August 7, 2020

What Alex Morgan’s Pregnancy Means for the USWNT

For years, Alex Morgan has been one of the biggest names of women’s soccer, and an offensive superstar for the USWNT. 2019 was a huge year for her concerning her soccer career.

Back in April, she scored her 100th international goal, won the world cup in July, and was nominated for both the Ballon d’Or and the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year. But come April 2020, Morgan will have another achievement to her name, one that is happening off the field.

In October, the USWNT player announced that she and her husband, MLS midfielder Servando Carrasco, were expecting their first child, a daughter, in six months. Clearly, Morgan’s pregnancy will have a big impact on her life, but it will also impact her team in various ways.

The Olympics: Yes or No?

Once fans got over the initial shock and excitement brought on by the announcement, many began wondering about the Olympics and whether or not Morgan would be able to play in them. It makes sense that if Alex Morgan wanted to have children, she would choose to do it right after the World Cup and right before the Olympics, the two most major tournaments in a soccer player’s career, so she could maximize her opportunities to play.

The baby is due in April, and the Olympics begin at the end of July, which means that the gap for Morgan to recover from the birth and get back into training before the Olympics is short. For Alex Morgan to give birth and still play in the Olympics is possible; Sydney Leroux gave birth to her second child, Roux, at the end of June this year, and returned to playing in the NWSL just three months later.

However, Morgan will likely have even less time than Leroux, and the level of play of the Olympics is more rigorous than that of the NWSL. Additionally, Morgan’s participation in the tournament isn’t entirely up to her. Only 18 spots, 2 of which must be taken by goalkeepers, are allowed for each team in the Olympics, and new coach Vlatko Andonovsky will have to decide if he’s willing to take a risk and give her one of those spots.

The memory of the quarterfinal loss to Sweden in the 2016 Olympics is still fresh in many USWNT fans’ minds, and Andonovsky will want to achieve a much better result, even if that means leaving Morgan off the squad.

Opportunities for Others

Carli Lloyd has made headlines for many things over the years, perhaps most notably for her record-setting hattrick in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final. However, shortly after the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Lloyd made headlines for saying that her time as a reserve and a sub was one of the hardest times of her life and that she was never happy or satisfied with the way she was being used as a player.

Morgan’s absence, at the very least for the next four or five months, and possibly through the Olympics, gives players like Lloyd more opportunities on the field to prove why they should still be given playing time and possibly even starting. Strikers like Christen Press and Mallory Pugh, whose potential, many would argue, wasn’t fully utilized by Jill Ellis, could receive more time on the pitch and even a starting position in friendly games and even the Olympics.

Alex Morgan has been the starting center striker for years, and with her sidelined by her pregnancy, it will give other players the opportunities they need to play and to gain attention from Andonovsky and fans.

Possible Retirement

There’s no denying that it is difficult for an athlete to have a baby and then return to playing, especially at the same level and quality at which they had been playing before. Morgan turned 30 in July and could continue to play after having her daughter if she chose to like Christie Rampone and Sydney Leroux chose to.

However, there are also examples of soccer players and athletes in general who has chosen to retire permanently because they want to spend more time with their families, such as Lauren Holiday, who retired from the USWNT in 2015. Morgan hasn’t spoken much about retirement, only that she would like to return to play in time for the 2020 Olympics, but it still remains a looming possibility.

Clearly, Morgan’s pregnancy means a lot, both for Morgan herself and for the USWNT. If Morgan isn’t able to return in time for the Olympics, or Andonovsky chooses to leave her off the squad, it would be a significant change to the offensive operations of the team, but it could also lead to more minutes for Lloyd, Pugh, and Press.

No matter what happens concerning Morgan’s availability come July, and even post-Olympics, USWNT fans will be looking for Morgan and Carassco’s daughter to be on the squad a few World Cups from now!