Americans 'catch the attention early'

  • Article by: KEVIN BAXTERLos Angeles Times
  • July 25, 2012 - 10:03 PM

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - Falling behind by two goals after only 14 minutes wasn't the script Alex Morgan had written for her Olympic soccer debut. But it's the one she found herself acting out on Wednesday

"Once I stepped on that field and the whistle blew, I was considered an Olympian. That was an amazing feeling for me," Morgan said. "And then we were hit with two goals. It was a quick turnaround."

So Morgan, 23, the youngest U.S. player on the field, turned to Abby Wambach, 32, the second-oldest, and came up with a plan. "Me and Abby looked at each other and we were like, 'All right, a goal each,' " said Morgan, who went that one better, scoring a goal in each half to lead the two-time defending Olympic champion Americans to a 4-2 victory over France on the first day of group play in the London Games.

Wambach also had a first-half goal and Carli Lloyd came off the bench to get the go-ahead score for the United States just after halftime. Both of those goals, as well as one of Morgan's, were set up by midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who joked afterward that the early deficit simply served to make the game more exciting.

"There's a lot of other sports going on," she said. "So we have to catch the attention early."

The French came into the Olympics as the hottest team in the world, having won 17 consecutive games. And when Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie scored two minutes apart early in the first half, the French appeared to be in control again.

Then Wambach started the comeback, heading in a long corner kick from Rapinoe in the 19th minute. It was the first goal France had allowed in eight games.

Thirteen minutes later, Morgan got another one after a breakdown by the French defense allowed keeper Hope Solo's goal kick to bounce unchecked toward the net. Morgan narrowly beat French goalie Sarah Bouhaddi and defender Ophelie Meilleroux to the ball, then chipped a soft left-footer over Bouhaddi's head and into the goal.

That marked the first time France had given up multiple goals in a game this year.

Gold medal favorites Japan and Brazil also won their matches on the first day of women's soccer, and Britain edged New Zealand 1-0 in its first competitive game ever in women's soccer.

Japan got past Canada 2-1. Brazil, the silver medalist in the past two Olympics, routed Cameroon 5-0 with two goals by five-time world player of the year Marta and one by Cristiane, who became the all-time top Olympic women's scorer with 11 goals.

The soccer tournament started early because of its long match schedule. The men's competition will begin Thursday.

The U.S. women's next game in group play is on Saturday against Colombia. The top two teams in each of the three groups, plus two third-place teams, will advance to the quarterfinals.

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