EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – Alex Morgan played for the United States women’s national team for the first time in seven months on Saturday after battling a left ankle injury, and she says she is now fully recovered and focused on regaining her fitness and form as World Cup qualifying approaches in October.
Morgan sprained her left ankle in October, but the injury evolved into a stress reaction that put her into a walking boot in late December.
She played 41 minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 win over France in Tampa, Fla., a week after she played the full 90 minutes in her season debut for Portland Thorns FC. After that match – Portland’s worst-ever, a 5-0 home loss to the Western New York Flash – Morgan said she struggled toward the end of the match, but 10-player Portland was out of substitutions.
“I was done at the 70th minute, I couldn’t go any longer,” she said postgame.
Morgan, who on the eve of her 25th birthday is tied for 11th all-time with 44 goals for the United States, said there are no lingering injury issues.
“I’m feeling really good,” Morgan said prior to training on Wednesday. “My injury, I don’t think about anymore. I’m now focused on how I can better myself to make a spot on that World Cup roster, how I can get the most playing time and help contribute to my team in World Cup qualifiers. Now I’m trying to set goals from myself and moving on from that I’ve been out for so long with my injury.”
Jill Ellis, whose first match as full-time U.S. manager was Saturday’s victory, is happy with Morgan’s progress, having seen her in camp for over a week.
“Alex is further along than I thought she would be,” Ellis said. “I’m really excited with where she is. We got her (41) minutes the other day and I think we hope to do the same (Thursday) and just bring her back. Obviously we want her back as quickly as possible, but then we also have to be smart about it and do what’s right for Alex.”
And the camaraderie of being back in U.S. camp with the team is equally important to Morgan as improving her fitness and first touch. The U.S. went through its roughest stretch in over a decade in March when the team lost two straight matches and went winless in three straight for the first time since 2001. Morgan was forced to watch those Algarve Cup struggles, as well as the firing of coach Tom Sermanni in April, from afar.
“Honestly, this camp feels the most together that this team has felt since after the Olympics,” she said. “I think we are in a really good place. We came off of a 1-0 win and we’re hoping to get another win (Thursday). Just with Jill coming in and really helping bring the team together, I think that we are really looking forward to getting into World Cup qualifiers this fall. It just feels good, it feels like it should be a year out from the World Cup.”
The United States and France meet again on Thursday at Rentschler Field, with the U.S. unbeaten in a record 83 straight home matches dating back to 2004.
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