US Women’s National team rolls to easy win against Ireland
The United States Women's National Team hadn't played a competitive game in more than a month, but they didn't need much time to shake off the rust Wednesday night.
Alex Morgan scored a hat trick in the first half and the national team rolled to a 5-0 win against Ireland in an exhibition game in front of 10,092 fans at Jeld-Wen Field.
The game against Ireland represented a continuation of the U.S. national team's 10-game "Fan Tribute Tour." The team will face Ireland again Saturday in Glendale, Arizona and they will play three more exhibition games in the next two weeks to wrap up the tour.
The win extended the United States' unbeaten streak to nine consecutive games (9-0-0) against Ireland.
Morgan's three goals continued her hot streak in 2012. The forward has scored 26 goals in 2012, the third-highest total in a calendar year in team history. Morgan's total ranks behind Michelle Akers' 39 goals in 1991 and Abby Wambach's 31 goals in 2004.
"From the beginning of the game, Abby and all the players kept saying, 'Just shoot,' " Morgan said. "That's what I kept doing and it went our way."
The U.S. scored first on a nice individual effort by Morgan in the 24th minute. Morgan used her left foot to fire a 20-yard shot from the right side just outside the box and the ball bounced off the far post and into the net.
Morgan scored her second goal after midfielder Lauren Cheney won a 50-50 ball inside the box and managed to slip a pass to an unmarked Morgan. Morgan calmly blasted a eight-yard shot in the 34th minute.
The forward's third goal occurred after another individual effort. Her first shot was blocked inside the box, but the ball rolled back to her and she didn't miss with her second attempt in the 44th minute. Morgan posted her second hat trick of the year and second of her career.
"Every time she touched the ball, something dangerous happened," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "To score a hat trick in 45 minutes is pretty impressive, regardless of who you are playing."
Reserve forward Sydney Leroux scored two goals in the game. Leroux scored the team's fourth goal after an assist from midfielder Heather O'Reilly in the 62nd minute and she scored again in the 81st minute after an assist by Amy Rodriguez. Leroux's goals were her 11th and 12th of the year.
Morgan's dominance mirrored the team's control of the game, particularly in the first half. The United States outshot Ireland 11-0 and posted five shots on goal, compared to zero shots for Ireland in the first half.
"We made a conscious effort to step up the tempo a little bit," midfielder Megan Rapinoe said. "Just step up our movement, the quality of our passes and quickness and things started to flow from there."
The U.S. kept the ball in Ireland's half of the field throughout most of the first half and was never really threatened. The United States finished the game with a 20-3 advantage in shots and 10-1 in shots on goal.
The easy game against Ireland was a nice return to competitive action for the U.S. women. Their last game was a 2-2 draw against Germany in an exhibition game in Connecticut Oct. 23.
"I was itching to get back on the field, we haven't been together for a month," Morgan said. "The team was excited to play again."
-- Geoffrey C. Arnold; follow him on Twitter.