USWNT 2, New Zealand 1: It’s Alex Morgan Time In America

When the US faced China in a friendly on October 6, 2010 at PPL Park just outside of Philadelphia, the match was notable for a few reasons; Abby Wambach de-hotdogged some dude, roughly 12 people showed up to watch, and, oh yeah, Alex Morgan: Clutch Goal Scorer became a thing. Staring down the possibility of its first loss in six years, the U.S. trailed China 1-0 heading into the game’s final quarter of an hour. Morgan earned her third cap when she replaced Amy Rodriguez in the 71st minute, and tallied her first goal for the senior side less than ten minutes later, netting the equalizer in the 83rd to preserve the U.S.’s home unbeaten streak.

A year and a half later, and even after Abby Wambach’s very very very late equalizer against Brazil in the Women’s World Cup, those final 15 minutes still very much belong to Alex Morgan. Down 1-0 to New Zealand in front of a sellout crowd of 20,677 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, Morgan grabbed a pair of late goals to give the U.S. the 2-1 win. Hannah Wilkinson put New Zealand ahead in the 48th minute before the Americans stormed back, with Morgan scoring in the 88th minute and again in stoppage time to keep that streak alive.

Earning her second consecutive start, Morgan’s speed caused trouble for New Zealand’s back line from the opening whistle. In the 9th minute a blurry person wearing black that was decided by a Twitter-consensus vote of 4-2 to be Ali Riley (but possibly Rebecca Smith) fouled Morgan in the box. Referee Moo “It Would Be So Much Better If Her Name Was ‘Baaaaah,’ Because, Sheep, New Zealand, Get It?” Hackett pointed to the spot. Abby Wambach promptly rang the PK attempt off the post. New Zealand countered, with Wilkinson finding space behind the still-a-work-in-progress U.S. back four, but the Ferns striker sent her shot over the bar.

Morgan’s speed continued to be a problem for New Zealand, but the U.S. couldn’t muster much in the way of shots that didn’t go directly into an opposing player or New Zealand keeper Jenny Bindon’s hands. The Americans finished the half with a few shots that would have counted if this was the other kind of football, but alas…

Pia Sundhage replaced Hope Solo with Nicole Barnhart and Heather “I’m Going to Wear Short Sleeves Even Though Everyone Else Is Wearing Long Sleeves And Gloves” O’Reilly with Amy “I’m Going To Switch My Hairstyle So You Think I’m Heather Mitts” Rodriguez. O’Reilly had been well contained by New Zealand defender and “Umm, guys, I think we are all going to be wearing the same color” alerter Ali Riley for much of the first half, but the change did little to help the U.S. attack.

Instead, it was the Football Ferns who struck first. In the 48th minute Wilkinson picked up a very wayward back pass from Kelley O’Hara and lobbed a shot over Barnhart to give New Zealand the 1-0 lead.

The U.S. continued to attack, bringing beautiful setup after beautiful setup to a screeching halt with lackluster finishing. Wambach was rendered mostly ineffective with much of the service coming on the ground and Bindon was solid, saving whatever was sent her way – or, frequently, right at her.

But then, final ten minutes, Alex Morgan Time. A Rapinoe cross found Morgan, who headed the ball home to knot the score at one. Bindon did initially appear to make the save, but was behind the goalline when she caught the ball. The U.S. kept up the pressure and in stoppage time it was Morgan and her head again, this time redirecting a Wambach header off the post and past Bindon to give the U.S. the 2-1 lead, and a minute later, the win.

Overall, a solid showing from both sides. New Zealand, which still hasn’t officially qualified for the Olympics, appeared to pick up right where they left off in the draw with Mexico at the World Cup. Wilkinson, who scored that last-second equalizer in Germany, did well to exploit the U.S.’s high line. Defensively, the Football Ferns never gave the U.S. much in the way of threatening shots, thwarting several attacks that started out looking dangerous.

The USWNT continued the more possession-oriented game that Sundhage has favored lately, but the attack often fell flat. Wambach(‘s head) had few opportunities to go to work and although Morgan was often able to dribble or run herself into a good position, too often no one was there with her. The defense continues to be under construction, but wayward back pass aside, O’Hara still looks to be a serviceable option on the outside. Looking ahead to London, Christie Rampone, who earned her 250th cap in the match, will bring a veteran presence to whatever combination of players lines up around her. And with the Algarve Cup and then a pair of games in Japan up next, Sundhage still has plenty of time to tinker before the Olympics this summer.

20 thoughts on “USWNT 2, New Zealand 1: It’s Alex Morgan Time In America

  1. Quick as a Flash

    Stunning 1-1 tie NZ v. USA

    I can now confirm that those who have seen the replay say that it confirms that the referee totally blew the call on the USA’s first goal.

    The effort by the Ferns was clearly their best ever and if they join the USA in the same Olympic pool they will be eager to show that they can do it again.

    The second goal was after the 3 minutes of extra time had ended but to a football traditionalist like me, that is no big deal.


    1. Joshua

      The first USA goal is up at:

      (Forgive me, I forgot how to embed a link)

      I am convinced the ref made the correct call. An American Football type TV review/appeal would have been in favor of the USA.

      A freezeframe of the TV picture at the moment the NZ goalkeeper made contact with the ball shows that the keeper facing the right post (right post facing the field). The keeper’s right foot is planted well inside the goal area. Her left foot appears to be on the goal line. The ball bounced off the post right at the keeper’s hands (inside the goal area) who then quickly “pushed” the ball back out into the field and leaned towards the field to make it look like the ball didn’t go “across the great divide” to quote the announcer. Incredibly quick reaction by the keeper.

