Morgan has hat trick, US beats Ireland 5-0

It was something of an understatement when Alex Morgan said she
was feeling it against Ireland.

Morgan scored three first-half goals and the Olympic gold
medal-winning U.S. women’s national team defeated Ireland 5-0 on
Wednesday night, the latest match in an exhibition tour for fans
following the London Games.

On the drizzle-slicked turf of Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field, Abby
Wambach and the rest of the U.S. women’s team encouraged
Morgan.

”Abby and everyone just kept saying `Shoot! Shoot! It’s a slick
surface!’ So I did,” Morgan said afterward, lingering to sign
autographs. ”I was feeling it.”

Sydney Leroux added two goals to help the top-ranked United
States improve to 4-0-2 on its Fan Tribute Tour.

Morgan struck first in the 24th minute. It was her 25th goal
this year, making her the third U.S. player to reach the mark in a
season – Wambach had 31 in 2004 and Michelle Akers had 39 in
1991.

Morgan scored again in the 34th minute, when she had a clear
path from just outside of the box in front of goalkeeper Emma
Byrne. Morgan’s third, which was unassisted, came in the 44th
minute.

It was her second career hat trick. She also had one March 7 in
a 4-0 victory over Sweden.

Acting U.S. coach Jill Ellis said the 23-year-old forward’s
performance was ”obviously special.”

”Every time she touched the ball something dangerous
happened,” Ellis said.

Morgan was subbed out for Leroux, who scored in the 66th minute
to make it 4-0. She scored again in the 81st minute for the final
margin.

Leroux has a reserve-record 12 goals this season.

Hope Solo started in goal for the U.S. while her personal life
was again grabbing headlines. Earlier Wednesday, husband Jerremy
Stevens was taken into custody in Hillsborough County, Fla., for an
alleged parole violation.

The day before their wedding on Nov. 13 in Washington state,
Stevens was arrested for alleged domestic assault during a party in
the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Court documents said police
reported seeing signs of a fight and a cut on Solo’s arm.

A judge released Stevens after a court appearance, saying there
was no evidence connecting him to any assault.

Solo spoke to reporters at a team training session in Portland
on Tuesday, proclaiming she was happy and she would never stand for
domestic violence. She blamed the media for distorting the
story.

Following reports of Stevens arrest in Florida, Solo posted to
Twitter: ”I feel bad for all the ignorance in the world. People
are so quick to judge. The media spins stories in such dramatic
fashion. I will continue to show love, and never make judgments. I
am blessed w True Love & the beautiful game of soccer. I wish
everybody the same happiness.”

Stevens was selected with the No. 28 pick of the 2002 draft by
the Seahawks after a stellar career at Washington. But he also was
involved in incidents away from football that included reckless
driving charges for crashing into a nursing home.

Solo also went to Washington. According to various reports, they
started dating following the London Olympics.

Solo did not speak to reporters after Wednesday night’s
match.

The United States is 9-0-0 against Ireland, including a 2-0
victory in September 2008 in Bridgeview, Ill. The Americans have
outscored Ireland 35-1 in their nine matches.

Ireland, ranked 32nd in the world, has never qualified for the
Olympics or the World Cup. The Portland fans, known for their
affection for soccer, cheered the Irish players after the match.
Ireland returned the favor, heading to both sides of the field to
applaud.

Ellis, women’s development director for U.S. soccer, coached the
U.S. team against Ireland. Former Australian national team coach
Tom Sermanni takes over the national team in January, replacing
Olympic coach Pia Sundhage, who stepped down.

Ireland, coached by Sue Ronan, will play the United States again
in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday as the tour continues.

The U.S. women improved to 10-1-0 in Portland, with their lone
loss coming to Germany in a FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal in
2003.

With temperatures in the low 40s, attendance for the weeknight
match was 10,092.

”I’m not going to do an ice bath,” joked fan favorite Megan
Rapino, who played at the University of Portland. ”It’s too
cold.”