Alex Morgan recalls thrilling 2012 Olympic game winner in new book, “Breakaway” and “Hat Trick” now available
June 4, 2015 Press
Alex Morgan is expected to be one of the keys to a possible 2015 Women’s World Cup title in Canada this summer. Prior to the tournament, Morgan released a book in stores titled “Breakaway,” which chronicles her road to the top of the soccer world with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
In the following excerpt from her new book, via Simon & Schuster, Morgan recalls the critical moments of Olympic semifinal vs. Canada in 2012, culminating with her thrilling header as extra time was about to expire. “Breakaway” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and other major book retailers.
Purchase “Breakaway” HERE
Purchase “The Kicks: Hat Trick” HERE
At the end of regulation we were still tied 3–3. We’d had one chance to get a goal: I’d taken the ball down the field against one defender and passed it to Abby, but she kicked it just wide. When she fell to the ground and slapped her hands against her head, I knew she was frustrated. So was I.
The rules in the Olympics are much like other tour- naments—if you’re tied after ninety minutes, you have two periods of extra time, each fifteen minutes long. Hopefully someone will have won by the end of those, but if they haven’t, you go into a penalty shoot-out. And believe it or not, there has never, ever been a shoot-out in Olympic women’s soccer.
Extra time started, and we were off to the races. Both teams were playing hard and playing fast, and I could see all my teammates breathing heavily as we ran up and back down the field. Sydney Leroux took a shot early on, and later Abby almost got one in off her world-famous head, but it wasn’t to be.
I had been playing hard for almost two hours when the first period of extra time came to a close. We were all exhausted. It had been 105 minutes, and we were playing one of the most high-pressure games of our lives! When we stood in the huddle, awaiting the beginning of the final fifteen minutes of play, Abby, not Pia, was the one doing all the talking. We never get much time between breaks in play, so she spoke fast.
“Everybody needs to believe in each other right now. And keep it together. Believe we’re going to win. We’re going to do it if we play as a team. We can do this!”
Abby is always so motivating, especially at critical moments. And here she was, psyching us up in a way she never had before.
When we started again, it was like unarmed combat, as one announcer said. Players were going down left and right and staying down much longer than they would have at the beginning of the game. That’s what happens when you’ve played for that long: Everything just hurts worse. You cramp up, old injuries come back to haunt you, and if you haven’t had enough water, your sides will start splitting. I was knocked down right outside the Canadian goal line at about the 113th minute—Abby thought it was a penalty, but sadly, it wasn’t—and I had to lie there just to catch my breath. Get up, Alex. . . . Get up and win this game once and for all.
About 117 minutes in, the Canadians were desper- ately defending against two plays that could have been shots on goal. And then, with two minutes before the end of extra time, I made a beautiful pass right to Abby, who was waiting in the penalty box. She jumped, the ball sailed perfectly off the side of her head . . . and it soared into the air, touching the tips of the Canadian goalkeeper’s fingers and bouncing off the top bar of the goal without going in. Another missed goal. Another chance to end the game lost.
Even though we were still tied, I could just feel that the game was all ours. We’d been at the goal twice as much as Canada, and we’d taken several amazing shots in just a few minutes. At 120 minutes they added three minutes of stoppage time, and I remember feeling my best.
Now, I didn’t know this at the time, but everybody was already talking about what it was going to be like when regulation time ended and we had to take pen- alty kicks. They just expected that the end of this game would be exactly like the World Cup final against Japan. But I was determined it wouldn’t be.
And sure enough, with forty-five seconds left in the game—forty-five seconds before the first penalty shoot-out in Olympic women’s history—Heather O’Reilly ran harder than I’ve ever seen her run toward a ball that was about to go out of bounds to the right of the Canadian
oal. She caught it and kicked it hard, crossing it perfectly toward the goal. And there I was, standing in a swarm of white jerseys. I told myself, C’mon, Alex. All you have to do is get your head on the ball. Connect. I jumped and felt the ball against my head, the part of my body that had been such a disappointment to me in so many games.
And then I heard a roar from the crowd that rivaled any cheering I’d ever heard. It was as if every person in the Theatre of Dreams had stood up, on cue, and screamed at the top of their lungs. And I knew it. The ball had gone in. I’d done it. We’d won the game.
As my teammates hugged me, I noticed tears welling up in my eyes. “I love you,” I heard Abby say to me. “I think I’m in love with you in this moment because you just sent us to the gold-medal game.” The tears burst from my eyes.
We still had a few seconds left to play, so we finished out the game, and then I let myself relax. I cried on the field—who does that?—but it felt good. I knew my parents were up there crying too, and I knew they were proud.
We were going to the finals.