Morgan notches 100th goal in international play

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- This might yet be the year that Alex Morgan becomes one of the first American women to win back-to-back World Cup titles. After she scored against one of the top challengers on Thursday, it is already the year in which she became the seventh American woman to reach 100 career goals in international play.

Morgan reached the milestone in the first half against of a friendly against Australia.

Getting around an Australian defender who misjudged Crystal Dunn's long pass down the left sideline, Morgan corralled the bounding ball, drove past a second defender near the top of the 18-yard box and slid the game's opening goal past the keeper.

Morgan joins a list that already included Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers, Carli Lloyd and Tiffeny Milbrett. Still three months shy of her 30th birthday, Morgan is the third-youngest member of that group to reach triple digits. Only Hamm and Wambach were younger when they scored their 100th goals.

Wambach tweeted her excitement over Morgan's achievement on Thursday night:

The milestone also means that, barring unforeseen injuries or roster decisions, the United States will enter a Women's World Cup with two 100-goal scorers for the first time since Hamm and Akers in 1999. Morgan's teammate, Lloyd, reached the century mark last year and currently has 105 goals.

Brazil's Marta and Canada's Christine Sinclair, who is five goals short of matching Wambach's world record of 184 international goals, are also set to enter the World Cup with 100 goals.

Far from the final statistical flourish in a career, Morgan reached the rare mark playing arguably the best soccer of her life. The 2018 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, Morgan's milestone goal was also her 27th goal in her past 32 appearances for the national team.

The recent streak began late in 2017, as Morgan reasserted a place of primacy within the national team as it retooled in the wake of missing out on a medal in the 2016 Olympics.

Morgan debuted for the U.S. in 2010 and quickly became one of the team's most recognizable players through memorable runs in the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics. Earning the nickname "Baby Horse," she was the speedy attacking counterpoint to Wambach. Morgan scored 41 goals within three years of her debut, third-most of any American woman in an identical span.

Perhaps her most famous goal was the header she scored in added time of extra time that sealed a 4-3 win against Canada in an Olympic semifinal played at Old Trafford in 2012.

But while Morgan still produced goals when healthy, the years between her quick start and recent sustained binge were marked by the frustration of recurring injuries that either limited her, as with a bone bruise to her knee ahead of the 2015 World Cup, or ruled her out entirely, as when she started just four of 24 U.S. games in 2014.

The second act continues to be emphatic, with Morgan responsible for almost a quarter of the national team's total goals since the beginning of 2017.

She approaches her third World Cup as one of three U.S. captains alongside Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe.