Olympics soccer: Is Alex Morgan the next Mia Hamm? Teammates gush.
Alex Morgan is the real deal, say coaches and teammates. She's a new breed of US women's soccer player and an integral part of the team's push for Olympic gold against Japan Thursday.
In Pictures Week Two of the Olympics
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"She is probably the best natural goalscorer I've played with," she says.
Then, earlier this week after a training session, No. 2 all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach took Ms. Morgan aside. "She said she didn't think she had had a partner in crime" – in this case, goalscoring – "since Mia Hamm in 2004," Morgan said at a press conference Wednesday.
There's that Mia Hamm name again, and Morgan's name right beside it.
There's good reason.
As the Americans prepare to face Japan in the gold medal final of the London 2012 Olympics at historic Wembley Stadium Thursday, there is no question this is still Wambach's team. Her presence is the central point around which the entire American team spins.
But there is also no doubt that Morgan is Wambach's second half, forming the most lethal striking pair in women's soccer and the face of the future of the game.
US coach Pia Sundhage was asked Wednesday about her team having conceded five goals combined to France and Canada this tournament. Her response was that America has scored eight – and none more important than Morgan's header with 30 seconds left in the semifinal against Canada, breaking a 3-3 tie.
Indeed, the transformation of Morgan – as well as winger Megan Rapinoe, who scored twice against Canada – into elite soccer players during the past year has covered many of the American team's faults. Without them, the US would almost certainly be playing for bronze today.
But the two mean something more to the development of women's soccer in America than a potential Olympic gold in London.
A new generation
In Rapinoe and Morgan, the US has the beginnings of a new generation that matches the traditional American strengths of fitness, speed, and physical strength with the greater degree of sophistication seen in rising soccer nations like Japan, France, and Germany.