Morgan in line for USWNT return vs. Netherlands
Alex Morgan’s first appearance for the United States since last year’s World Cup final win could come later this month in a rematch of that game against the Netherlands in 2019.
Currently playing for Tottenham, Morgan is one of a host of Europe-based players included on coach Vlatko Andonovski’s U.S. roster for the Nov. 27 game against the Netherlands in the Dutch city of Brenda. The game is the first for the U.S. since winning the SheBelieves Cup in March.
The pandemic-dictated layoff was the longest for the national team in the Women’s World Cup era.
While Morgan was with the U.S. team for parts of its post-World Cup tour last summer and fall, she has not played a game for the national team since the World Cup in which she earned the Silver Boot by totaling six goals and three assists. This also marks her first call-up since giving birth in May to daughter Charlie, her first child.
Morgan, 31, will pass Michelle Akers for fourth in all-time U.S. women’s national team goals with her next goal. She and Akers are currently tied for fifth with 107 goals.
“I personally have a great respect for her, for the decision that she made to go overseas and play,” Andonovski said Tuesday. “It’s a tough time, it’s a tough time for everyone. For her to get a newborn with her, go to another country in the middle of a pandemic just to be able to get back and play the game that she loves and prepare for the next big tournament, I think deserves lots of respect and lots of credit.”
Morgan made her first start for Tottenham in this past weekend’s game against Bristol City after what she termed a “small setback” physically had delayed her debut with the team. Andonovski said he expects her to be able to play “about 60 minutes” if needed in the upcoming game.
“I know the quality that Alex has,” Andonovski said. “She has already proved that she is a quality player and that she can make impact on this team and she can make impact on an international level. Her ability to change games is something that is always going to be welcomed on this team.”
Andonovski also selected Manchester United teammates Tobin Heath and Christen Press and Manchester City teammates Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis for the game against the Netherlands. All four played in the World Cup final, with Press coming on as a substitute.
Orlando Pride defender Emily Sonnett is also part of the roster after completing a loan with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC in Sweden. Sonnett was also part of the World Cup roster and started three games in Olympic qualifying earlier this year.
Defender Alana Cook, who currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France, is the seventh Europe-based player on the roster. Andonovski called in Cook for his first two games last fall. The former Stanford star earned her first cap against Costa Rica during that span.
Due to the demands of travel amid the pandemic, Europe-based players were not part of October’s U.S. training camp. Conducted in a bubble-like environment in Colorado, that camp marked the first team activity since March.
Julie Ertz also returns to the roster after missing the October camp due to family commitments.
Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe are not part of the roster for the upcoming game. Neither participated in the October camp. Andonovski said Tuesday that Lloyd is not yet game-ready physically in her return from an injury that prevented her from playing in the NWSL season segments, while the short training timeline leading into this game wouldn’t allow Rapinoe to get up to speed after sitting out the NWSL games and the October national team camp.
He indicated both would be ready for the team’s annual January training camp and beyond.
“I don’t think that either one of them … that they’ve moved on,” Andonovski said. “They’re excited and looking forward for January camp. And not just January camp, they’re looking forward to the challenge in front of them and the Olympics.”
Midfielders Catarina Macario and Kristie Mewis are among the notable players to progress from the October camp to the roster for this month’s game.
The two-time reigning Hermann Trophy winner as college soccer’s best player at Stanford, the Brazilian-born Macario recently obtained U.S. citizenship and received her U.S. passport. Andonovski said the U.S. Soccer Federation did not expect to receive the necessary approval on FIFA paperwork in time for Macario to play in the game against the Netherlands but that he felt the trip and training environment was important enough to her development to include her on the 23-player roster.
A standout for the Houston Dash in both the NWSL Challenge Cup this summer and the league’s shortened fall schedule, the 29-year-old Mewis returns after last playing for the U.S. in 2014. She and younger sister Sam started in the same game just once, against Denmark in the 2014 Algarve Cup. The second set of sisters to play for the national team, they also shared the field as substitutes against Sweden earlier in that tournament.
A former Stanford teammate of Macario who left school early to enter the 2020 NWSL draft, Sophia Smith also travels to the Netherlands in search of her first cap. Smith, 20, would have still been eligible to compete in this year’s U20 Women’s World Cup, but FIFA announced the cancelation of that event Tuesday, as well as the U17 Women’s World Cup, after previously postponing both events due to the pandemic. Only Sydney Leroux and Lindsey Horan scored more goals for the U.S. than Smith at the U20 level.
Teams will be allowed to use six substitutes in the upcoming game.
Both the U.S. and Netherlands already qualified for next summer’s rescheduled Olympics. Although she will take over as coach of the England national team after those Olympics, Sarina Wiegman remains in charge of the Netherlands through next summer’s tournament.
As with other professional and international soccer teams traveling to country, the U.S. party received an exemption from quarantine from the Netherlands. All parties will be tested for COVID-19 “before traveling, upon arrival and every two days thereafter.”