Just 12 months ago, Alex Morgan was a virtually unknown member of the U.S. Women's National team playing in the 2011 FIFA World Cup. She was the youngest player on the roster, but she scored goals in the semifinals and the finals for the American side.
Morgan plays club ball with the Seattle Sounders, who landed four players on the U.S. Olympic team. Since flashing in the World Cup (via her play, not the Brandi Chastain method), Morgan has been on a mission to make a name for herself.
The speedy striker was being used primarily off the bench, often replacing her current Sounder teammate, Sydney Leroux.
But head coach Pia Sundhage found it difficult to leave her off the pitch. She is the team's leading scorer in 2012 with 17 goals and eight assists; she had seven goals in her first 16 caps, and she has 27 goals in 42 total appearances for the women's team.
In an interview with The New York Times Soccer Blog, Morgan discussed her progress with the team.
I think that everything has been baby steps with this team, because when you get to this team it’s the cream of the crop, it’s the top, it’s what you dream of getting to your whole life, so when you finally get to this team you want to work hard to break into that starting lineup and get more playing time.
Coming off of the World Cup I was coming off the bench, getting five minutes or 30 minutes, and now breaking into that starting lineup I feel like I have turned a page and now I am embracing this new role going into the Olympics.
Having that experience from the World Cup, I just feel a lot more comfortable with my role and just feel like I’m able to help contribute to the team’s success even more being on the field and having done pretty well in the last couple months with this team.
When discussing her priorities in the Olympics, Morgan's goals are clear, and they have very little to do with personal achievements.
Morgan also told The New York Times,
"I think the No. 1 priority is making sure we’re standing up at the top of the podium at the end of the Games and getting that gold medal." She added, "especially coming off a World Cup final loss and coming home with the silver medal, we’re even hungrier for the gold medal."
While Morgan may not be concerned with how many goals she scores, the team will be.
Since the lopsided CONCACAF play ended on January 29, Morgan has 14 goals while her teammates have added 17.
The U.S. is 9-1-1 during that stretch and is is 14-1-1 overall in 2012. They went 5-0-0 and outscored their North American foes 38-0 in the 2012 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament in January.
Morgan is a vital cog for the U.S. team and has embraced her role since being called upon in a game against Italy in World Cup qualification. She recalled that as her most memorable moment in her career, telling USA TODAY Sports, "we had to go to Italy and had to win or we wouldn't go to the World Cup, and I scored in stoppage time."
Morgan has been busy grabbing headlines off the pitch as well. She appeared in Sports Illustrated earlier in the year wearing just a smile and body paint.
Her focus has been on her play, though. She also told USA TODAY: "Soccer is what I grew up doing—it's my passion, and I'm way more comfortable on the field in my soccer cleats."
Team USA is the heavy favorite in London. Since becoming an Olympic sport in Atlanta, the U.S. has captured three gold medals and one silver medal.
However, no women's player from the U.S. has led an Olympics in scoring.
Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva from Brazil has led the last two games, scoring five goals in each tournament. This could be a mark Morgan has her eyes set on.
With Morgan's play and pictorials over the last six months, shattering an Olympic scoring record while leading her team to a lopsided win in the gold-medal game is one of the few things she can do to get any hotter.
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