Jackson: Young Stars Morgan, Leroux Leading U.S. Women's Soccer Team

Alex Morgan Photo

Alex Morgan and the U.S. women's soccer team met with the media before playing
a match at Toyota Park against Germany. (Photo by Kevin Heineman)

By Nikara Johns
The Red Line Project

Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

Forward Alex Morgan leads the U.S. women's soccer team this year with 24 goals and 15 assists, the most since 2004. Sydney Leroux, the youngest player on the team at 22, has set the record of 10 goals scored off the bench in a year, the most-ever by a substitute.

Still in celebration of their gold medal win from this year’s London Olympics; both are continuing their journey on the team’s 2012 Fan Tribute Tour, which recently stopped in suburban Chicago.

“It’s been a hard road, but for all of us, it’s been a pretty crazy year,” Leroux said. “We came out with it, we have the gold medal, and now we get to travel the U.S.”

Leroux has become a dangerous forward in the world of soccer.  At the U-20 level, she is the USA’s most capped player and the highest scorer with 29 goals.

In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Morgan played a crucial role with her game-winning header against Canada in the semifinal. The goal was the latest in FIFA history at 122 minutes and 23 seconds.

Leroux has also made her mark on the National Team during the Summer Olympics, where she scored her first Olympic goal clinching their quarterfinal win versus New Zealand.

She has been dubbed by her teammates as the “honey badger.”

“It’s this kind of inside joke that I’m a honey badger because I’m feisty,” she said.

Sydney Leroux Photo
Sydney Leroux answers a reporter's questions
at Toyota Park. (Photo by Kevin Heineman)

Leroux wears not only a gold medal, but also a backpack. She's continuing her education at UCLA while she plays for the U.S. team. She played as a Bruin for the past four years, but now only trains with the team when she can.

“It’s a little different. I miss it sometimes,” Leroux said.

The U.S. Women’s National Team played at Toyota Park last week against Germany in front of a sellout crowd of 19,522. The game finished in a 1-1 tie -- with an assist from Morgan -- in a matchup between the world’s top two teams in FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

This match also marked the first without former head coach Pia Sundhage, who decided step down to coach her native Sweden’s team.

Jill Ellis, the development director for the U.S. Women’s National Teams, has stepped in as the interim head coach.

“Of course it’s different, especially for me, she’s the only coach I’ve had, so it’s different,” Leroux said. “But, then again, Jill is coming in and she’s been there for us too.”

Ellis has coached Leroux since she was 16 years old on the youth team and as her coach at UCLA.

“It’s comfortable for everyone, she’s been the assistant coach for years,” Leroux said.

With more than one million followers on Twitter, Morgan has become a fan favorite. Her shoe deal with Nike has her likeness featured in storefronts all over Chicago in recent weeks, and her modeling jobs have stretched beyond sports.

The media calls her the “face of the future for U.S. soccer.” But Morgan says she is just focused on her sport.

“I’m really focused on this team, and opportunities I get from being on this team is great, but this is always my priority,” Morgan said.

“The goal right now is the 2015 World Cup.”

Morgan has proved her talent on the team as the third-most highest scorer in her first 50 caps with 32 goals. She even leads the U.S. with 24 goals in 24 games.

She was named the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year for team sports.

“I was up against some really tough competition,” Morgan said.

The other finalists in the category included Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings who also took home the gold in beach volleyball.

“I’m really happy and so honored to be sportswoman of the year,” she said. “Abby [Wambach] received this award last year so it’s amazing to have back-to-back teammates.”

Both Morgan and Leroux will continue on the Fan Tribute tour against Ireland in Portland, Ore., and Glendale, Ariz.

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