As the US national team has focused on developing young talent ahead of next summer’s World Cup, veteran striker Alex Morgan has taken on a more vocal role.
Morgan, 33, is now one of the most experienced members of the squad, which has signed up-and-coming players like fellow forwards Sophia Smith, Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman since the Tokyo Olympics.
“Young players can defend themselves. They did amazing things. I think the one thing that I would say that I’ve definitely improved this tournament is vocally on the pitch, like helping players with positioning, set pieces, things that this team is proud of, mentality, sort of kind of just helping push the players along a bit,” she said.
Morgan and the defending World Cup champions are in Mexico preparing for a showdown with rivals Canada on Monday night in the CONCACAF W Championship title match.
The United States and Canada have already qualified for next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the tournament’s top finishers. But the winner of the final also wins one of the region’s places at the 2024 Olympics in France.
Morgan isn’t slowing down in any way as evidenced by his fantastic club season so far. She’s back home in California, 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.
In the W Championship, Morgan scored twice against Haiti in the group stage, for his 29th career multi-goal game. She scored 21 goals in 22 qualifying appearances for the United States, the third most in team history. In total, she has 117 goals and 47 assists in 195 career games.
“Alex has World Cup medals, Olympic medals. It’s something that she’s very, very good at, obviously, to win,” current USA coach Vlatko Andonovski said. It’s not like winning or being able to win big tournaments.
Morgan said the team is gaining momentum and doing a better job of reading the pitch after integrating the new faces of the team and adopting Andonovski’s tactical approach, which is tailored to each opponent.
“We also have to understand, though, what the coach gave us,” Morgan said. “We all have to buy in, we can’t have one or two players not doing what they’re supposed to do because it ruins the whole flow of the game if we’re going to play in certain structures. I think that’s important ie – it’s free to play but know 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 his admirers was a 2-year-old child named Luca, whose mother posted a video of the toddler shouting his name.
Morgan saw the video and sent Luca an autographed jersey. Then Luca met his favorite player following the match against Haiti.
But among those touching moments, there is work to be done. Canada is increasingly challenging the United States on the international stage.
Canada won gold at the Tokyo Games, beating Sweden on penalties in the final after beating the world’s top-ranked American team 1-0 in the semifinals. The United States won the bronze medal, which the United States later recognized as an honor while acknowledging that it did not meet team standards.
“I mean, the rivalry has definitely intensified in the last couple of years. So it’s going to be a great game. But it’s not really about looking back, it’s about looking forward,” he said. Morgan said. “At the same time, look at this team, there are a lot of girls who weren’t even there last year. So this will be an opportunity for us to get our ticket to the Olympics and prove to ourselves- themselves and to the world why we have the #1 ranking.”
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