June 22, 2015
EDMONTON, Alberta — Now that Alex Morgan has a goal, she doesn't want to look back on the opportunities she's missed.
She wants to look forward to the goals to come.
"I don't remember the last goal I've had with this team," said Morgan, who had been hampered by a bone bruise in her left knee going into the tournament. "And that's not a good sign. I don't want to look back and see when the last one was because now I've scored, and it's a fresh start moving forward."
Morgan scored her first goal of the Women's World Cup and the United States advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory over Colombia on Monday night. Her previous U.S. goal came March 6 in the Algarve Cup.
Abby Wambach's penalty kick early in the second half went wide after Colombia goalkeeper Catalina Perez — a backup herself — was ejected for a foul on Morgan. Stefany Castano, who replaced Perez in goal, got a hand on Morgan's shot five minutes later, but couldn't stop the goal to put the United States up 1-0.
"It didn't have much power on it as I wanted, but it went in and that's all that matters," she said about her right-footed goal.
Usually she's lefty: "It comes in handy when it needs to," she smiled.
Carli Lloyd also scored for the second-ranked Americans, who will face No. 16 China on Friday in Ottawa. The United States is seeking its third World Cup title, but first since 1999.
The Americans have not allowed a goal in 333 minutes.
Colombia has never won soccer's premier tournament, but the No. 28 Las Cafeteras pulled off one of the biggest upsets in any World Cup in the group stage when they defeated third-ranked France 2-0.
Morgan and Wambach started up top for the United States, which used the same starting lineup as it did in the group-stage finale against Nigeria — a first since Jill Ellis became coach.
It was Morgan's second straight start after working her way back from a bone bruise in her left knee. Morgan came in as a sub in the first two matches of the tournament.
Morgan missed all three send-off matches because of the injury. Her last match with the U.S. team was on April 4, a 4-0 exhibition win over New Zealand in St. Louis.
Perez, a 20-year-old junior at Miami, started because regular goalkeeper Sandra Sepulveda was suspended for yellow-card accumulation. Sepulveda had six saves in Colombia's win over France. Castano had started in Colombia's World Cup opener, a 1-1 draw with Mexico.
The teams played to a goalless first half, with the United States unable to finish several good chances.
Wambach was offside on her rebound goal in the fourth minute. Morgan later had a chance, but her shot bounced in front of Perez, who tipped it up and over the crossbar, one of her three saves in the first half.
Lauren Holiday got a yellow card in the 17th minute, her second of the World Cup. She'll have to sit out the quarterfinal, as will Megan Rapinoe, who got her second yellow in the 41st.
"I feel confident in the players we have to come in and contribute," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said about facing China without the pair.
Perez was sent off at the start of the second half after sliding into Morgan, who was charging toward goal. Wambach fooled Castano on the right side, but the penalty kick sailed well left of the post.
Wambach took full responsibility for the miss, which she took with her left foot — not her usual right.
"It was a weird moment in the game where they get a red card, and the goalkeeper has to get subbed out. I'm not giving myself excuses. I need to bury that," she said. "If that's in a different moment, if that's in the 89th minute to win us a World Cup and I miss, and it sends us to overtime? That's on me. That's all on my shoulders."
After Morgan's goal in the 53rd minute, Lloyd scored on a penalty kick in the 66th, Lloyd's first goal of the tournament.
"We keep telling people that we haven't peaked yet," Lloyd said. "We still have a few more games for that."
The U.S. won the previous two meetings. In the 2012 London Olympics, Colombia striker Lady Andrade sucker-punched U.S. star Abby Wambach in the eye, drawing a two-match suspension.
In the days before the match in Edmonton, some of Colombia's players said they felt disrespected by the Americans ever since.
"Because of something that happened three years ago, they've said things that have not been taken by us in the best way," midfielder Yoreli Rincon said. Andrade told reporters she thought the Americans had "belittled" the Colombians.
Colombia, the third-place finisher in Group F behind France and England, was making its second World Cup appearance; it finished 14th in 2011. Colombia had never won a match in the sport's premier tournament until the upset of France.
"They played with an iron will from the beginning to the end of the match," Colombia coach Fabian Taborda said of his team. "At times the best team in the world didn't look so good because of the way we played."
The second-ranked Americans finished on top of the so-called Group of Death, with victories over Australia and Nigeria and a 0-0 tie with Sweden.
China, the Americans' next opponent, has played in six World Cups, but missed out four years ago. The Steel Roses have never won a title, but they made the final in 1999, losing memorably to the United States on penalty kicks at the Rose Bowl.