Special Feature: Why Alex Morgan is the next face of Women’s Football

2 years ago many of us wouldn’t have recognised the name of one of America’s finest female forwards. A fantastic run at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, an Olympic Gold medal later and Alex Morgan is sitting next to some of the best footballers in the world in Zurich as she assembles as one of the three women nominated for FIFA’s women’s player of the year. In a short period of time the youngster from Diamond Bar, California has gone from a super-sub to one of the USA’s leading faces in professional football.

Only at the age of 23, Morgan is already scoring match defining and game winning goals. Such as her World Cup final strike v Japan and her last minute header against Canada which saw the USWNT through to their fifth consecutive Olympic final. If Morgan can score such crucial goals using her weaker skill in the sport, who knows what kind of attacking force she will bring about in years to come. She could make the game as simple as placing a bet on Nuremberg or like taking candy from a baby…. you get the point.

“She’s still a genetic freak, in my opinion,” Abby Wambach said. “She makes plays that you don’t expect anybody to make.”

Pundits are already labelling the youngster as the next Mia Hamm, while Abby Wambach deemed Alex as her next partner in crime – rather ironically replacing Mia Hamm.

‘She said she didn’t think she had had a partner in crime” – in this case, goalscoring – “since Mia Hamm in 2004,” Morgan said at a press conference – referring to Abby Wambach.

Alex joined her now ‘partner-in-crime’ Abby Wambach as a starter during the final of the CONCACAF qualifiers in Canada, where the lightening striker scored two goals and assisted in another two to help her team towards a 4-0 win over Canada. Ever since that fantastic display from Morgan, Pia Sundhage granted the wishes of many fans as she gave Alex a place in the USA’s starting line-up. Pia’s decision worked in her favour as Alex ended the year with 28 goals, 9 multi goal games and 21 assists.

Alex joined Mia Hamm as the only USWNT players to have recorded at least 20 goals and 20 assists in a calendar year and she also became the third and youngest player to reach at least 20 assists in the same year. While Alex was recording individual achievements, she also matched a 21 year old record with Abby Wambach.

The duo together matched Mia Hamm’s and Carin Jennings’ record of 55 goals as most goals scored by a duo in USWNT history. She has either scored or assisted on 41 per cent of the USA’s 120 goals this year and, by herself, she easily out-scored and out-assisted her opponents, who combined for 21 goals and 12 assists in 32 games against the U.S.

“My style (was) more of a slasher type, being able to use my speed and acceleration to get behind players. Alex has that ability, but she’s also so strong that she’s able to just kind of hold off players, probably more than I ever was. You see her score a lot of goals by getting the ball served into the box and players bouncing off of her.” Mia Hamm stated in the LA Times.

2012 finished superbly for Alex Morgan as she finally landed herself a spot in the USWNT’s starting 11 and she also won her first ever Olympic gold medal.

Along with those accomplishments, she was also nominated for an ESPY Award for Best Breakthrough Athlete Nominee and she won the Women’s Sports Foundation award for sports woman of the year and US Soccer athlete of the year. Due to her feats on the field, she was also shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d’or.

Just to think she achieved all of this in just over a year and a half ago.

“I’ve probably improved the most with my vision of the game and my movement off the ball. It’s a big step whether it’s from college of the youth team to the full national team,” Alex Morgan stated.

“Training as consistently as I have been with the national team, these improvements have come naturally with a high level of intensity and competition. You just have to think and move quicker.”

Now in 2013, Morgan has signed on with the Portland Thorns for the USA’s third attempt at a Professional Women’s football league – the NWSL.

“I’m really excited to be considered part of the Portland Thorns organization and I’m happy to see where all of my other teammates were allocated. As part of the national team we’re very excited to be part of this league, to grow the game of soccer in the U.S. and for me personally to continue my dream of playing in the U.S.”

Morgan, along with her US team mates, will market the new league off to a good start as the USA, Canada and Mexico have funded the new league in hope their respected players can play in a competitive environment leading up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup. All three countries are hoping to use their players to grow a league which will be aggressive, ambitious and fierce and attract the attention of international viewers.

“I look forward to starting this league off right and continuing this league in the coming years. I really thank U.S. Soccer for stepping forward, I appreciate their commitment to the league along with the Canadian and Mexican Federations. So I hope this league gets off to the right start and I’m very excited to be part of it, to stay in the U.S. and continue to grow the game here.”

As Alex Morgan has obtained attention involving her international exploits, she now wants to make a new name for herself in the new league – using her global trademarks to grow the league past the standards of its past two failed brothers.

“How good will she be in four years?” Sundhage said. “Depends on what she wants.”

This is why Alex Morgan is the next face of Women’s football. She is a successful striker who has lead her team’s to countless surreal victories and medals and off the field she is a growing role model for all females in football or any other athletic sports. Her past history is just the start for this determined and aspiring player and audiences have only seen snippets of what her powerful left foot and strategic head can do.

People were right to believe that Alex Morgan is the next Mia Hamm as the number 13 is already matching up to records set by one of the greatest American female players and her style of play, if not sizes up to Mia’s, but it can even overcome the legend herself.

She is a spokeswoman for Women’s football and will take the USA – domestically and internationally – where only Mia Hamm could have possibly dreamt of. No matter what team she plays for and wherever in the world her career takes her, she will always leave an impacting footprint and legacy which will be passed down and watched by many generations to come.

“I think maybe in the beginning people saw her as a pretty face who scores goals,” Megan Rapinoe has expressed. “But she’s so much more than that. Her game has developed so much.”

 

Written by Siobhan Pedroza

Follow her on Twitter @briefcase_wanka

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