THREE cheers for the U.S. soccer team for giving fans a thrilling ride through the Women's World Cup in Germany.
Not only that, but it appeared a star was born in the person of Diamond Bar's own Alex Morgan, the youngest and fastest of the American players.
And another three cheers for Japan's team, the winner on penalty kicks in the
championship game Sunday in Germany and the only side that could best the Americans.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the U.S. team and its fans for a few reasons. First, the Americans completely dominated the early going Sunday and had many chances to score but could not finish any of them. They could have put the game away in the first 15 minutes with just a bit more shooting accuracy. Second, twice they led with minutes left, in regulation time and again in the extra period, but both times Japan scored to tie it up. And, of course, losing on penalty kicks is the bane of all soccer teams - including the highly regarded Brazil team the Americans ousted on PKs in the quarterfinals.
Still, it was a great game and a great tournament.
And if the U.S. had to lose, it might as well be to Japan, a terrific, well-organized side whose championship lifted the spirits of a country still recovering from the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The goal that sent the game to penalty kicks was scored by Homare Sawa, the Japanese icon of the sport playing in her fifth World Cup.
Morgan, the 22-year-old Advertisement Return to Video x x Diamond Bar High School grad, made quite a splash coming off the bench in the semifinals and finals. She scored the third U.S. goal in the semis to put the French away, 3-1.
Then in Sunday's final, Morgan had a hand in both American goals, scoring the first on a breakaway and assisting on the second with a perfect pass to U.S. star Abby Wambach, who headed it in.
It's easy to imagine Morgan becoming a major star herself in years - and World Cups - to come. As a member of the UC Berkeley team, she was the lead scorer in 2010. She graduated from Cal early last December with a degree in political economy, and was named to the ESPN Academic All-District team.
Certainly she thrilled her hometown fans, who had gathered to watch Sunday at a couple of local eateries.
We greatly admire the spirit and teamwork of the American women, who overcame a number of setbacks along the way to make it to the World Cup finals. Fans especially appreciate their joy in the sport at a time when the NFL and NBA are bogged in lockouts and labor disputes.
"We have an amazing team," said Adrian Merendon of Colton, despite his disappointment at the loss, after he watched the game at Johnny's Tacos and Sports in Redlands.
"I think no matter what, it should put a spotlight not only on women's soccer, but American soccer," he said. "It's nice to get some recognition."
As a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, Morgan was the leading scorer for the Golden Bears with eight goals in 2007. Her last goal of her freshman season came against Stanford in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, tying the game at 1–1 with less than two minutes left in regulation time and forcing the Cardinal into overtime and then to penalty kicks. However, Stanford prevailed, and went on to the third round of the tournament.
Morgan continued to lead the Golden Bears in scoring during her sophomore season with nine goals in 2008, despite being out for part of the season due to national team commitments. The Golden Bears bowed out of the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament while Morgan was playing at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
At the beginning of the 2009 NCAA season, Morgan was named a candidate for the Hermann Trophy Watch List, the first Golden Bear to be considered in this category since Laura Schott in 2001. She scored fourteen goals and eight assists during the Bears' 2009 season.
Morgan is third all-time in goals scored (45) for the Golden Bears. Club career
On January 14, 2011, Morgan was drafted number one overall in the 2011 WPS Draft by the Western New York Flash. She was the first California Golden Bears women's soccer player to be drafted in the first round of Women's Professional Soccer. International career
Due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury that slowed her progress in 2007, Morgan was not called up to train with the United States under-20 women's national soccer team until April 2008. Her first appearance for the U-20s came at the 2008 CONCACAF Women's U-20 Championship in Puebla, Mexico, where she scored her first international goal against Cuba.
Morgan was named to the United States U-20 women's national team that competed in the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile, scoring a total of four goals in the tournament against France, Argentina and North Korea; her last goal scored against North Korea was subsequently voted the best goal of the tournament, and later FIFA's second-best goal of the year. Morgan's performance on the field earned her the Bronze Shoe as the tournament's third-highest scorer and the Silver Ball as the tournament's second-best player behind teammate Sydney Leroux.
She has been capped by the senior national team, first appearing as a substitute in a match versus Mexico in March 2010, and scored her first international goal after coming on as a substitute against China in October 2010. Her most important goal to date came a month later in a crucial road game against Italy, with a Women's World Cup berth on the line for the United States.
Morgan was on the national team that placed second in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. She was the youngest player on the U.S. roster. On July 13, 2011, she scored her first FIFA Women's World Cup goal in the 82nd minute of the semi-final matchup against France, giving the USA a 3-1 lead and ultimately, the victory. She scored the first goal (69') in the FIFA World Cup Final against Japan after coming on as a substitute at the half, as well as assisting on the Abby Wambach header (104') for a goal in extra time.
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