Alex Morgan strikes twice as Team USA women draw France

Alex Morgan scored twice after halftime to lift the United States to a 2-2 draw with France in East Hartford, Conn. on Wednesday night.

Alex Morgan scored twice after halftime to lift the United States to a 2-2 draw with France in East Hartford, Conn. on Wednesday night.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn.

Alex Morgan climbed off the bench to score twice in the second half and lift the United States women's national team to a 2-2 draw with France at Rentschler Field.

Louisa Necib opened the scoring from the spot just before the half-hour to stake the French to a halftime lead. Morgan drew her side level shortly into the second half, but Amadine Henry struck against the run of play to restore the French advantage after 68 minutes. Morgan then engineered a fine solo goal five minutes before the end to secure a draw.

“I just feel like, finally, I’m back and doing what I’m supposed to be doing: scoring goals,” Morgan said. “It feels good.”

Morgan's return to the scoresheet offers an encouraging sign for U.S. coach Jill Ellis as she attempts to prepare her side for CONCACAF World Cup qualifying later this year. In her second national team appearance of the year after recovering from an ankle complaint, Morgan displayed the incisive and lively running required to spark her side later this year and heading into the World Cup next summer.

There is plenty of work still to do ahead of that point, though. Ellis ran the rule over several squad players in this match in a bid to gather more information. The competition for those spots will increase after this uneven display, but Morgan's influential second half performance underscored the importance of the key figures in the side as the Americans prepare for their likely trip to Canada next summer.

“I thought in two games in a 10-day span, we implemented some really good things,” midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “It’s only going to get better.”

France displayed more intent in the first half than it showed when the U.S. claimed a 1-0 victory when the two teams met in Tampa on Saturday. The more expansive brief allowed the French to establish control in possession and search for potential openings against an American side more than willing to play directly from back to front. The calculus limited the chances for both sides in the early stages, though Henry fired wide of the far post after 21 minutes as a marker of French intent.

The endeavor paid off with a rather fortunate penalty decision for the opener after 26 minutes. Necib raced into the penalty area in a bid. She tapped the ball toward the end line as Harris rushed off her line in a bid to thwart the danger. Harris caught Necib as she rushed out and watched as the referee pointed to the spot despite the ball trickling out of bounds and away from goal. Necib dutifully dispatched the penalty moments later to open the scoring.

Necib's goal did not spark the match to life before the interval with both teams struggling to produce the telling pass. Lauren Holiday squandered perhaps the best chance with her shot straight at Sarah Bouhaddi nine minutes before halftime with Heather O'Reilly streaking free on the right side. It provided a fitting conclusion to a disappointing first half for the Americans, but their performance improved considerably once Morgan entered the fray after halftime.

Morgan perked up the United States' attack with her direct and energetic running in the attacking half. Her presence allowed the United States to combine underneath and stretch the field vertically to place more pressure on the French shape. Those improvements produced the expected improvements and restored parity early in the second half.

The equalizer started in midfield with Allie Long's vertical ball through the French midfield. Morgan latched onto the pass as she entered the attacking third. Her close control allowed her to shift the ball appropriately and created enough space to shoot. Her resulting effort hit the far post and then nestled into the back of the net to bring the U.S. level after 56 minutes. Christen Press hit the near post shortly thereafter as the home side pressed for a second. 

France never quite restored its dominion over the game, but it did managed to claim the lead for a second time after 68 minutes. It came from a quick series of passes in the attacking half to carve open the American shape. Henry could have shot first time when she collected on the right side of the penalty area, but she waited a moment and received a fortunate deflection off the recovering defender to place her side back in front.

Morgan ensured the U.S. would end this two-match series unbeaten with her second goal five minutes from time. She received the ball on the left side of the penalty area, sliced inside and slotted home inside the far post to lift the Americans to a share of the spoils at full time.

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