutes, but just missed each time.
The Thorns were hurt when goalkeeper Nadine Angerer was sent off in the first half with a red card. Because they were down a player, the Thorns were not able to sub out Morgan late in the game.
''Obviously her touch is going to get better with more training,'' coach Paul Riley said.
Morgan was greeted with wild applause when her name was introduced in the starting lineup by the 13,838 fans that came to see the rivalry match. She was clearly disappointed afterward that the Thorns did not give the crowd a win.
''It was just not a good game for us,'' she said. ''At all.''
Wambach was listed as a reserve in Saturday night's match after injuring her left knee in a 2-1 loss last Saturday to the Houston Dash. An MRI revealed a mild LCL sprain. Lloyd and Samantha Kerr each had a pair of goals for the Flash.
Riley is being cautious about bringing Morgan along too quickly. The U.S. team is going to need her healthy as it begins its preparations for the women's World Cup in 2015. U.S. Soccer said earlier this week that Morgan will be evaluated by the team's medical and performance staff ahead of the matches in Tampa and five days later at East Hartford, Connecticut.
The matches against France will be the first for the U.S. team since Jill Ellis was promoted to head coach on May 16. Ellis was the team's interim coach after Tom Sermanni was unexpectedly fired in early April after an exhibition victory against China. Ellis called up 26 players to train with the national team. She will select 18 to dress for each match against France.
The U.S. women team will host the eight-team CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament in October. The venues and schedule have yet to be determined.
Despite the team's success on the international stage in recent years, the U.S. women haven't won a World Cup title since 1999. Japan won the 2011 World Cup in Germany, defeating the United States on a penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Morgan was the youngest player on that squad.