Morgan comes through in the clutch to help U.S. top Italy

PADUA, Italy — Alex Morgan is the new clutch scorer for the U.S. women's soccer team.

Morgan came off the bench and scored in the fourth minute of added time to give the U.S. a 1-0 victory over Italy on Saturday in the first leg of a playoff to determine the final spot for the Women's World Cup.

At 21, the youngest member of the U.S. team, Morgan showed steely nerves by finishing off a counterattack with a precise, angled shot from the edge of the box.

"We've seen her come in and change games before and the only thing I told her was 'Just go to goal,'" said U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, who sent in Morgan at the 85th minute. "You don't have to be tricky, you don't have to be smart, just go to goal, because you're faster than everybody else.'"

The Americans were forced into the playoff when they were upset 2-1 by Mexico in the semifinals of their qualifying region. The U.S. and Italy will play again next Saturday near Chicago in Bridgeview, Ill.

The top-ranked Americans need to beat the 11th-ranked Italians in the two match total-goals series to gain the final berth in the 16-team World Cup, which begins June 26 in Germany. The U.S. won the 1991 and 1999 World Cups.

While Morgan said it was the biggest goal of her career, late scores are nothing new for her.

She came off the bench to score a late goal and salvage a 1-1 draw with China last month for her first international goal.

At the 2008 under-20 Women's World Cup, Morgan's fourth goal of the tournament was a match-winner that gave the U.S. a gold medal.

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