Alex Morgan: Why Soccer Star Is Most Important Player in Gold Medal Quest

Tim KeeneyContributor IJuly 24, 2012

HALMSTAD, SWEDEN - JUNE 18:  Alex Morgan of USA celebrates her goal during the Swedish Invitational Women's Volvo Cup match between Japan and USA on June 18, 2012 in Halmstad, Sweden. (Photo by Bobbo Lauhage/Getty Images)
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It's Alex Morgan's time to shine. 

The 23-year-old United States women's national team forward has certainly shown glimpses of being a star, but on a team full of ladies already entrenched as national superstars, it can be hard to break out in a big way. 

But the Olympics provide a pretty good stage for Morgan to do just that.

Of course, the Seattle Sounders forward began her assent to the top of world football last year at the Women's World Cup. 

As the youngest player on the roster, Morgan scored her first World Cup goal against France in the semis, an 82nd-minute beauty to put USA ahead for good.

In the final, albeit in a losing effort, Morgan came on as a sub, immediately making a a positive impact. She scored in the 69th minute and then assisted on Abby Wambach's goal in the 104th minute. 

Two goals and one assist in limited time in the two biggest matches of her life. Yeah, that's not too bad. 

Her efforts not only put her on the soccer scene, but they also got her nominated for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year at the 2012 ESPYs. 

But she's not going to London to surprise people. She's going to establish herself as the best player on the best team in the world.

It's a good thing, too, because the Americans need her to be just that.

There is certainly plenty of talent on this team, but leading goal-scorer Abby Wambach is 32 years old. Midfield stars Shannon Boxx (35), Heather O'Reilly (27) and Carli Lloyd (30) are all getting up there in age. Captain Christie Rampone is 37. Hope Solo is 30.

The current stars aren't going to be able to carry the Americans for much longer. It's time for someone else to take the step forward to superstardom as the go-to player, turning the veterans into role players.

That would complete Team USA.

We, of course, after all these years, know what players like Wambach and Solo can do. But if the Americans are going to take out fellow gold-medal favorites Brazil and 2011 World Cup champions Japan, one more player needs to join the elite level.

Alex Morgan, I'm talking to you. It's your turn to lead a country to gold. No pressure.