Photo courtesy of Associated Press
By JOSE M. ROMERO
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Alex Morgan scored her 28th goal of the calendar year just 44 seconds into the match, and Megan Rapinoe added a goal for insurance to lead the U.S. women’s national team to a 2-0 win over Ireland in an international friendly Saturday in Glendale, Ariz.
The match, played before 11,570 fans, was the seventh of a 10-game tribute tour to the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning team from the London Olympic games. The latest two-game swing, through Portland, Ore. on Wednesday and University of Phoenix Stadium Saturday, saw the Americans outscore Ireland 7-0.
Morgan took a pass from teammates Lauren Cheney and shot yet another national team goal for the 23-year-old forward from Southern California. She has 38 goals in her national team career.
“She’s just special,” interim coach Jill Ellis said of Morgan. “She can set people up. She finishes, she turns well. Right now, she’s playing exceptionally well.”
Morgan assisted on Rapinoe’s goal in the 38th minute, finding Rapinoe open at near the top of the 18-yard box for a shot that beat Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne. Byrne’s six saves kept the match from being the rout that it was in Portland.
Morgan’s 28 goals and 19 assists in 2012 are third-most in a single year by a member of the USWNT in team history. She’s three goals behind teammate Abby Wambach for the No. 2 spot all-time in goals in a single season.
“Thank you for letting me know that,” Morgan told a reporter, smiling. “Now that’s in my sights. I think that it’s great that I’m really close to 30. I never imagined having this many goals this year. It’s been a dream year for me.”
Midfielder Carli Lloyd had four quality chances alone in the second half. One was saved, two were off target and the other one hit the cross bar above the net in the 67th minute.
“One of those days I guess,” Lloyd said. “We’re really having fun. We’re stringing a lot of passes together, we’re combining, we’re doing different things, it’s a lot of fun.”
The U.S. outshot Ireland 17-2. Hope Solo started but came out in the 22nd minute, replaced by Jill Loyden in goal.
Next up for the U.S. is games against China in Detroit, Houston and Boca Raton, Fla. this month.