Why Alex Morgan Can Be the Lionel Messi of Women's Soccer

Neri Stein@neristeinFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 28: Alex Morgan of USA jumps over Sandra Sepulveda of Columbia during the Women's Football first round Group G match between United States and Colombia on Day 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Hampden Park on July 28, 2012 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

Alex Morgan may not get as many interviews as Abby Wambach or cause as much controversy as Hope Solo, but anyone who knows soccer knows Morgan is the real star of Team USA.

Morgan scored two goals in the U.S. Women's National Team's comeback victory over France last week, bringing her total tally to 29 goals for her country in just 44 appearances.

The 23-year-old striker was introduced to the world last summer at the Women's World Cup in Germany, but she was too often used as a substitute. Since then, she has earned her spot in the starting XI and makes her presence known when on the pitch.

All in all, women's soccer needed Alex Morgan, and she's arrived at exactly the right time.

All sports need to have a key figure fans can adore no matter who they support because of the athlete's innate talent, and if said athlete is humble and likeable as well, that's just a bonus.

In the men's game, right now that player is Lionel Messi. Barca's best playmaker among a bevy of fantastic ones is widely recognized as not only one of the best footballers ever and certainly in today's game, but he's also one of the most liked footballers of his generation. Messi has his share of critics but not nearly as many as arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

Morgan is not the same kind of player as Messi, but she has all the perfect tools for her position. Her height and agility make her very difficult to defend for centre-backs, as she's always in a dangerous area. She gets behind defenders with relative ease and can score on a tap-in just as easily as she could from outside the 18-yard box.

Morgan also does a great job of getting her teammates involved and spreading the goals around.

Plain and simple, Morgan is always a threat when she's on the pitch whether the ball is at her feet or not. When it is at her feet, there's no telling what she'll do with it.

Football has always been the world's most popular sport, but Messi, along with his Barcelona teammates, has helped to promote club football to a greater level, especially the Champions League.

While international women's soccer will always top club, Morgan has a chance to make it a year-round sport instead of something fans only follow during the World Cup or Olympics.

Of course, women's soccer already has a Lionel Messi. Marta.

Brazil's top player was named the FIFA World Player of the Year five years running from 2006-2010, and she undoubtedly has more tricks up her sleeve than the more classic-footballer Morgan.

But Marta has a few things going against her that her former club teammate certainly doesn't. She isn't well-liked, and Brazil doesn't have the best shot at an Olympic gold medal or World Cup winner's medal anytime soon.

Both players have come close, and Morgan really should have a World Cup trophy to her name already, but the U.S. star is no doubt the more entertaining and enjoyable player to watch.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo, and Messi to an extent, Marta has a tendency to pout when things don't go her way. Morgan has displayed no such behavior, even though she was clearly Team USA's best player last summer and she couldn't buy a starting spot.

Women's soccer hasn't had a star player to relate to since Mia Hamm, and Morgan has the chance to surpass America's greatest women's ever soccer player in a number of ways.

Morgan's striker partner Abby Wambach is closing in on Hamm's all-time international scoring record of 158 goals (most for any male or female), but if Morgan keeps going at this rate, she'll blow both of those records out of the water.

The London Olympics will be key for Morgan, and she's already off to a great start. If Morgan can lead Team USA to Olympic gold this summer, her stardom will be cemented in the hearts of soccer fans everywhere.

These Olympics could also be the last where Morgan has to share any spotlight. Wambach is only 32, but injuries have hurt her career, and she many not be leading the line come the 2015 World Cup. Hope Solo, meanwhile, gets about as much attention from her mouth as she does with her goalkeeping, and America and the world are tiring of that.

Soccer fans want someone they can root for every time she's on the pitch, and Alex Morgan is just that girl. Club trophies for her will never match what Lionel Messi has amassed in his career (so far), but she's already come closer to football's greatest prize than Messi likely ever will.


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