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Morgan’s hat trick leads USWNT to 4-2 win over Japan (video)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Alex Morgan capped a seemingly effortless hat trick by converting off a dazzling piece of footwork by Tobin Heath, and the U.S. rolled to a 4-2 victory over Japan on Thursday night in its opening match of the four-team Tournament of Nations. Megan Rapinoe also had a goal and an assist for the world’s top-ranked team, which hasn’t lost since the Americans dropped their opening match of the same tournament to Australia last year.

The rematch of those powerhouses is Sunday in East Hartford, Connecticut, after the Matildas opened the defense of their Tournament of Nations title with a 3-1 victory over Brazil on Thursday.

Morgan scored her first goal in the 18th minute when she flicked a pass from Rapinoe past Japanese goalkeeper Ayaka Yamashita. And her second came a scant eight minutes later, when Emily Sonnett gathered a cross from Crystal Dunn and popped it ahead to Morgan, who headed in the goal.

The hat trick was complete after Heath, who had just entered as a substitute, made two Japanese defenders look foolish along the end line. She then swung a centering pass that was deflected to Morgan, who deposited it for her first three-goal game since Olympic qualifying in February 2016.

Rapinoe added her goal — and a bizarre, foot-stomping celebration afterward — in the 66th minute as the U.S. team ramped up the offense just as it begins ramping up for World Cup qualifying.

They can secure their spot next year in France during the CONCACAF tournament in October.

The performance by coach Jill Ellis’s squad Thursday night wasn’t entirely without fault, though.

After scoring the opener on Morgan’s quick-twitch flick, the U.S. defense quickly broke down, and Mini Tanaka beat defender Abby Dahlkemper and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for a matching goal.

Then, midway through the second half, Japan’s Moeno Sakaguchi made a nifty move against Heath before sending a curling shot into the upper corner of the net to trim a three-goal deficit to two.

It was nonetheless a solid performance by the Americans in what has become a competitive rivalry with Japan. The teams split matches in the past two World Cup finals, and the U.S. beat Asia’s top team in the gold medal match at the 2012 London Olympics.

Earlier Thursday, defending champ Australia built on an own-goal by Poliana and another mistake by the Brazilian defender in cruising to a 3-1 victory to open the tournament at Children’s Mercy Park.

Tameka Butt added a goal and an assist for the Matildas. Marta scored a late goal for Brazil.

USWNT squad announced for exhibitions against China

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CHICAGO (AP) Midfielder Tobin Heath is back on the U.S. women’s national team roster after spending the start of the year recovering from surgery.

Coach Jill Ellis named a 23-player roster Tuesday for a pair of exhibition matches against China next month.

[ MORE: USSF details GM job duties ]

Heath, who turned 30 on Tuesday, hasn’t played with the national team since appearing as a substitute in a friendly against New Zealand last September. She had surgery to remove bone growth on her right ankle in early January.

Also returning to the national team is Julie Ertz, who missed a pair of April exhibition matches against Mexico because of a knee injury.

Christen Press, left off the roster for Mexico because she was not on a club team at the time, also returned to the roster.

Press, who was traded to the Houston Dash in the offseason but never joined the National Women’s Soccer League club, is currently playing in Sweden with Goteborg.

Carli Lloyd’s 100th goal leads USWNT past Mexico, 6-2 (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) Carli Lloyd became the sixth American to score 100 international goals, putting the United States ahead as it rallied for a 6-2 win over Mexico in an exhibition Sunday.

Alex Morgan scored twice for the second straight game as the Americans played another prep match ahead of World Cup qualifying in October. Megan Rapinoe chipped the goalkeeper to score from 35 yards and had four assists, one short of the U.S. record.

Lloyd, a two-time FIFA Player of the Year, scored in the 34th minute. Rapinoe’s cross went all the way across the field, and Lindsey Horan kicked the ball back into the penalty area, where it was deflected by goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. Mallory Pugh’s volley ricocheted off the crossbar and Lloyd headed the ball into the open net from at the goal line.

The 35-year-old midfielder became the 16th woman to reach the century mark, joining fellow Americans Abby Wambach (184), Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). Wambach holds the women’s world record.

CONCACAF announced Sunday that World Cup qualifying will take place in October, with group stage matches in Cary, North Carolina, and Edinberg, Texas. The semifinals and final will be in Frisco, Texas from Oct. 14-17.

