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USA vs. Mexico, International Friendly: Final Score 4-1 as Alex Morgan’s Brace Paces Yanks

Orlando Pride striker runs roughshod over Mexico in friendly competition.

Soccer: She Believes Cup Womens Soccer -England at USA Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Morgan helped set up Mallory Pugh’s goal and then scored two of her own to lead the United States Women’s National Team to a 4-1 win over Mexico in an international friendly at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Morgan’s brace early in the second half broke open a match that was closer than it should have been in front of an announced crowd of more than 14,000.

Carli Lloyd also scored her 99th career international goal to cap the scoring

Jill Ellis handed the captain’s armband to Morgan and ran out this 4-3-3 lineup:

It didn’t take long for the USWNT to get on the front foot. Morgan Brian and Andi Sullivan sent a couple early shots wide but the breakthrough came at the six-minute mark. Morgan received a ball from Tierna Davidson and slotted a pass to Megan Rapinoe to send her behind the back line. Rapinoe took a slight touch to beat goalkeeper Bianca Henninger and Pugh smashed it into the empty net to make it 1-0.

It was Pugh’s 10th international goal and she’s still a teenager.

The United States kept the pressure on Mexico, creating turnovers and chances on the offensive end, but the Yanks also were sloppy in their own end and had a number of uncharacteristic unforced giveaways. Mexico survived a couple of near-misses with Pugh nearly picking out Morgan in the 11th minute and the reverse nearly happening in the 15th.

The first good chance for Mexico came on a free kick created by a turnover and a Sullivan foul. Monica Ocampo went for goal on the set piece and fired it well over the bar at the 20-minute mark.

In the 25th minute, Pugh sent a hard cross sizzling through the area for Morgan, who got a touch but couldn’t direct her flick on target. A minute later, the U.S. should have doubled the lead. Morgan got the ball wide on the left and nutmegged a defender before finding Rapinoe in the box but Pinoe’s first-touch shot went wide of goal. Morgan’s slick move and pass deserved a goal but alas, the chance was wasted.

A minute later, Mexico should have equalized. Ocampo was left unmarked in the box by Abby Dahlkemper and Emily Sonnett, and the cross found her above the penalty spot. But she fired her shot over the bar. A few minutes later Ocampo scorched a corner cross dangerously through the six and out the other side.

Morgan got her first good look at goal in the 37th minute, shooting on target. Henninger went down and made a save without allowing a rebound. After a few missed opportunities late — a Rapinoe Olimpico attempt on a corner kick that went inches over the crossbar and landed on the roof of the net, followed by a badly missed shot by Lindsey Horan on the break off a pass from Pugh — the United States took a slim 1-0 lead into the break.

The United States broke the game open in the second half with a three-goal barrage in less than four minutes. The fun began just five minutes after the break. Morgan broke in behind the defense to get onto a throw-in from Rapinoe and got bundled over by Annia Mejia for a U.S. penalty.

Morgan stepped up to the spot to take it herself and beat Henninger to the corner even though the goalkeeper guessed correctly. It was the 82nd career international goal for Morgan. The impressive thing is not only did Henninger guess the correct way, but she also came off her line early. It didn’t seem to bother Morgan, who slotted in her first career international penalty.

The Orlando Pride striker wasn’t done. Two minutes after slotting her penalty home, Morgan took a pass from Horan on the left side and drilled a perfect shot off the back post and in for international goal No. 83.

During the goal celebration, Carli Lloyd checked in for Sullivan and within seconds she took a pass from Horan and made it 4-0 and pulled within one goal of 100 for her illustrious career.

Mexico finally got on the board in the 64th minute. Alyssa Naeher sent a kick down the field that was headed back the other way by the Mexican defense. A flick later and Katie Johnson ran onto it with only Naeher to beat. The U.S. keeper was caught well off her line and rushed toward Johnson who calmly chipped it over her and into the empty net to make it 4-1.

From that point, it was just a matter of seeing out the remaining time. Pugh fired a good opportunity wide in the 71st minute. Morgan had her hat trick bid denied in the 75th when she made a slick crossover move to lose the defense but fired her left-footed blast right at Henninger. Five minutes later, Morgan’s night ended when she was withdrawn for Ashley Hatch.

Hatch should have put the exclamation point on the night in the 93rd when Crystal Dunn’s cross found her in the six but she somehow missed the gaping net.

The teams will meet against in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.