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Dec 8, 2012

U.S. women shut out China

DETROIT -- On a day she and Abby Wambach were both kept off the scoreboard, Alex Morgan still managed to reach a rare milestone.

Morgan became the second player in U.S. women's national team history with at least 20 goals and 20 assists in the same year, and the Americans scored twice in the second half to beat China 2-0 on Saturday.

Morgan set up Sydney Leroux's goal in the 84th minute after Carli Lloyd had given the U.S. the lead in the 50th. Morgan has 28 goals and 20 assists in 2012. Mia Hamm finished with 20 and 20 in 1998.

"I just realized the other day that Mia was the only one with 20-20, so this is really awesome," Morgan said. "It's really great to be in that exclusive club with Mia, someone that I looked up to for many years."

It was the eighth match of a 10-game "Fan Tribute Tour" for the Americans, who won the Olympic title in London this year. The U.S. is unbeaten in its last 18 meetings with China. The teams will face each other twice more this month, in Houston on Wednesday, and in Boca Raton, Fla., next Saturday.

This game marked the first time since the Olympic final against Japan that Morgan and Wambach were both held scoreless. Lloyd scored both goals in that 2-1 victory.

Lloyd broke a scoreless tie early in the second half against China, taking a pass from Tobin Heath near the edge of the penalty area, cutting to her left and beating goalie Zhang Yue to the near post from about 12 yards.

"I feel like I'm playing really smart soccer out there, just kind of being the engine," Lloyd said. "That's the most important thing that I need to do to help my teammates."

The midfielder is third on the team with 14 goals this year, trailing only Morgan and Wambach.

Leroux's insurance goal gave the U.S. some breathing room. She took Morgan's pass, cut around a falling defender and beat Zhang with a low shot to the right corner to make it 2-0.

Morgan, the leading U.S. scorer, began the game on the bench. Amy Rodriguez, making her 100th appearance with the national team, got the start up front alongside Wambach, and Rodriguez needed less than 15 seconds to produce the first shot on goal, a decent attempt from about 15 yards that was saved comfortably by Zhang.

"Hit it to the keeper, which I was a little bit bummed about," Rodriguez said. "Would have been nice to score in my hundredth game."

Lauren Cheney hit the post a couple minutes later, but China settled down after that shaky start. Ma Xiaoxu and Bi Yan gave the Americans occasional problems up front, and Hope Solo needed to be sharp in goal to keep the game scoreless.

Solo finished with four saves and didn't mind a bit of early pressure.

"I would think most goalkeepers would appreciate that, as opposed to going 89 minutes without touching the ball and then expecting to make one save in the 90th," Solo said.

Although there were some concerns about the playing surface at Ford Field, the Americans improved to 12-0 indoors and have outscored opponents 70-1 in those games. The first indoor game was in 1993 in the Detroit area, at the Pontiac Silverdome as part of a test run for the surface that would be used in the men's World Cup the following year.

Attendance for Saturday's game was 17,371, an uptick after the tour drew under 12,000 in Oregon and Arizona for games against Ireland. The next major international tournament for the women is the 2015 World Cup.

"There's going to be a little bit of a lull next year and the year after that," Lloyd said. "We've just got to continue the wave and the momentum of just keeping this game popular and out on top."

The U.S.-China rivalry has become increasingly one-sided since their famous meeting in the 1999 World Cup final. The Chinese have managed only three ties in the last 18 meetings.

The U.S. has scored 112 goals this year in 30 games, surpassing the 29-game total of the 1999 team that won the World Cup. Only the 2000 team (124 goals in 41 games) and the 1991 team (122 in 28) scored more.

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