Alex Morgan celebrates after scoring her team's second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France semifinal against England on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France.
Alex Morgan won’t soon forget her 30th birthday.
Wearing the captain’s armband for Team USA’s FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinal match against England, the U.S. center forward headed in the game-winning goal of a 2-1 victory and then was serenaded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the USA faithful on site at Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon, France.
The result in front of 53,512 fans maintained an unbelievable undefeated streak for the U.S. in games when Morgan scores — a stretch that now reaches 73.
And, oh yeah, it also sends the U.S. on to Sunday’s World Cup final, where it will take on the Netherlands or Sweden, who meet in the other semifinal Wednesday.
The U.S., which has won a record three Women’s World Cups, including the last one in 2015, will aim to successfully defend its title for the first time. Germany is the only team to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups, having done so in 2003 and 2007.
The Americans got things started in the 10th minute, with defender Kelley O’Hara sending a long cross across the goal to a wide open Christen Press, who headed it into the net for her first goal of the World Cup.
The goal marked the first time England had trailed in France, a run of 380 minutes.
England answered in the 19th minute, with Ellen White volleying the ball past U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher for her tournament-leading sixth goal.
However, Morgan soon broke the deadlock in the 31st minute, heading in a Lindsey Horan cross for her sixth goal of the tournament — and her first since scoring five goals in the opener. Because she also has three assists, Morgan also took the lead over White, who has no assists, in the race for the Golden Boot.
White nearly took back that status — and evened up the score — in the 67th minute, when she split the U.S. defenders and beat Naeher, but upon video review the England star was ruled to be offside.
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England continued to pressure, and the Lionesses got another chance in the 78th minute when White was breaking toward the goal, but as a pass arrived Becky Sauerbrunn took her down just outside the six-yard box. Following a lengthy video review, England was awarded a penalty kick.
England captain Stephn Hougton went left — and so did Naeher, blocking the shot to keep the U.S. ahead. It was a crucial play for Naeher, who has been under scrutiny from U.S. fans throughout her first major tournament.
"She saved our butts today," Morgan said.
After that, the U.S. was able to hold off England the rest of the way.
The match started under ominous circumstances for the U.S., with forward Press starting in place of forward Megan Rapinoe, who was tied for the tournament lead with five goals coming into this game, with four of them coming in the knockout round. U.S. Soccer didn’t immediately give an explanation for Rapinoe’s absence, although later reports said she was out with a hamstring injury.
In addition, midfielder Horan started in place of Sam Mewis. Both have played throughout the tournament so far.
England coach Phil Neville made three changes of his own from the quarterfinal, most notably with goalie Carly Telford replacing starter Karen Bardsley, who was out with a hamstring injury.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.