FourFourTwo's USWNT Top 50: No. 8 – Morgan Brian
Morgan Brian may have been the youngest U.S. player at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, but she has long been used to “playing up.”
She was called up to the U-17s at age 15, and won the MAC Hermann Trophy (the first time) as a college junior. Brian was also the only collegian among all the U.S. veterans during World Cup qualifying in 2014. So it was not much of a surprise when Jill Ellis chose Brian as a World Cup quarterfinal replacement for midfielder Lauren Holiday, who had to sit out due to yellow-card accumulation. That decision helped change the tournament for the Americans, and Brian has been a mainstay in the U.S. midfield ever since.
She’s a master of possession (she completed more passes in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying than any other player), and can pull apart defenses with her movement off the ball. Her versatility has created a bit of a conundrum for coaches – should she be in the attacking midfield role? Or the defensive one? Either way, she has the playmaking vision to make those around her better as she can see the games three or four moves ahead. She also excels at finding seams in the attack to set up key goals – see her brilliant assist on Tobin Heath’s goal in the World Cup final, or her smart feed to Alex Morgan in the Olympic opener versus New Zealand.
On the club side of things, the 2015 top NWSL college draft pick has not made a huge impact on the Houston Dash – yet. International commitments and a nagging hamstring injury have limited her to just 23 games over two seasons. But the 2017 calendar should permit the two-way midfielder to finally fulfill the role of “the player to build a club around,” as Randy Waldrum has said, and perhaps provide the final piece in the puzzle to get the Dash into the playoffs for the first time.
Last February, Brian earned the honor of the Golden Ball (best player) at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tourney, though she scored no goals and registered just three assists in six games. But the impact of her play was evident in the success of the team. She might not rack up a lot of stats, but rest assured, Morgan Brian will be racking up plenty of U.S. national team caps in the next several years.