Alex Morgan has taken on a vocal role for US women’s soccer – News-Herald
BY ANNE M. PETERSON
MONTERREY, Mexico — As the US national team has focused on developing young talent in anticipation of next summer’s World Cup, veteran forward Alex Morgan has taken on a louder role.
Morgan, 33, is now one of the older members of the team that has attracted emerging players like strikers Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman since the Tokyo Olympics.
“The younger players can assert themselves. You did great. I think the one thing I would say I’ve definitely improved on this tournament is the voice on the field, like helping the players with positioning, set pieces, the things that this team is proud of, the Mentality, kind of just helping push the players a little bit,” she said.
Morgan and the defending champions are preparing for a showdown with rivals Canada in Monday night’s CONCACAF W Championship title game in Mexico.
The United States and Canada have already qualified for next summer’s World Championships in Australia and New Zealand as the tournament’s top finishers. But the winner of the final also secures a place in the region at the 2024 Olympics in France.
Morgan isn’t slowing down at all, as evidenced by her fantastic club season so far. Back home in California, she is in her first season playing for the San Diego Wave expansion and currently leads the National Women’s Soccer League with 11 goals in just 10 games.
At the W Championship, Morgan scored twice against Haiti in the group stage in her 29th career multi-goal game. She has scored 21 goals in 22 qualifiers with the United States, the third-most in team history. Overall, she has 117 goals and 47 assists in 195 career games.
“Alex has World Championship medals, Olympic medals. She’s obviously very, very good at winning,” said current US coach Vlatko Andonovski. “But also to pass on the experience to some of the players who have never been in a situation like this, to be able to fight for first place and get a win or be able to win big tournaments.”
Morgan said the team is gaining momentum and reading the field better after adding the new faces to the team and adopting Andonovski’s tactical approach tailored to each opponent.
“But we also have to understand what the coach gave us,” Morgan said. “We all have to buy in, we can’t let one or two players not do what they’re supposed to do because that ruins the whole flow of the game when we’re playing in certain structures. I think that’s important to know – it means playing for free but knowing your role and that will change from game to game.”
Morgan is easily one of the most recognizable and popular players on the team. In Mexico, she was greeted with loud cheers. Among her admirers was a 2-year-old named Luca, whose mother posted a video of the toddler yelling her name.
Morgan saw the video and sent Luca a signed jersey. Then, after the game against Haiti, Luca met his favorite player.
But in between those touching moments, there’s a job to do. Canada has increasingly challenged the United States on the international stage.
Canada won the gold medal at the Tokyo Games, defeating Sweden on penalties in the final after beating the world’s top team, the United States, 1-0 in the semifinals. The United States won the bronze medal, which USA later took as an honor, although they still acknowledged that they did not live up to the team’s standards.
“I mean, the rivalry has definitely intensified in recent years. So it’s going to be a great game. But it’s really not about looking back, it’s about looking ahead,” Morgan said. “At the same time, look at that squad, there are a lot of girls who weren’t even in it last year. So this is an opportunity for us to redeem our ticket to the Olympics and prove to ourselves and the world why we are No. 1 in the rankings.”
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