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U.S. star striker Alex Morgan bruised, but says she's ready to play

U.S. women's soccer team forward Alex Morgan stretches

U.S. women's soccer team forward Alex Morgan stretches during practice in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. Morgan returned to practice following a left knee injury as the United States prepares for the Women's World Cup. Credit: AP / Anne M. Peterson

WINNIPEG, Manitoba - As she walked into the mixed zone interview area at Winnipeg Stadium Sunday night, Alex Morgan looked a lot worse than she felt.

The star striker had an ice bag taped to her bruised left knee but said she will be available to play when the United States opens Women's World Cup action against Australia at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"You have to be precautionary with the things that we do," Morgan said. "Having a history with my knee injury, it's just safest for me to make sure I cool down properly."

Whether Morgan can heat up in a hurry to help the United States is another matter.

Morgan said she is able to play 90 minutes, but that is highly unlikely because she is far from full match fitness. She hasn't played a substantial amount of time since logging 73 minutes in a 4-0 win over New Zealand on April 4. She hasn't played a full game this year, but was subbed in the 90th minute of a 1-0 victory over England on Feb. 13.

"If called upon to start, I'd be ready to start," she said. "I don't know what [coach Jill [Ellis'] plan is. If I would need to play 90, I would play 90."

Morgan has "been great, sharp," since returning to training several days ago, Ellis said.

"She's been out for quite a while," Ellis added. "She's worked very, very hard on her fitness. But it's a little different for the game. We'll meter and monitor that. But as far as having her available, yes, very much so."

To win the title, the Americans will need the 5-7, 136- pound Morgan as close to full throttle and as a starter, especially in knockout rounds against the world's elite.

"I feel really good," Morgan said. "I've been building into it. Jill has a good plan in place. Hopefully, I will be 90 minutes game fit without the fatigue I might have. Hopefully, I will feel 90 minutes game fit within the next week or so."

At 25, Morgan is in her prime as a striker with 51 goals in 84 appearances. She is not only fast over long distances but has quickness in tight areas, which makes her difficult to mark.

"I always felt that when it came to the World Cup when we got to Canada, I would feel healthy no matter how my knee was feeling. It would be mind over matter," she said. "It puts me more at ease that I actually feel healthy, knowing that I actually feel good moving forward knowing that my knee is doing well and is healed."

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