Alex Morgan, with 18 national team goals, named top female player by U.S. Soccer

Alex Morgan, coming off her second-most prolific goal-scoring year with the national team as her 18 goals helped the U.S. compile an 18-0-2 record and qualify for next year's Women's World Cup, was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year for the second time.

Morgan scored at least one goal in 11 of the 19 games in which she appeared for the U.S. in 2018, including a hat trick against Japan during the summer's Tournament of Nations. She scored seven goals in five games in the CONCACAF Women's Championship, including two goals in a semifinal win over Jamaica that secured World Cup qualification and a goal in the final against Canada.

She tied for fifth on the national team with three assists and led all players with 1,500 minutes played.

Morgan, who also scored five goals this season for the NWSL's Orlando Pride, is the ninth woman to win the award multiple times. She beat out U.S. teammates Julie Ertz, who won the award in 2017, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe in voting by players, coaches, administrators and media.

Among multiple-time winners, only Kristine Lilly and Carli Lloyd waited longer between their first and second awards. Now 29, Morgan won for the first time in 2012 after she helped the U.S. win gold in the London Olympics.

After totaling 28 goals and 21 assists for the U.S. in 2012, Morgan was slowed by injuries that contributed to her scoring just 18 goals in the subsequent three years combined. Those travails didn't prevent her from winning her first World Cup title in 2015, but she and the rest of the team saw that momentum slowed a year later when the U.S. was eliminated from the Olympics without a medal for the first time after a quarterfinal penalty shootout against Sweden.

The Olympic disappointment ushered in a roster overhaul for the national team, but Morgan demonstrated in 2018 that she remains an irreplaceable cornerstone of whatever the team will be in a cycle that includes next year's World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.

In addition to her goal scoring -- she has 25 goals in her past 26 games dating to the end of last year -- Morgan has become an indispensable part of the defensive pressure that the U.S. asks its forwards to apply.

"I always use this word when I talk about Alex, but there is just a hunger and a work ethic," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said during the Tournament of Nations. "She makes things happen. Obviously, she is such a dynamic player to run in behind and cause teams problems that way. I also think [with her] back to pressure, she's gotten even better at that.

"... I just think she's taken a big step forward and embraced the responsibility of being a goal scorer on this team. I think we've got a pretty potent offense, but I think Alex, she's locked on. There's a desire about how she plays."

Morgan needs two goals to become the seventh woman to score 100 career goals for the U.S. -- only Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Lilly, Michelle Akers, Lloyd and Tiffeny Milbrett rank ahead of her.

"To be named captain with Megan (Rapinoe) and Carli (Lloyd), I felt I was challenged to succeed in a really positive way and was comfortable growing into this larger role with the team,'' Morgan said in a statement. "I'm also pleased that I was able to improve and evolve in my play along the way. There's a good energy to the team right now and we're all really looking forward to getting started next year.''

National team defender Tierna Davidson, a junior at Stanford, was named U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year.

Davidson, who turned 20 in September, missed most of the college season with an ankle injury sustained in a game against North Carolina. She had by then already established herself with the national team, starting all 12 games in which she appeared for the U.S. this year and scored her first career goal in August.

She will try to become the third player to start a World Cup game for the U.S. the year after winning the award as the national program's best young player. She would join Cindy Parlow, the 1998 award winner who started all six games in the 1999 World Cup, and Morgan Brian, the 2014 award winner who started four games in the 2015 World Cup.

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