Alex Morgan is off to a blazing start in 2016, showing shades of the striker who was a finalist for FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012 and erasing some of the doubts which have stemmed from two years worth of on-and-off injuries.
The United States striker, now going on 27 in May and one of the more veteran players on a transitional team, scored 12 seconds into Olympic Qualifying against Costa Rica. The goal is believed to be the fastest in U.S. Soccer history and it served as a flag in the ground not only for a U.S. team which faced questions only months after winning the World Cup, but also for Morgan, who continued on to have a productive tournament in which she looked fast, sharp and dangerous.
Morgan admitted in a recent interview with SI that last year was a complex one. The U.S. won the World Cup, but injuries before and after the tournament limited Morgan’s influence.
“So it was really hard for me after the World Cup knowing that although we won, I don’t feel like it was the best version of me,” Morgan said. “That’s why I think I do have such an optimistic outlook on 2016, just because I went into 2015 in a different role on this team and with a different outlook because of my injuries. It just feels really good looking forward. In 2015, I just felt like I could never catch a break. It just feels right right now.”
Feeling right is both mental and physical. Morgan notes in the interview that she no longer warms up 15 minutes before training; she starts an hour ahead of time, at the team hotel — “prehab,” she calls it.
Can Morgan replicate her 2012 feat of 28 goals and 21 assists in 31 games , joining Mia Hamm as the only other U.S player to tally 20 goals and 20 assists in the same year?
And not to be forgotten as part of Morgan’s 2016 metaphoric rebirth is her move to NWSL expansion side Orlando Pride, where there are clear ambitions to challenge Portland Thorns FC — Morgan’s old club — in the record-setting attendance realm.
“I’m expecting to average at least 15,000 [fans a game],” Morgan told SI.
Portland Thorns FC averaged a league-record 15,639 fans over 10 games last season, an anomaly not just in NWSL but in theworld for women’s soccer. The Houston Dash were the next-closest club with an average attendance of 6,413.
As much as ever, all eyes are on Alex Morgan in 2016.
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