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USWNT notebook: Morgan’s health, Wambach’s role

Jill Ellis is confident in her forwards. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

Jill Ellis is confident in her forwards. (Photo Copyright Patricia Giobetti for The Equalizer)

United States women’s national team coach Jill Ellis says that Alex Morgan‘s knee injury continues to be monitored, but Ellis expects her star striker ready for the World Cup.

Morgan, 25, has a bone bruise in her left knee and hasn’t played in over a month. Ellis said that the injury is something that “just needs time,” but the U.S. coach is operating under the premise that Morgan will be ready for the United States’ World Cup opener on June 8 against Australia.

“When push comes to shove, we’ll get her geared up and ready to go, but that is kind of why I’ve been really conservative about it, not playing her in these sendoff games,” Ellis said.

Morgan’s injury flared up a couple times, according to Ellis, resulting in both Portland Thorns FC and the U.S. national team shutting down the striker to play it safe ahead of the tournament.

[MORE: Morgan says FIFA president Blatter didn’t know who she was]

While Ellis acknowledges Morgan’s importance to the team, she is confident in the team’s other forwards, all of whom have have had stretches of solid play over the past six months, with Sydney Leroux’s two-goal performance against Mexico being the latest addition. And Amy Rodriguez, while often overlooked by the masses, continues to be in form.

Ellis hasn’t had much of an opportunity to work on forward pairings due to what she calls a “spattering of injuries.” Morgan has been hurt more than healthy – she twice injured her ankle – since Ellis took over the team a year ago. Leroux dealt with a foot injury earlier in the year. Injuries to Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe further forced Christen Press into a wide role instead of playing higher. This sendoff series, which ends on Saturday against Korea Republic, was a chance for Ellis to get a better idea of who her forwards will be — the last real unknown of the starting XI.

Abby Wambach has two goals in each of the last two games and seems to be meeting her goal of finding her form at the right time. Her role, according to Ellis, will likely be a mixed one: a starter at times and a reserve for other games.

“To me, there’s nothing more daunting then bringing her off the bench,” Ellis said of Wambach. “But also knowing her value in starting. I’ve said this time and time again: We’re going to need more than two players to play those positions, because forwards are usually the ones that gets subbed in games. Abby understands – we’ve talked a few times about it. Whatever the team needs, she is going to 100 percent give us.”

Saturday’s match could reveal to Ellis the final insight that she needs regarding her forwards. But Morgan’s health remains an X-factor.

Ellis has a frequent message she delivers to her players: “Adversity is a fact. How we deal with it is a choice.”

That will be more true than ever at the World Cup.


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