The knockout rounds begin on Friday, and Morgan thinks she and her teammates have what it takes to win the gold medal, FIFA.com reports.
“I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved up to now,” Morgan said. “We picked up three points in each match, and finished top of our group. We’ve actually been talking about the fact that our country’s never had such a good start before, either at the FIFA Women’s World Cup or the Olympic Games. So we’re obviously very satisfied with our results, and team morale is as high as it’s ever been.”
The quest for gold got off to a shaky start when the U.S. conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes of its opening game (against France). But the Americans regrouped, took control of the game and won 4-2.
They then thumped Colombia 3-0 in the second game and blanked North Korea 1-0 in the final pool game. Morgan thinks the U.S. is one of the best teams at the Olympics, but there are a few areas in which it can improve.
“We’ve played really well as a unit so far,” she said. “But I do think that we could still do some work on our organization and the way that we drop back to defend. We’re definitely one of the most on-form teams in the tournament, but due to the large number of matches and simple tiredness, we’ve got a tendency to occasionally lose focus in those areas. But it’s just little tweaks that are required, and I think that our growing confidence will help us a lot in the matches to come.”
The U.S. meets New Zealand on Friday, and Morgan says the team is focused on the task at hand. The Kiwis gave the U.S. a scare during a game last February when they led 1-0 for much of the second half, but Morgan struck twice in the last five minutes of the contest to give her team the win.
“New Zealand is on great form at the moment. They’re very organized, with players that complement each other. In February, they were actually beating us, but I scored two goals that gave us a last-gasp win –- that kind of thing doesn’t happen to us very often. I hope that they give us a little less trouble this time around.
That was a seminal game in the 23-year-old striker’s career, as it marked her ascent from “super-sub” to starter at international level. After coming off the bench for most of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, Morgan started and scored against Canada in the tournament’s meaningless finale — both teams had already qualified for the Olympics. When the U.S. faced New Zealand two weeks later, Morgan retained her place in the starting 11 and showed U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage that she could be an important player for 90 minutes.
Morgan started the bulk the national team’s tune-up games as well as the three pool games at the Olympics. She repaid the faith Sundhage showed in her by scoring twice and assisting on two goals in Olympic play, forming a potent partnership with fellow Abby Wambach.
“I’m very happy with my performances,” Morgan said. “My stats are good, and my passes have generally found their intended targets.
“There’s no doubt that it’s a completely different role [as a starter]. I’m not the kind of person who hangs around in the background, and I always want to help my team to the best of my ability. It goes without saying that I’m delighted by the way in which I’ve gradually become a starter over the past six months. And now I feel pretty comfortable playing alongside Abby Wambach up front. We complement each others’ styles and have built up a good understanding.”
The U.S. is three wins away from reaching the mountaintop. It’s likely that Morgan will feature heavily in the pursuit of a third-straight gold medal. The former California Golden Bear wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo via Twitter/@Nicos_G