      Judge for yourself.

      NZWNT has an excellent Keeper.

      USWNT appeared a bit down after the Olympic Qualifying tournament. But then New Zealand is definitely better than most CONCACAF teams although they are ranked lower than Mexico and Canada in the FIFA rankings.

      USWNT gets Denmark next. Denmark s/b a real test.

    2. babyhorse

      If you really had seen the video highlight of the 1st goal you fill definitely confirm that in the 12 sec of the video the GK is standing on the inside of the goal while trying to hold the ball. A legit goal for Alex Morgan.

    3. Angie

      I’m super, SUPER late on this, but in case you needed an eye-witness account…my seats were literally even with the goal line and only several rows back. The ball was in by several inches, no doubt about it. (A reminder: AWK readers. The ball has to cross the line, regardless of where the keeper’s body is.)

  2. Jennifer

    WNTfan —

    Bindon played great for most of the game but her feet were definitely behind the line when she tried to grab the ball on Morgan’s first goal.

    I’d say Morgan is definitely making her case (and then some) to be part of the starting XI. It’ll be interesting how that effects the formation going forward. I was honestly a bit surprised to see Pia go with a 4-4-2 in both this game and the CONCACAF final though. Wasn’t quite as effective here, though I was glad to see the team to pull out a win regardless.

    Much respect to New Zealand for their effort this afternoon. Definitely caught myself thinking about what the back line would look like if “Umm, guys, I think we are all going to be wearing the same color” alerter Ali Riley had in fact been suiting up in the same colors as the USWNT. Her former Stanford teammate has potential in the role though. The pass miscue may have been bad, but better to have O’Hara get those growing pains out now rather than later (nice to see the domestic non-loss streak continued though).

  3. sec

    yes, but, I can now confirm that those who see the video replay (below) will confirm that the call on the 1st goal was not “totally blown”:

    That shows (when paused at 12 seconds) that ball was at least mostly, and perhaps all the way, across the goal line. We’ll never know more than that, because this match was not televised like a World Cup, but this shows that the side ref probably got it right, and certainly did not commit clear error.

  4. Fay

    The ref made a good call. Clearly the goalie was behind the goal line as was the ball before the goalie tapped it away. Lacked in finishing, but nonetheless a solid win for USWNT.

  5. Katie

    I think Abby is tired. Time to give Abby a break and use fresh legs. She has plenty of options. Morgan, Leroux, A-Rod, Cheney can all play up top with other mid-combinations. It would be in the best interest to limit her minutes and trot some different attacking combos out there.

    1. Jenny

      Not Abby’s best day but she made it happen nonetheless. Tired? Maybe just cautious. Just happy she didn’t injure herself. Ps- think rules are clear and the last goal was good.

    2. J

      Let’s not forget that Ms. Wambach was not on the roster for the 2008 Olympic team and did not play because of an injury in a “friendly” before the 2008 Olympics. I think she wants to play in the Olympic tournament this time.

      1. Katie

        And she should. But she’s getting older and we have talented players that we need to get into the fold. I’d hate to see progress jeopardized because of something we “owe” Abby. I think it’s time to find her a more limited but effective role.

  6. magpie

    Great win USWNT! Whew,holding my breath on the last 10-15 mins. Good thing Pia did not subbed out Alex, cuz when she is around during the final minutes the USWNT scores. She did not disappoint us.#BELIEVE#. What a competitor!I can’t wait for the result of the closed door game tomorrow between these 2 teams again (it was tweeted by Hope earlier today).

  7. Quick as a Flash

    Closed Door=Practice Game

    Presumably the Ferns and Americans will not put their starting line-ups out there. They will work on different combinations and give the bench a lot of playing time. I still think WE should be starting. Hope she is given the opportunity to show Pia that I am right!

    To those who are convinced that it was a goal, try standing with your left foot on the line and pushing a ball out. It was close and maybe a part of the ball got over the line..maybe!!!

    As for the PK take down, it is clear where the trip came and Jeff Kassouf got it right. It was generous of Abby to miss the PK to make up for the bad call.

  8. john

    Well that was exciting! Curious about all the comments about the keeper’s position. She can stand against the net if the ball doesn’t cross the line. Not very good picture and lone angle is difficult, but it does appear the whole ball crossed the line. Perhaps the best clue is that swat by the keeper which indicates she knew (suspected) she couldn’t catch the ball where it was. Definitely agree Abby was off and probably should get a break. Besides US can give opponents more to consider as they prepare to play US. I feel compelled to point out that once again a lack of great (good?) finishing made this game closer than it had to be. Equally, it also cost NZ a solid opportunity to seize a victory. Hankinson hits that first chance and everything changes. Will be interesting to see if the focus really comes to bear at Algarve cup w/ “something” on the line. A dropoff in this game was not unusual especially w/o many lineup changes to begin the game. Starting the ‘subs” might have raised the energy and focus f/ all. Bottom line is a win is a win when all is said in done. Are we going to refuse to recognize the gold medalists if the winning goal deflects in off a defender’s behind? Probably not.

    1. D

      Thanks for explaining the rule that the whole ball has to cross the goal line and that it doesn’t matter where the GK was standing. I was hoping someone would do that.

      From watching the replay multiple times, and given the camera angle and not knowing where the sideline official was, I’m not sure anyone can definitively say that the whole ball was over or not. That said it was an exciting game, that probably should have ended in a tie. The +3 minutes sure seemed a lot longer than 3 to me.

  9. Theobservantspectator

    I hear we will see NZ’s Wilkinson again as she has signed with Tennessee and new coach Brian Pensky.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *