Alex Morgan is set to make her 2014 debut on Saturday in what will be her first competitive match in seven months.
The Portland Thorns FC striker hasn’t played since coming on late as a substitute for the United States national team in a win over Brazil on No. 10, 2013. She sprained her left ankle a few weeks before that match, but playing through the injury caused stress reaction to develop.
That led to the longest time out due to injury of Morgan’s career, something she says has weighed on her mentally as much as physically.
“More than physically, it’s been mentally taxing for me,” Morgan said Thursday. “I’ve never been out as long as now, even with my (torn) ACL,” Morgan said. “I do feel a little mentally stronger. I feel like I can withstand a lot more and I’m not really fazed too much by the ups and downs (when) maybe I was before.”
The U.S. striker has been training with the Thorns for a few weeks as she works toward getting back to normal. She will re-join the U.S. national team for upcoming matches against France. Thorns coach Paul Riley has maintained that Morgan could have played already, but the club didn’t want to rush her back. Riley’s been impressed with Morgan in her return, saying she’s looked sharp and intelligent in training.
“Morgan looks great, she looks fresh, she looks hungry,” Riley told The Equalizer last week in Boston.
Debuting along with Morgan on Saturday will be Australian defender Stephanie Catley and Spanish midfielder Veronica Boquete. Catley looks likely to start at left back after the Thorns announced defender Kat Tarr will miss 4-6 weeks after having a lateral meniscectomy of her left knee.
Boquete is a game-changer for Portland. She was the 2011 WPS MVP and her reunion with Riley brings high expectations as she tries to work her magic and get the Thorns on track.
And getting on track is the main goal for fifth-place Portland.
“I’ve never been out this long, so sitting on the sideline watching my team play, watching my team struggle, drop a couple games, that was the last line for me,” Morgan said. “I couldn’t stand to watch my team any longer, so I think that was a big driving force of why I wanted to get back and contribute and help my team out a lot.”
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