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Alex Morgan brace helps USWNT earn 4-1 win over Mexico

United States players try to block a free kick by Mexico's Monica Ocampo (11) during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

JACKSONVILLE — Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan earned a brace, delivered a nutmeg and nearly had multiple assists during the U.S. women’s national team’s dominant 4-1 win over Mexico during a friendly Thursday night.

Morgan missed last week’s Pride at Washington Spirit game while going through concussion protocol.

The well-rested striker lived up to her captain role, actively setting up the Americans first goal and later scoring two of her own.

Morgan’s first goal came on a penalty kick a minute the second half to put the United States up 2-0. It was her first converted penalty kick with the U.S. women’s national team. She quickly added another score with a shot that bounced off the far post and into the goal.

“This kind of game really helps my confidence as we get ready for World Cup qualifying,” Morgan told FS1 after the win.

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. The game drew an announced crowd of 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. Defender Julie Ertz, who aggravated a knee injury during the SheBelieves Cup, also was unavailable for the match.

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 Swedish 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 U.S.-Mexico match is 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.

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