No. 7: U.S. phenom Alex Morgan

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
7:26
PM PT

Alex MorganMike Hewitt/FIFA/Getty ImagesAlex Morgan of Diamond Bar was a breakout star with the U.S. national team this year.

Counting down the top 11 personalities of 2011 in Southern California soccer ...

Alex Morgan's explosion onto the women's soccer scene has been euphoric, and not just for her. The energy, speed, aggression -- and, yes, innocence -- she has brought to the U.S. women's national team has made a difference, and fans have noticed.

How could they not. Morgan is the Yanks' super sub, the woman U.S. coach Pia Sundhage turns to when a goal is required. The striker from Diamond Bar has come through, with 10 goals in 26 international appearances, six of them in the 88th minute or later.

She was a force at last summer's Women's World Cup in Germany, scoring a vital insurance goal in the semifinal victory over France, then twice providing the U.S. leads in the final -- scoring in the 69th minute and assisting Abby Wambach midway through overtime -- before Japan rallied for a 2-2 draw and prevailed on penalty kicks.

Morgan (Diamond Bar HS), 22, is a slashing forward who tears open space against opposing defenses to score goals, set up teammates or open crevices that can be exploited. She debuted for the U.S. in March 2010, following her junior season at Cal, became a regular that fall and used a solid spring as the U.S. prepared for the World Cup to cement her job. She relishes her role on the team.

“As a forward, you have to kind of thrive on that pressure," Morgan said last spring. “When I get in those moments, and I only have five, 10, 15 minutes to show what I have to contribute, instinct takes over. In the last 10 minutes of the game, you can't really think about the technical side. When you have to score a goal in the last five minutes, you've got to really use your strengths and work with them.”

Morgan also was the No. 1 pick in last January's Women's Professional Soccer draft and won the championship in her rookie season with the Western New York Flash, scoring four goals in 14 games.

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