EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Summoning memories of the phrase Alex Morgan Time from yesteryear, the U.S. striker came on in the second half to save the United States women’s national team once again.
Morgan scored twice in the second half for her first national team goals in over a year as the U.S. women tied France 2-2 on Thursday at Rentschler Field to extend a 10-year home unbeaten streak to 84 games.
Morgan entered the match at halftime and scored 11 minutes later on a low, driven 24-yard shot that beat France goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi to her right. The ball hit off the inside of the post and went into the net, prompting Morgan to celebrate her first U.S. goal since June 2, 2013, by leaping the field signs and joining the American Outlaws supporters group in the corner.
“I wanted to do something special,” Morgan said of her celebration. “Actually, I thought about crying in the moment, but it was still early in the game and no time for that.”
“To be honest, I blacked out and I don’t remember a lot of it,” she continued. “I just remember turning, seeing the far post open and I hit it as well as I could have and from there I felt so happy.”
Morgan’s second equalizer came in the 85th minute on an individual effort that showed no signs of recent injury for Morgan, who was sidelined seven months with a left ankle sprain that turned into a stress reaction. The U.S. striker collected the ball on the left side of the penalty area and cut inside on France center back Wendi Renard, creating enough space to fire a right-footed shot that Bouhaddi could only get a piece of before the ball deflected into the net.
The late equalizer as a substitute was similar to the Morgan’s early days with the national team in 2010 and 2011, when she scored late in matches off the bench. Her most famous late goal came in November 2010, when she scored against Italy in the final minutes of a World Cup qualifying playoff match.
Morgan now has 46 goals in 72 U.S. appearances. She passed Julie Foudy on the all-time scoring chart, moving into 10th. Morgan hadn’t scored in any competition since August 4, 2013, when she scored for her club, Portland Thorns FC.
“I wasn’t expecting a lot out of her when I initially came in, but through the camp she’s done really well in the game, she’s improved,” U.S. head coach Jill Ellis said. “I’m just really pleased for her; she’s worked very, very hard to come back from this.”
France midfielder Amandine Henry looked like she would end the United States’ historic home unbeaten run with a 68th minute shot that beat U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Starting goalkeeper Hope Solo missed the match due to a family commitment.
Louisa Necib gave France the lead in the 27th minute, finishing a penalty kick after being brought down in the box by Harris.
“It’s one of those things that she knows she can’t beat me,” Harris said. “She can’t go through me, she can’t go around me, so like any forward they are going to touch it out of bounds and just flop, so that’s what she did.”
The goal gave France a confidence boost and saw the visitors dominate much of the possession following the goal. Eugénie Le Sommer and Gaëtane Thiney dropped deeper into the midfield from their forward roles to get on the ball, and Necib and Elise Bussaglia pushed forward.
“Before coming here, I told the players it is very important to come here and see the difference in level, if there is a big difference or not,” France coach Philippe Bergeroo said postgame, via a translator. “We see we are lower, but not too far. It is still a lower level, but getting closer and closer.”
The U.S. played direct soccer for much of the first half, unsuccessfully looking to play Sydney Leroux in over the top. France center backs Laura Georges and Renard thwarted three 1-v-1 U.S. chances in the first half with relative ease.
Thanks in part to five second-half substitutions, the U.S. settled down in the final 45 minutes and stymied the French attack.
“Overall, our ball movement was better in the second half and I think we stepped the line a little bit defensively,” Ellis said. “Then obviously in the attack I think we were able to play out a little bit better. There were some good adjustments; they did well.”
The Americans last lost at home on Nov. 6, 2004, falling 3-1 to Denmark in Philadelphia. They are 83-0-11 since.