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Team USA vs. Japan Preview: Alex Morgan The Difference-Maker?

Cal graduate Alex Morgan had been one of the rising stars going into the tournament, and she showed off her promise in the first game against France with two goals. Since then, she's settled back and let the other stars of the game score, particularly Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach. Morgan has actually acted as more of a distributor in those middle games, getting the ball down to Wambach on several occasions for crucial goals.

But her team still needed her to score, and score she did in the Olympic semifinal against Canada with a perfectly timed cross from Heather O'Reilly that landed right of the head of Morgan and directed right into the goal.

It's likely Morgan's prowess will be needed against Japan. She comes this time no longer as a scorer, but also as a passer, a playmaker, a distributor for others. Her ability to create might be the big difference between this year's game and last year's.

NBC Sports Network and NBC's Olympic Soccer Channel will be showing the game around 11:45 AM PT on their channels. will be live-streaming the event.

Stay with us on the SB Nation Bay Area StoryStream for more coverage of local athletes at the 2012 Olympic Games. For more on the 2012 Olympic Games, make sure that you check out SB Nation's dedicated Olympics hub.