GLENDALE, Ariz. — The U.S. women’s national team defeated the Republic of Ireland 2-0 on Saturday to remain unbeaten on their Fan Tribute Tour celebrating their Olympic Gold Medal last summer in London. The U.S. Women had previously defeated the Irish 5-0 on Nov. 28 in Portland on a first half hat trick from Alex Morgan and a brace from second half substitute Sydney Leroux. Other opponents this fall on the Fan Tribute Tour have included Costa Rica (one win), Australia (two wins) and Germany (two ties).
Before a crowd of 11,570, Morgan continued her rich goal scoring run when she scored in the 44th second. Morgan took a pass from Shannon Boxx about five yards from goal on the left side of goal and blasted the ball past Irish goalkeeper Emma Byrne. Byrne, who plays for Arsenal in England’s two year old national semiprofessional league–the FA WSL–was the most experienced player on the visitor’s roster as she received her 93rd international cap. The goal was Morgan’s 38th in 55 international games. In 2012 alone, Morgan leads the U.S. with 28 goals and has the third-highest calendar year total behind Michelle Akers (39 in 1991) and current teammate Abby Wambach (31 in 2004).
The U.S. doubled the score in the 38th minute when Morgan turned provider, chasing down a ball near the end line from defender Amy LePeilbet, and centering it in front of goal, where midfielder Megan Rapinoe buried the ball into the net past Byrne and off of a defender’s legs. As with her goals, Morgan has been a prolific provider in 2012, and now has 19, the fourth highest total all-time in a calendar year behind Mia Hamm (22 in 2004 and 20 in 1998) and Carin Gabarra (21 in 1991).
After the game Becky Sauerbrunn said the entire fall tour has been a remarkable experience.
“The whole thing; just having a Fan Tribute Tour is a high point, it means we did well at the Olympics, so getting a gold medal and being able to share it with everyone back home who supported us on our journey,” she said. “It’s an honor for us to be able to play in front of our fans and it’s nice that we’re getting so many cities [ten in all] and so we’re allowing a lot of the fans to watch us. It’s really fun for us and we’re hoping it’s really fun for the fans too.”
One player who did announce what she will do next year is forward Sydney Leroux. The 22-year-old Leroux, who finished high school in Phoenix after moving from Canada to pursue her dream of playing on the U.S. National team, will play in the new domestic league.
“I decided to stay here and help build women’s soccer in the States,” she said. “I thought it would be good for me to stay since I’m young and I think the best position for me is to play in the U.S.”
Leroux is hopeful she can play on the West Coast (with Portland or Seattle, having grown up in Vancouver, B.C., Phoenix and played college soccer at UCLA) but is realistic. “I’m the youngest on the team so I probably will go somewhere on the East Coast since there are more teams over there; we’ll see.”
Sauerbrunn also commented on the new professional women’s league that U.S. Soccer is developing with the Canadian and Mexican federations, due to start next spring, and is pleased with the effort going into it.
“The prospect of a competitive quality league is so exciting for us” she said. “If we want to keep competing at such a high level on the international stage, we need a domestic league. I think the start of this and everyone working with U.S. Soccer to get it going, I think it will only make this team better and soccer in America better.”
Sauerbrunn, like many of her teammates, has been struggling with whether to play in the U.S. in 2013 or play with a team abroad. Sauerbrunn played with Roa in Norway in 2009 after her first WPS season with the Washington Freedom, winning a title and the national cup with the Norwegian power. She is still unsure what she will do next year.
“It depends; there so many things up in the air, coaches, locations are set but where you are playing, the fields, venues,” Sauerbrunn said. “My options are open and the girls are deciding now so we have no idea on the numbers [who will play in the new domestic league]….We have to look beyond ourselves and beyond this team and if we want to keep winning medals, you need a domestic league so that those potential young people [particularly youth national team members] can compete day-in and day-out with players that are veterans right now, to that get that experience as soon as possible.”
Sauerbrunn also discussed the new league with our Richard Farley last week in Portland, though she did not commit to either playing in the league or abroad.
The last three games of the Fan Tribute Tour will be against China, in Detroit on Saturday, in Houston on Wednesday, Dec. 12, and in Boca Raton, Fla. on Saturday, Dec. 15.