No. 13 struck again in Wednesday’s Algarve Cup final, but luck had nothing to do with the outcome.
Alex Morgan rose to the occasion, scoring twice to lift the United States women’s national team to a 2-0 win over Germany. The win gave the US a ninth Algarve Cup title.
Morgan’s first goal – on this March 13 date – came in the 13th minute for the USA’s No. 13 shirt. The goal was a beauty, too; a shot that Morgan rocketed into the upper corner inside the near post to give the United States an early lead.
Sydney Leroux chased down the ball on the right wing and sent a cross into the box, which Germany defender Luisa Wensing could only clear right to the feet of Morgan, who buried the opportunity from 15 yards out.
Morgan would double the US lead in the 34th minute when she took advantage of a major mix-up in the back between German defender Josephine Henning and goalkeeper Almuth Schult. Neither German player took control of a bouncing ball just outside the 18-yard box and Morgan slipped in, toe-poked the ball past Schult and tapped it in for a second goal.
Morgan nearly claimed a hat trick in the 64th minute when she smacked a shot off the crossbar from 20 yards out.
Germany had second-half opportunities, but US goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart came up big on several occasions. None more so than in the 68th minute, when she made a pair of back-to-back, point-blank saves to keep the Germans off the board. She came up big again in stoppage time when she denied Celia Okoyino da Mbabi.
Germany, which brought a relatively young team to the Algarve Cup, were the defending champions of the tournament.
After the match, Megan Rapinoe, who did not play in the final, was awarded player of the tournament.
Thoughts and observations:
— Alex Morgan showed her usual swagger in scoring the two goals and proving dangerous on several other occasions. On Monday she ended her 474-minute scoring drought (even though we told you here and here that she wasn’t in a slump) and on Wednesday you would have laughed at any notion of one of the world’s best strikers being out of form. Her first goal was pure class and her second tally came from following through with the play.
— Defensively, the US looked sharp, particularly considering US captain Christie Rampone sat on the bench for the victory. Whitney Engen had a solid outing centrally alongside Rachel Buehler and Kelley O’Hara and Ali Krieger were once again great on both sides of the ball. Krieger looks like she is nearing a return to her 2011 form, when she was one of the best right backs in the world. O’Hara, meanwhile, followed-up a brilliant outing on Monday with another convincing performance on Wednesday. The Stanford graduate is coming into her own with a year under her belt at the position.
— Sydney Leroux got the start alongside Morgan. Leroux still seems best utilized as a burst of energy off the bench. She doesn’t quite look ready to be a 90-minute player yet, but that’s the same thing Pia Sundhage said about Morgan just over a year ago, and Morgan’s production since has been historic. Leroux’s athleticism, however, makes her a threat anywhere on the field at any time and she could be nearing her time as a starter. Tom Sermanni’s decision to start her twice in the last three games is a good way of grooming Leroux into that increased role. In the interim, it makes the most sense to have Leroux come into a match late for Abby Wambach instead of the opposite. Lerouox’s speed against a tired defense can change a match and Wambach’s presence throughout the game will wear down opponents.
— The US midfield struggled at times, giving Germany room to build momentum. Shannon Boxx struggled on the ball late in the match and the US didn’t get much from the flanks that did not otherwise come from O’Hara and Krieger getting forward.
— Sermanni again experimented with his lineup without sacrificing the end result. Yael Averbuch started in the center of the park and Christen Press got another look as a wide midfielder. Leroux’s start kept Wambach on the bench until the 75th minute, when she replaced Press. Sermanni again substituted in a third center back to play in a holding midfield role for the final minutes. This time it was Becky Sauerbrunn sitting in front of the back four for the final minutes, just as Engen did on Monday.
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Germany
Date: March 13, 2013
Competition: 2013 Algarve Cup; Championship Game
Venue: Algarve Stadium; Faro, Portugal
Kickoff: 5 p.m. local / 1 p.m. ET
Weather: 56 degrees, sunny, clear
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 2 0 2
GER 0 0 0
USA – Alex Morgan 13th minute
USA – Alex Morgan 33
USA : 18-Nicole Barnhart; 11-Ali Krieger (6-Crystal Dunn, 58), 19-Rachel Buehler, 14-Whitney Engen, 5-Kelley O’Hara; 23-Christen Press (20-Abby Wambach, 75), 7-Shannon Boxx (capt.), 16-Yael Averbuch (4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 68), 17-Tobin Heath (8-Kristie Mewis, 82); 13-Alex Morgan, 2-Sydney Leroux
Substitutions Not Used: 3-Christie Rampone, 9-Heather O’Reilly, 10-Carli Lloyd, 15-Megan Rapinoe, 22-Lindsey Horan, 24-Ashlyn Harris
Head coach: Tom Sermanni
GER: 12-Almuth Schult; 4-Babett Peter (capt.) (27-Jennifer Cramer, 46), 22-Luisa Wensing, 23-Josephine Henning, 25-Leonie Maier; 15-Verena Faißt (18-Svenja Huth, 75) 17-Viola Odebrecht (26-Nadine Keßler, 46, 10-Linda Bresonik, 60), 20-Lena Goeßling, 14-Dzsenifer Marozsan (24-Lena Lotzen, 81); 13-Celia Okoyino da Mbabi, 11-Anja Mittag (9-Alexandra Popp, 46)
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Nadine Angerer, 3-Saskia Bartusiak, 7-Melanie Behringer, 8-Kim Kulig, 21-Laura Benkarth, 29-Isabel Kerschowoski
Head coach: Silvia Neid
Stats Summary: USA / GER
Shots: 6 / 12
Shots on Goal: 3 / 5
Saves: 5 / 1
Corner Kicks: 1 / 4
Fouls: 12 / 14
Offside: 3 / 6
USA – Sydney Leroux (caution) 23rd minute
Referee: Carol Anne Chenard (CAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Marie-Josee Charbonneau (CAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Suzanne Morisset (CAN)
Fourth Official: Esther Staubli (SUI)
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