TORONTO-Alex Morgan dashed the hopes of the Canadian women’s soccer team last summer at the London Olympics when she scored the go-ahead goal to lift the U.S. women to the gold medal match. Morgan did it again when she led the Americans to a 3-0 victory over their northern neighbors in their first matchup since that game.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 22,453 at BMO Field that cheered as if more was at stake then simply a friendly match, it took until the second half for the U.S. to break through and Morgan to score the first of her two goals of the day. Morgan scored her first goal in the 70th minute off a pass from fellow forward Abby Wambach that allowed her to take the ball up the left side before nailing a shot to the right post past the scrambling goalkeeper for Canada Erin McLeod.
Morgan scored again only two minutes later with almost an identical goal as she sped past the Canadian defense again on the left side and then pushed her shot just past McLeod on the right post.
Sydney Leroux added a third goal in the final minute of the game. Off a pass through the middle from Wambach, Leroux was able to dribble past not only the Canadian back line but also McLeod who was forced out of the box.
For Leroux it was an emotional goal who was being booed loudly by the fans as soon as she entered the game. This being due to her decision a few years ago to put on an American jersey rather than a Canadian one. Born in Canada she was a member of their youth development program but she chose to play for the U.S. team thanks to her dual citizenship.
The game lacked the fireworks of their match last summer in Manchester which saw Canadian striker Christine Sinclair score three goals only to watch as her team was pushed to extra time thanks to two goals by Megan Rapinoe and then a penalty kick converted by Wambach. But it was Morgan who headed home the deciding goal in the waning minutes of extra time to push the Americans to the gold medal match, which they ultimately won against Japan.
Canada did not go home empty handed from London capturing the bronze medal but it was obvious that all was not forgotten as they took the pitch with the U.S. today. Playing with a chip on their shoulder and the fans clearly behind them as they were trying to beat the Americans for the first time since 2001.
Though Canada was able to keep the talented U.S. squad at bay for over half the game, the depth of players on Coach Tom Sermanni’s team was evident as Sermanni was able to bring in Christen Press, Kristie Mewis and Leroux. All are extremely talented young players that Sermanni is looking to incorporate into his already highly skilled line-up.
“Having that pace up front, it’s an unbelievable asset,” U.S. coach Tom Sermanni said after the game. “At times in the game, I thought the Canadians defended very, very well for long parts of that game, but at some stage in that game, (the U.S. strikers) are going to break free. And Syd and Alex are very good finishers, so when they get those chances, they tend to score. The chances Alex got today, she made them look easier than they were. Those weren’t easy chances, but they were terrific finishes.”
Abby Wambach who celebrated her 33rd birthday today did not add to her goal total but she did have two assists. Wambach still sits three goals behind Mia Hamm who leads the international goal tally with 158 career goals. Wambach will get another opportunity in just a few weeks when the U.S. hosts Korea Republic for two games. Wambach spoke after the game about the rivalry that has developed between the two nations.
“I’m proud that this is a rivalry. Not too long ago it wasn’t,” Wambach said. “Not too long ago these games weren’t games we looked forward to, and now they are. Now they’re getting sold-out crowds, and I think that does nothing but push the women’s game forward.”
The U.S. record now improves to 45-3-5 against Canada and even though the Canadian team hasn’t chalked up a victory against the Americans in twelve years it is clear that their program is on the rise. The reigning bronze medalists are currently ranked 7th in the world and will also serve as the host nation for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015.