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Women's World Cup

Morgan takes a back seat to USWNT teammates after flying start to World Cup

19:27 GMT+3 30/06/2019
Alex Morgan France vs USWNT Women's World Cup 2019
The striker has not scored since a five-goal performance to open the tournament against Thailand

Looking at the Golden Boot standings, it would be logical to conclude that Alex Morgan has had a fantastic World Cup. 

But, as anyone who has watched all five USWNT games would tell you, it hasn’t quite been that simple for a player considered to be one of the world’s top forwards.

The U.S. striker is tied with three others atop the leaderboard with five goals, but all of those came in one game. In Morgan’s four subsequent matches, it’s been something of a slog, highlighted by flashes of solid connecting play along with intense physicality from opponents.

“Naturally as a number nine I’m going to be plowed through quite often,” Morgan said. 

It’s all made for a somewhat strange tournament for the striker, who has had to display different elements of her game at different times; a deft scoring touch early and, later on, as coach Jill Ellis said after the team’s quarterfinal win over France, Morgan has needed her “gritty” side.

It all started off with a bang for Morgan: an incredible five-goal performance to kick off her World Cup in the USWNT’s record-setting 13-0 win over Thailand

But the rest of her group stage was quiet. She was rested against Chile and then pulled at halftime against Sweden with a minor injury, the exact specifications of which are still a mystery. 

The knockout stage has seen Spain and France seemingly try everything to exploit that injury. The two teams have battered the U.S. striker, who has had to settle for more of a facilitator role than she possibly anticipated. Meanwhile, a different U.S. player has stolen the headlines. 

“Megan Rapinoe has put the team on her back from Spain to France,” Morgan said of her teammate, who has scored all four of the USWNT’s goals in the knockout phase thus far. 

In comparison to Rapinoe, Morgan has flown under the radar a bit. But her coach is still noticing the forward doing the little things to help her team win. 

“She has a balance in her game in terms of penetration and being able to, like she did in the France game, be more of a player that can hold the ball up for us,” Ellis said. 

“Sometimes you get one of one or one of the other and I think Alex has worked on that and has that balance.”

Early in her career, Morgan was seen as a pure goal-scorer, a player whose displays were mostly characterized by trying to use her speed to get in behind defenses and score goals. 

But as she’s gotten older, her game has evolved. In addition to scoring, which she still does quite often, Morgan has looked to develop her playmaking, hold-up play and defense. It’s those elements that have shone through in her team’s past few games. 

“I’ve been given different roles within the team defensively and on the attacking side and all I would like to do is to be able to execute that,” Morgan said, “I think I have.”

Still, Morgan would undoubtedly like her scoreless run to end in her team’s semifinal against England on Tuesday. There aren’t many players who could go four straight games without a goal at a World Cup and still win a Golden Boot, but Morgan is certainly one of them. 

“Of course it would be a great accolade,” Morgan said of the Golden Boot, “but that’s not my goal, my goal is to help this team win a World Cup.

“As long as the goals continue to come then I’m happy.”