FourFourTwo USA's 50 Best American Women's Players of 2017: No. 1, Alex Morgan
If, come the 2019 World Cup, a then 30-year-old Alex Morgan takes the U.S. women’s national team on her back to make a run at another title, we’ll reflect on 2017 as the year which Morgan began that ascent.
It was December 2016 when Morgan signed a short-term deal with European powerhouse Lyon. She noted, in a sign of transparency and maturity, she wanted to be the best player in the world, and staying the course at that moment wasn’t going to bring her there. So Morgan left for France, where unlike in Orlando, she wasn’t going to be guaranteed even a starting role.
That first six months of her 2017 campaign were not marked by the spectacular, but they turned out to be the exposition to Morgan’s best year since her historic 2012, ‘oh-it’s-in-Alex-Morgan-has-done-it-in-the-123rd-minute’ campaign.
She scored five goals in eight games across in league play for a Lyon team that in 2017 won its second straight UEFA Champions League title, exiting the final early due to a hamstring injury.
It was in Orlando, in partnership with Marta, where Morgan’s year truly took off. She tallied nine goals and four assists in 13 games for the Pride, helping Orlando climb into an unlikely NWSL playoff position for the first time. Morgan’s dominant form continued for the United States as she led the team with seven goals in 698 minutes.
The stats alone were reason to take notice, sure. But watch Morgan – especially the Morgan who came back from France and really hit the ground running in July – and you see the confidence of the player who, before injuries cut short multiple previous seasons, once forecast herself as an all-world player. The Morgan who put up 28 goals and 21 assists in 31 games in 2012. The Morgan who, as she set out to do with the move to Lyon, looked like a more complete player.
Entering her into the discussion as world’s best player remains premature, at this point. The sample size of her return to form is too small, you say? That’s fair, but it overlooks just how good that form has been. And that’s partly why 2017 has to be a base for building to the 2019 World Cup.
While other players on this list could similarly be both praised for their 2017 play and criticized for not being more consistent within that timeframe, Morgan brought the type of game-changing impact for club and country which can’t be ignored.