June 30, 2019 / 6:00 PM / 19 days ago

Morgan puts body on the line in pursuit of World Cup glory

LYON (Reuters) - Alex Morgan said she has adapted to being targeted by opposition defenders who are determined to throw the usually prolific United States striker off stride at the women’s World Cup.

Jun 30, 2019; Lyon, FRA; United States forward Alex Morgan answers a question during a Team USA press conference in the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 at Stade de Lyon. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

Morgan began the tournament with five goals in the 13-0 mauling of Thailand and looked well set to win the golden boot.

However, since that opening Group F match, the goals have dried up for her. Instead Morgan has had to cope with a number of bruising tackles while team mates such as Megan Rapinoe have flourished instead.

Rapinoe has scored four times in the knockout stages, helping the defending champions reach a semi-final showdown with England on Tuesday.

Morgan, who played in Lyon in 2017 when on loan at Olympique Lyonnais from Orlando Pride, said that it was no surprise that she was being targeted.

“I think each team does tactics differently,” she told a news conference. “Naturally, as a number nine I’m going to be ploughed through quite often and I understand that comes with the job and it happens many times, in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) and even in friendlies.

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily more physical at this World Cup, I would just say it comes with the territory.”

A knee injury in the build-up to the previous World Cup in Canada hampered Morgan’s tournament, scoring just once as the U.S. won a record third world title.

This time the 29-year-old, who often sets herself personal milestones, would be forgiven for eyeing the golden boot prize as well. However, she insists her focus is on helping the team lift the trophy on July 7.

“I would love SOMEONE on our team to win the golden boot. Of course it would be a great accolade but that’s not my goal, my goal is to help this team win a World Cup,” said Morgan, who has scored 106 goals in 167 appearances for the U.S.

“As long as goals continue to come (from the team), then I’m happy.”

Having played for Lyon, arguably the biggest and most successful club team in the world with a record 17 league titles and six Champions League trophies, Morgan felt reflective upon returning to the southern French city this week.

“It’s great to be back here. This club is world class in terms of the facilities, this city is beautiful and one I spent a lot of time in,” she said.

“Being able to explore the city this morning was an emotional break from soccer for an hour and helped me remember some of the important times of how I progressed my game and was able to evolve as a player.”

Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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