Alex Morgan’s golden year continued when U.S. Soccer named the fleet footed striker their 2012 Female Athlete of the Year. With the vote split 50-50 between fans and U.S.Soccer officials/press, Morgan’s spectacular haul of 28 goals and 19 assists in 2012 were too much to overlook.
Also honored was defender Julie Johnston, who captained the United States to the gold medal in U20 World Cup in Japan this summer. Johnston won what U.S. Soccer described as one the closest votes ever taken in this category, edging Kealia Ohai, who scored the gold medal clinching goal, and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo. Johnson was also honored as the third best player at the World Cup, winning the Bronze Ball, an unusual acknowledgement for a defender.
But as usual the headlines go to Alex Morgan, who has gone from super sub on the silver medal World Cup team in 2011, to perhaps the best player in the world on the 2012 gold medal winners. Although impossible to prove, there is an argument to be made that the U.S. might have stood one step higher on the podium in 2011, had U.S. coach Pia Sundhage moved Morgan into the starting 11 just a bit sooner.
What cannot be disputed, however are Morgan’s statistics, statistics that place Alex Morgan’s 2012 season on the shortlist for the best ever by a United States women’s soccer player. With three games against China remaining this year, Morgan has a realistic chance to reach the 30 goal mark, joining Michelle Akers, and Abby Wambach. When you consider that Morgan also leads the national team in assists, by a wide margin; Megan Rapinoe is second with 11; you have a truly special season.
But, impressive as Alex Morgan is on the stat sheet, numbers don’t come close to measuring her impact. Take into account the importance of some of Morgan’s goals, with the World Cup semifinal game winning goal against Canada, in the 123 minute, at the top of the list. Morgan is not especially known for headed goals, that’s strike partner Abby Wambach’s forte, but Morgan out leaped both the Canadian goalkeeper and a defender, to get her head to Heather O’Reilly’s cross and send the U.S. to the final.
The most striking thing about Morgan’s game, though, is watching the opposing backline become unnerved by her speed. Seemingly routine long balls sent Morgan’s way result in Morgan blowing past defenders who would seem to have the angle on the ball and the situation under control. Of course Morgan then has the skills to pick out a teammate with a precise cross, or more likely, bury her chance and add to her ever growing goal tally.
All that is left for Morgan to complete a dream year is to add the Ballon d’Or to her burgeoning trophy collection. FIFA will announce their world women’s player of the year award January 7, 2013 at a ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, on the same night that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta are up for the male honors. Alex Morgan will be competing against teammate Abby Wambach and five time winner Marta.
As great a year as Abby Wambach has had, and despite Mata’s brilliance, look for Alex Morgan’s dream year to continue to continue in Zurich.