As world-class international soccer tournaments go, this Summer Olympics in London for the United States women's national team can not be going more smoothly. Undefeated and ranked at the top of their group going into the medal round, the American women are certainly at the top of their game. They've won their three games in group play by a combined score of 8-2. Fans should be ecstatic at how things are going, but I'm only thinking of the one issue that could potentially prevent the team from achieving gold. They need to figure out how to get Alex Morgan going offensively.
I know Morgan has scored twice (both in the opening group stage game against France), and I know that the team hasn't really needed her to dominate the way she had in many of the games this year leading to the Olympics (19 goals and 11 assists in just 19 games). Abby Wambach has been playing her usual brilliant game and it has seemed like defenses have focused more on stopping Morgan than Wambach (which has resulted in Wambach scoring a goal in every game during these Olympics).
However, now that the real competition has started and the Americans will be facing some familiar top foes (if they get past Canada, either Japan or France await them in the Gold medal game), it's time to put all the cards on the table. The Americans must play their absolute best in order to win, and that best will have to come from Alex Morgan.
Wambach and her athleticism and physicality will always be there, but she's not the kind of player who at this point in her career creates goals for herself. The team needs for Alex Morgan to get out fast and early with the ball to set the tone for games in the first half the way she did in all the pre-Olympic games. An aggressive and goal-scoring Morgan is by far the most intimidating force on the team. With her at her best, Wambach's abilities are magnified, the defense plays better, and goalkeeper Hope Solo isn't nearly the factor that she otherwise would need to be.
The Americans have played Canada twice this year and won both games. The first match was an uncontested blowout in which Morgan and Wambach each scored two goals for an easy 4-0 victory. The second match was far closer with a somewhat sluggish American team pulling out a 2-0 win that was much closer than the score indicated. Morgan didn't score in that game, and perhaps that was the difference. Her energy and enthusiasm is a requirement now for this aging American women's team. As she goes, this team goes. If she wants to win her first ever gold medal, it's time to put it all out on the field.
Julie has followed the United States women's soccer team for the past eight years. With Morgan on the squad, she considers this the best team they have put together in many years.