Wearing the captain’s armband, Lloyd made her 252nd appearance with the national team. She scored three goals in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.

“It’s obviously a great milestone, but I’ve got a lot of things I still want to accomplish left in my career,” Lloyd said. “To look back on where I started in 2005 to the player I’ve become, you don’t very often get to sit back and reflect because you’re always waiting for that next big thing.”

Lloyd also scored in the first match of the exhibition series against Mexico, a 4-1 victory Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida. Lloyd’s goal was the third in four minutes at the start of the second half. Morgan scored twice in the span, including a successful penalty kick.

Playing in her home stadium, goalkeeper Jane Campbell made her first international start.

Pugh beat goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago to put the U.S. ahead in the third minute, her fifth international goal this year and 11th overall for the 19-year-old. She also scored in the opening match against Mexico.

Mexico went ahead when Monica Ocampo scored in the 16th minute and Kiana Palacios in the 24th, her first international goal. Horan tied the score for the US in the 25th.

Morgan scored in the 43rd and 68th minutes. Rapinoe got her goal in the 64th when she chipped Santiago after running onto a sliding clearance by the goalkeeper.

Alex Morgan scores twice in USWNT win over Mexico

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Alex Morgan scored twice and the U.S. women’s national team got three goals in the space of four minutes early in the second half to beat Mexico 4-1 on Thursday night in the first of two exhibition matches between the teams.

Morgan’s first goal came on a penalty kick a minute the second half to put the United States up 2-0. She added another goal shortly thereafter with a shot that bounced off the far post and into the goal.

Carli Lloyd, who came in as a second half substitute, scored in the 54th minute. It was her 99th international goal.

Katie Johnson scored for Mexico in the 64th minute.

Mallory Pugh scored her fourth goal of the season in the sixth minute to open the game for the United States at EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Announced attendance was 14,360.

The U.S. continues to play without midfielder Tobin Heath, who also missed the SheBelieves Cup earlier this year because of offseason ankle surgery. Also unavailable for the match was defender Julie Ertz, who aggravated a knee injury during the SheBelieves Cup

Coach Jill Ellis did not name forward Christen Press to the roster for the two games against Mexico. Press, who was traded to the Houston Dash in the offseason but never joined the National Women’s Soccer League club, is currently playing in Sweden with Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC.

Press hadn’t signed on with the team when Ellis named the roster. The coach said one of the national team’s expectations was that players on the roster had already returned to training with club teams.

The second match in the series was set for Sunday in Houston. The game will mark Lloyd’s return to the city since she was traded from the Dash to Sky Blue in the offseason.

Both teams are preparing for World Cup qualifying this fall. The United States, ranked No. 1 in the world, is the defending World Cup champion.

Alex Morgan and Marta included on FIFPro Women’s World XI

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U.S. national soccer team striker Alex Morgan and Brazil forward Marta were among the players chosen for the FIFPro Women’s World XI, released Thursday to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl of Sweden was joined by defenders Nilla Fischer of Sweden, Lucy Bronze of England, Irene Paredes of Spain and Wendie Renard of France. Midfielder Dzsenifer Maroszan of Germany, Camille Abily of France, Pernille Harder of Denmark and Lieke Martens of the Netherlands round out the 11.

[READ: USWNT wins #SheBelievesCup]

“It’s always exciting to be considered as one of the top players in the world. For women’s football to have our own World XI is incredible,” Morgan said in a statement. “It helps promote the women’s game. It helps female footballers recognize the talent among their peers and I’m really happy to encourage and be a part of that.”

More than 4,100 female first-division players in 45 countries voted for team, based on 2017 play for clubs and national teams. It is the third year that FIFPro, the global group of players’ unions, has compiled a women’s team.

The award was special to Abily, who retired from France’s national team last year.

“After I stopped with France last year after the European Championship I thought I would go on for one or two more years with Olympique Lyonnais. But I think at the end of this season I’m done. I could still change my mind but I don’t think so,” she said. “I decided this about a month ago.”

Marta, who had long said she planned to retire at 30, is now hoping that at 32 she can help Brazil qualify for next year’s World Cup in France. Marta also plays with Morgan on the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“Women’s football is becoming more competitive so it’s harder to stay at the top,” she said. “You have to have a lot of perseverance to stay consistent. I have that in my character: fighting spirit.”