US Olympic Women's Soccer Team 2012: Alex Morgan Delivers on Hype in Big Way

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIAugust 6, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  Alex Morgan of of the United States celebrates after scoring during the Women's Football Semi Final match between Canada and USA, on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Old Trafford on August 6, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Stanley Chou/Getty Images

With her team locked in a three-all draw and the clock spiraling toward penalty kicks, American striker Alex Morgan spotted a cross from teammate Heather O'Reilly, rose above the penalty-box fray and delivered a soft, arcing header into the back of the net.

The U.S. women's soccer team advanced to Thursday's gold-medal match against Japan.

Alex Morgan arrived.

In many ways, it was an odd coming-of-stardom moment for the precocious striker.

She hadn't scored in three straight matches and her game has always referenced foot speed over aerial play.

But Team USA—locked in a seesaw battle with Canada until Morgan's 123rd minute strike—needed it however they could get it on Monday. And the woman they call "Baby Horse" obliged.

Considering the growth of her sport over the past decade, Morgan is probably the most hyped young talent in the history of American women's soccer.

She was a name on the sporting scene before she'd ever appeared at a major tournament. And after she scored twice in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup, the strikingly attractive speedster joined Abby Wambach and Hope Solo as one of the most recognizable athletes on perhaps America's most recognizable women's team.

Today was another departure, the sort of goal that demarcates a player's infancy from her prime.

Morgan has always had the blend of beauty, talent and personality needed to become the star of this team.

Without sounding impatient, one wondered when she might wrest that title from Wambach/Solo.

Today was the answer.

Today was the "look at me" play.

And now that we're looking, it could be a while before we avert our gaze.