I'll be the first to admit that my soccer knowledge is incredibly limited. I barely know what is going on 98% of the time. I was even kinda rooting for Mexico yesterday. It's like when we took on Canada in hockey. I figured the amount of happiness stemming from a Mexico victory (or Canadian victory) would be far greater than an American victory.
But when you add a California Golden Bear to the mix, everything changes! And with the upcoming Women's Soccer World Cup, we do have a California Golden Bear in our midst! Rising superstar Alex Morgan was selected to the team, as noted by the official Cal site:
BERKELEY - Four-year letterwinner Alex Morgan has added yet another accolade to her already impressive resumé on Monday, when U.S. senior national team head coach Pia Sundhage put Morgan on the 21-player roster for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.
"We are all very pleased for and proud of Alex," California head coach Neil McGuiresaid. "She is an outstanding young woman who represented Cal in a first-class manner. I have no doubt she will continue to do the same for the U.S. senior national team. It gives us all great pleasure to see her achieve her goals."
Morgan is one of 12 players who will be participating for the first time, though the Diamond Bar, Calif., native is no stranger to international play. In 2008, Morgan helped lead the USA to the title at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile.
This is a very special opportunity for Morgan and she fortunately brings a lot of experience to the table. From the same article, you can see the numbers she put up at Cal:
Despite being away from Berkeley for much of the season, Morgan ended her career as a Golden Bear the same manner in which she began it - as the Cal women's soccer team's season-leading scorer. She paced the Bears in goals (14) and points (30) and was first in the nation for the majority of the season in goal scoring. Morgan concluded her four years in Berkeley tied for the third all-time scorer in Bear history with 45 goals and in sole possession of third place in terms of points 107.
She capped off her Cal career with her first-ever NSCAA All-American honors, collecting first-team placement. A four-time All-Pac-10 selection, Morgan earned first-team conference laurels in 2010 and 2009 and was a player of the year candidate in both seasons.
Very impressive! After the jump, let's take a closer look at Morgan and what we can expect from the Women's Soccer World Cup team. We'll have open threads for all of America's games (including tomorrow's tilt). GO BEARS!
America might not even be in this position if it weren't for Morgan. Despite being the youngest member on the team, she scored the game winning goal in Novemberthat catapulted the US into the World Cup:
Morgan has scored seven times in her first 19 appearances. With a World Cup berth on the line, she came off the bench with five minutes left to score one of the biggest goals in recent years, in stoppage time of a 1-0 win over Italy in the first leg of a two-match playoff series. She had made herself known on the international stage with the winning goal against North Korea in the final of the 2008 Under-20 World Cup.
Morgan scored the key goal against Italy! Although she is technically, actually coming off of the bench, some notable analysts think very highly of her and think she should start:
"She makes things happen," ESPN commentator Bob Ley said after the Americans' shaky victory over Mexico three weeks ago. "They're a better team with her in there."
ESPN colleague Brandi Chastain, the former World Cup star, thinks Morgan should start.
"Right away, she could force teams on their heels," she said. Though Lauren Cheney and Amy Rodriguez can score, she said, "I think Alex Morgan complements Abby Wambach much better. She's in or around and behind players. She moves off the ball very well."
Here is video of that goal:
Sports Illustrated columnist Grant Wahl was discussing Morgan's superstar status after her game winner against Italy in November:
U.S. coach Pia Sundhage has said that Morgan's late sub stints allow her to keep things simple and go straight for the goal, implying that she doesn't think Morgan's tactically ready for a 90-minute game. Maybe so, but it's not as though Amy Rodriguez and Lauren Cheney have been lighting it up in Wambach's sidekick spot. If the U.S. can seal the deal on Saturday, it'll be interesting to see if Morgan gets more playing time between now and Germany 2011. There's definite star potential there, and though I'm told she has yet to sign a shoe contract (her college career ended this month, so she's eligible to do so), it wouldn't surprise me if there was a battle for her signature after her breakout year.
Morgan is slated to play the "forward" position and here are the other people on the depth chart:
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers)*, Alex Morgan (Western New York Flash)*, Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia Independence)*, Abby Wambach (magicJack)***
The notation for "Western New York Flash" is because Alex Morgan was the #1 overall pick in the women's professional soccer league this past year by that team. Here is her player profile page. It lists many of her most impressive accomplishments there going back to high school. I won't list them all here, because there are many. However, you should go and take a gander!
For all of her accolades on the field, perhaps her most impressive accomplishment is that she graduated early from Cal! From the official Cal story:
She graduated in December 2010, a full semester early thanks to her dedication in the offseason and summer, with a degree in political economy.
So, despite playing on the soccer team and despite playing for the USNT, she graduated from Cal.........EARLY! Unbelievable.
Here are some highlights, including scoring an impressive goal against North Korea in the Under 20 tournament:
So, look, you might not be a big soccer fan, such as myself. But if you are reading this, you might just be a pretty big Cal fan. And any opportunity for a California Golden Bear to perform on the biggest of stages is an opportunity you don't want to miss. So, keep it locked here for all the Women's Soccer World Cup action! GO ALEX MORGAN AND GO BEARS!