- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

SANDY, Utah (AP) - Alex Morgan has fond memories of Utah’s Rio Tinto Stadium, albeit chilly ones.

The U.S. national team forward made her international debut back in 2010 at the home of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, a late-March match played in near-blizzard conditions.

“Yeah, the snow game,” she laughed.

The team returns to Rio Tinto on Saturday in far better weather for the first of two exhibition games against Mexico in advance of October’s championship of soccer’s North and Central American and Caribbean region, which serves as qualifying for the Women’s World Cup next year in Canada. The second exhibition against El Tri will be played Sept. 18 in Rochester, New York.

When Morgan made her national team debut, the snow at Rio Tinto was so heavy players made snow angels on the sidelines. The United States won 1-0 in what became known as the “Snow Clasico.” It was the first women’s international game ever held at the stadium.

“It’s exciting for me to come back here and be playing the same opponent,” Morgan said. “But we really want to see how we match up against them, and looking in to World Cup qualifiers, we don’t want to take any chances like we did last time around. We want to come out on top this qualifier and be seeded well for the World Cup.”

The United States is 27-1-1 against Mexico, with the loss during qualifying for the 2011 World Cup. Mexico won the semifinal 2-1, forcing the U.S. into the third-place match and then a two-game playoff against Italy for a World Cup spot. At the tournament in Germany, but the Americans advanced to the final, where they lost to Japan on penalty kicks.

Ranked No. 1 for the past five years, the U.S. has been in Salt Lake this past week for its first extended training camp under coach Jill Ellis, who took over on an interim basis when Tom Sermanni was fired in April and then got the job going forward in May.

Ellis is charged with cutting her roster to 20 players for the CONCACAF championship.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo says Mexico poses a challenge because the team is always a surprise.

“In the buildup years you never know what you’re going to get from Mexico. That’s a good thing and a bad thing for us because sometimes we overlook them and then they come up with great strikers, a great midfield. They have a quality young goalkeeper,” she said. “So I think it’s kind of a tough team for us to play because it’s a wild card.”

Solo is on the verge of breaking the U.S. career shutout record. She has 71, even with Briana Scurry (1994-2008).

She has traded Twitter messages with Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who set the Major League Soccer record for career shutouts at Rio Tinto in August.

“If there’s any place to do it, why not here is Salt Lake City in the shadow of the one and only Nick Rimando,” she laughed. “It would be awesome.”

Solo has not spoken much publicly in the past months. She faces misdemeanor charges in Washington state following a physical altercation with family members during a June party. She has pleaded not guilty, and her trial is set for Nov. 4.

But she did take a few minutes on Friday before training to address the match and the record.

“I don’t get any more nervous than I normally do,” she said. “I always say the moment I stop getting nervous is the moment I should retire. Because that’s what makes it fun. I still get the butterflies I still get a little bit jittery. That’s important: it means I really want to win.”

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