By JOHN F. SILVER Associated Press
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Alex Morgan scored the second of her two second-half goals in the 85th minute to give the United States a 2-2 tie with France on Thursday night in an exhibition game.
Making her second appearance in six days for the national team after a seventh-month layoff because of a stress fracture in her left ankle, Morgan scored for the first time in more than a year.
Morgan scored the tying goal off a rebound, beating goalkeeper Sara Bouhaddi.
“I feel like finally I am back and doing what I am supposed to be doing _ scoring goals,” Morgan said.
The U.S. star has 46 goals in 72 games for the national team. She returned to play Saturday night in the Americans’ 1-0 victory over France in Tampa, Florida.
“I wasn’t expecting a lot out of (Morgan) when I initially came in, but through the camps she’s done well and in the games she’s improved,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “I am pleased for her, she’s worked very hard to come back from this.”
The United States was playing its second game since Ellis had the interim head coach tag lifted May 14. The U.S. will now go into its summer break before it resumes World Cup qualifying in October. It was without several starters Thursday including Abby Wambach and goalkeeper Hope Solo.
“We have wonderful talent, we don’t have our full allotment of players here, but we have the pieces and I will enjoy putting it together,” Ellis said.
France opened the scoring in the 27th minute on Louis Necib’s penalty kick after U.S. keeper Ashlyn Harris was called for a foul on Necib after coming off her line to deflect the ball
Ellis inserted Morgan in the second half for Heather O’Reilly, and tied it in the 57th minute with a shot from 25 yards that hit off the left post and deflected in. Morgan immediately ran toward the stands and started to celebrate with fans.
“I wanted to do something special. I thought about crying in the moment but it was too early in the game for that,” Morgan said. “I just wanted to give an appreciation.”
It has been a long road back for Morgan, who is still getting in shape.
“The last couple of months have been mentally draining,” Morgan said. “Physically, trying to get fitness back has not been easy.”
France regained the lead on Amadine Henry’s goal in the 68th minute, beating Harris to the right. The U.S. had a chance a minute later when Carli Loyd’s shot hit the left post.
Morgan was able to make her presence felt and was in position off a rebound late to tie it at 2. Having the explosive Morgan on the field opened things up immensely in the second half for the Americans.
“(Morgan) looked great, it’s good to see,” defender Christine Rampone said. “We were tight in the first half and not finding spaces, in the second half we opened up our shape and when Alex (Morgan) came in she stretched them.”
The United States is 7-2-3 this year.
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