U.S. women 4, China 1

Alex Morgan on the path to become the next Mia Hamm

 

Alex Morgan inspired a sick teen then set up a goal against China — all in a day’s work for U.S. soccer’s newest star.

Palm Beach Post

U.S. forward Alex Morgan knows how it’s supposed to be at age 14. That’s when she decided she might have a future in soccer, and today, well, if her future looks bright, her present isn’t looking too shabby, either.

Auguste Fout is 14. She’s a forward, too, except she can’t play now because of the tumor in her back and the radiation treatment and chemo that await when she and her family return home to Virginia Beach, Va.

This weekend, however, was all about the royal treatment Fout received thanks to Morgan. After speaking by phone a month ago, they met following a training session at FAU on Friday, the woman with the trademark pink headband on her head embracing the girl with no hair on hers.

On Saturday, the Fout family sat in the front row to watch the U.S. women’s national team defeat China 4-1 in front of 10,493 at FAU Stadium to conclude a 10-city “Fan Tribute Tour” following the gold-medal performance at the Olympics. Morgan, 23, didn’t disappoint, sending a cross from the left wing to Abby Wambach in the 18th minute to set up Wambach’s 151st international goal and get the Americans rolling.

By the end of the night, Wambach had added a second, giving her 27 for the year and, combined with Morgan’s 28 goals, gave them 55. That matched the team record by a duo in one year set by Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings in 1991.

“Abby and me have something unique,” said Morgan, to whom Wambach made a beeline to celebrate her second goal. “We’re always on the same page.”

It capped a breakout year for Morgan, freshly anointed as U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year and now a finalist for World Player of the Year.

“It has been kind of a dreamlike year for me,” said Morgan, who in these 12 months went from backup to star with the goals, 21 assists, one opening bell rung at the New York Stock Exchange and one body-paint appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

“I just remember watching the World Cup and thinking, ‘Wow, the girl with the pink headband’s really good,’” Fout said of Morgan’s 2011 spot duty.

The next Mia Hamm? Morgan was starting to hear that even before she joined Hamm as the only players in team history to have a 20/20 (goals/assists) year. On this team, such on-field production carries off-field responsibilities, and Morgan already has embraced her role as ambassador.

Her reaction to meeting Fout? “I just wanted to thank her for coming out,” Morgan said.

Christie Rampone, the 37-year-old team captain, said Morgan not only is scoring, “but doing it with class. … It’s just amazing to watch her grow.”

Morgan was 14, later than most, when she decided to give up other sports and focus on soccer. A wrecked ACL threatened, but failed, to further stint her progress. Now, Rampone is envisioning “the legacy that she will lead” in years to come. Morgan’s impact in London was bookended by a two-goal performance in the opening win against France and another goal against Canada to clinch a spot in the gold-medal match.

As for her assist in lifting Fout’s spirits, Auguste’s father, Geoff, said, “This will last for a long, long time.”

Now, Morgan is ready to rest for a long, long time.

“It’s been a long year but a really exciting year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to still growing as a player, but I would say that this year couldn’t have gone any better than it has.”

Noteworthy

Megan Rapinoe blasted a 40-yard shot that landed in an open net in the 36th minute. Sydney Leroux scored the final U.S. goal. … U.S. Soccer announced that the new women’s league, to debut in the spring, will be called the National Women’s Soccer League, with eight teams: the Boston Breakers; Chicago Red Stars; FC Kansas City; Portland Thorns FC; Sky Blue FC (New Jersey); Washington Spirit; Western New York Flash; and a to-be-named Seattle franchise.

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