Enjoying the moment, Morgan leads U.S.
By Ann Killion, special to Pac-12.com
MANCHESTER - Alex Morgan had a late, late night. Late glory. And a late meeting with reporters.
Long after her teammates had left for the hotel on the team bus, long after the line of autograph seekers departed, the former Cal Bear came out of Old Trafford, still shaky and exhausted. She had been tagged by doping control as the random player to be tested from the U.S. team. And after running full speed for 123-plus dehydrating minutes, producing a test result took awhile.
So her departure came a long time after she had headed in the game-winning goal of the U.S. team's epic semifinal match against Canada. But Morgan was still feeling thrilled.
"Exhilarating," she said. "I can't remember ever feeling this way after scoring a goal. I've never wanted to cry on the field after scoring a goal."
The U.S. came from behind three different times to tie the score, sending the game into overtime. And after 120 minutes of regulation and into the third minute of stoppage time, Morgan got on the end of a cross from Heather O'Reilly and headed the ball into the back of the net.
"That was a world-class finish by Alex," said Carli Lloyd.
In the bottom of the delirious dog pile, Abby Wambach told Morgan, "I think I'm in love with you. You just put us in the gold medal game."
The U.S. team is a resilient bunch. They never got down, in part because they know that Morgan has such speed and talent up top.
"Our team believed from the first minute to the last minute," Morgan said. "When we come together as a team you can't break us."
Morgan scored two goals in the Americans' first game against France and created an endless stream of chances in the three games that followed, but hadn't found the back of the net. Not until it mattered most.
"I didn't care who put the ball in the back of net," Morgan said. "I just wanted to get the rematch with Japan."
Thanks to Morgan's goal, the U.S. will get the rematch and a chance to redeem their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup final in Germany. It was in that tournament that the team established its penchant for high drama, gritty resiliency and late-game dramatics.
"Don't you guys love it?" Morgan laughed. "Doesn't it make you sit on the edge of your seat? It's what we live for. Abby says, 'We put ourselves in the predicament and we'll get out of it.'"
Morgan said coach Pia Sundhage reminds her team every day to have fun playing.
"She came up to me before the game and told me, 'Remember one thing, enjoy the moment.'"
Morgan enjoyed it Monday. Late into the night.