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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
FIFA shortlist includes Alex Morgan

By Scott French

FIFA on Tuesday unveiled finalists for its women's Ballon d'Or award -- for global player of the year -- and it includes some of the usual suspects, five-time winner Marta and Japanese star Homare Sawa and star U.S. striker Abby Wambach.


Plus Alex Morgan.

The 22-year-old forward from Diamond Bar, who has emerged in the past year and a half as a force for the U.S. women's national team and played a key role in the Americans' run to last summer's Women's World Cup title game, joins teammates Wambach and Hope Solo among 10 finalists for FIFA's top individual honor.

Morgan (Diamond Bar HS) started just two of 16 games she played for the U.S. in 2011, but she's second on the team, with Wambach and former UCLA star Lauren Cheney, with five goals -- despite playing far fewer minutes, just 589, than anyone else with at least three goals. (Carli Lloyd's six goals leads the U.S. this year.)

She tallied twice off the bench during the Americans' stay in Germany -- in the semifinal victory over France and the final against Japan, which was lost on penalties -- and has scored nine times in 24 international appearances since making her debut in March 2010.

Wambach, who has a home in Hermosa Beach, and Solo are likelier to place in the top three, of course, and Marta has a stronghold on the award. Balloting is conducted among national team coaches and captains, and with so little of the women's game available on television or Internet feeds -- in great contrast to the men's game -- the honor has seemingly always been about reputation more than performance.

Marta and Japan's Aya Miyama, another finalist, are former L.A. Sol stars. Sawa, like Wambach and Solo, was a Women's United Soccer Association standout who plays in Women's Professional Soccer. And France's Sonia Bompastor also has played in WPS.

The other finalists are Germany's Kerstin Garefrekes, France's Louisa Necib and Sweden's Lotta Schelin.

U.S. coach Pia Sundhage is a finalist for FIFA World Coach of the Year, and so are Mexico's Leo Cuellar -- a former coach at Cal State L.A. who maintains a strong SoCal presence -- and Australia's Tom Sermanni, who coached in the late, great WUSA.

Norio Sasaki, who guided the Japanese to a surprise WWC title, should win the coaching honor. If not, it's a travesty.