Morgan put the U.S. women in front in the 18th minute by staying composed in traffic to get her right foot on Megan Rapinoe's cross in front of goal.
"She's always wanting to make runs in behind -- usually because she scores on the end of it. If I scored that often, I'd be a willing runner, too," Rapinoe joked after a goal of her own in addition to the assist. "But no, for me, it's great because she's always moving. She makes it really hard for the defense. She makes really good runs in behind the backside of that center back."
Japan answered almost immediately, breaking through the U.S. defense in less than two minutes to level the score in the 20th minute. But Morgan put the United States back in front before the game was a half-hour old. This time she sensed the open space in the box and made herself available to Emily Sonnett as the outside back settled a cross and then sent the ball in toward the striker. Morgan headed the ball back across the goal and past the keeper.
She made another run to the post to complete the hat trick. She was far from the star of that play, not when Tobin Heath, shortly after coming on as a substitute, toyed with Japan's Moeno Sakaguchi at the end line (the Japanese player got some revenge with a wonderful long-range goal of her own later).
But Morgan shone even in the smallest moments. She was the target who headed down a ball into the path of Julie Ertz for a golden opportunity late in the first half. And not long after, with Japan connecting short passes in the midfield, as is its wont, Morgan suddenly accelerated like a sprinter out of the blocks when she sniffed a pass that lacked enough weight. She slid into the tackle and won the ball back for the United States to effectively end the half.
"I feel like we really stayed in it defensively," Morgan said. "It was a lot of work -- it might not have looked like it, but it was tiring. But I felt like when we did win the ball we were able to counterattack their attack and we were able to get some of the most dangerous chances."
The U.S. Women’s National Team completed an unbeaten 2018 after shutting out a gritty Scotland side, 1-0, on Tuesday night at The Simple Digital Arena. Alex Morgan’s goal in the 39th minute ultimately separated the sides.
The USA had the lion's share of possession throughout the match, as Scotland dropped 11 players inside its own half for most of the game, making it difficult for the WNT to create opportunities. The U.S. finally broke through when Mallory Pugh sent a perfect cross into the six-yard box for Alex Morgan, who finished with a beautiful full volley for the game-winner and her 18th goal of 2018. Scotland did not manage to get any shots on goal in the half but had two in the second frame.
Scotland made three halftime substitutions and created a few more opportunities, but the USA set the tempo and maintained its lead with some solid defending. In the 62nd minute, Pugh was brought down inside the box, earning a penalty kick for the USA. Carli Lloyd stepped up to take the spot kick but her attempt smashed the cross bar and the USA carried the 1-0 score line to the end of the game.
Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris just shakes her head in disbelief that civilization has advanced to the year 2019 — an inclusive and enlightened time when her recent engagement to teammate Ali Krieger was celebrated among fans and athletes throughout the soccer world — and yet, Harris and her colleagues on the U.S. women’s national team are still treated as second-class citizens compared to their male counterparts.
A marriage between two women is legally and socially acceptable, as it should be, but sadly, so too is unequal compensation among American men and women soccer players. Even when the women are much better at their jobs than the men.
Which is why Harris, her superstar Pride teammate Alex Morgan and the 26 other members of our world champion national women’s soccer team just filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer — the federation that governs the sport in this country. Our women want equal pay, equal perks, equal working conditions, equal resources, equal per diems, equal travel arrangements, equal everything.
And not only do these amazing women deserve the same treatment as their male counterparts; they probably deserve more. Our men’s national team has never won diddly poo and couldn’t even get to the World Cup last year; our dominant, dynamic women’s team is the premier power on the planet with three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals.