Alex Morgan is to USA women's soccer what Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are to Major League Baseball—that is, phenoms who at a young age lift the play of their teammates and create an atmosphere of fierce play and exciting results.
Of course, Morgan had slightly more experience at the top level of competition. In her first World Cup in 2011, she played in five matches and scored two key goals for the USA as they nearly pulled off the gold-medal victory.
Then playing in her first Olympics match Wednesday against France, Morgan scored in the 32nd minute to give the USA a 2-2 tie in the first half of the match.
Morgan just turned 23 years old on July 2. That youth is paramount to her success as she is slightly more spry than both her teammates and opponents. She regularly beats her opponents to the ball and then uses her strength and supreme talent to set the ball for teammates or in the goal, at an alarming pace.
As I wrote here, Abby Wambach's veteran presence and leadership is so important for the USA's gold-medal chances. Without her aggressively attacking the goal and feeding Morgan, the young phenom would not be the same player she has been at the onset of her career.
It's absolutely true that Morgan can learn some of the finer details of playing the game from Wambach and can grow from the presence of the veteran in the lineup.
But Morgan's sheer abilities should not be downgraded just because she is better with a veteran like Wambach. Without No. 20, Morgan would be the prominent goal scorer on this team. She would be the one defenses would have to keep all 22 eyes on.
Who is the most important player for the U.S. Women's Soccer Team in the 2012 Olympics?
But Morgan is key because all 22 eyes will be upon Abby Wambach. As such, Morgan will get a bit of a break in terms of how much pressure she faces.
She becomes the one who must produce.
The onus is on her in this year's Olympics to take the goal-scoring load off Wambach's shoulders. If she can do that successfully, it will allow Wambach to set up teammates and be more selective of when she makes a significant rush on the goal.
That way the veteran can maximize her effort and play a complete two-way game. Of course, Morgan still must take responsibility to do those things as well.
But as the prominent goal scorer (or so the women's team hopes), Morgan would make everyone else better. That's what great players do anyway; they make their teammates better.
Though young and still relatively inexperienced, Morgan has a chance to become the next in line of a developing soccer pipeline of stars in the U.S.
If she can take the next step in her development in London, the team should win gold and she could become a star for more than just her looks and potential.