2011 was undoubtedly the year of Alex Morgan. The USWNT forward made a breakout appearance in the World Cup and immediately began a meteoric rise to superstardom in women’s soccer amongst legends like Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Hope Solo.
However, as we near the 2015 edition of the tournament, a nagging knee injury has kept Morgan out of the national team’s send off friendlies, leading many fans to speculate that her injury may have more serious implications than previously thought. Following last Saturday’s friendly against South Korea, head coach Jill Ellis confirmed these suspicions, saying Alex would not start the opening game against Australia, and would likely not play 90 minutes in the opening games of the World Cup. Thus, fans have been left to speculate: who will replace Alex Morgan?
While it’s impossible to completely replicate the play of a world class player like Morgan, here are three women who will be up to the task when the USWNT takes on Australia Monday night.
1. Sydney Leroux
The self-proclaimed, “America’s Favorite Canadian,” Sydney Leroux made headlines in the 2012 Olympics when she opted to play for her father’s birth country the United States, rather than Canada, the country where she spent most of her young life. Leroux’s decision came back to haunt the Canadians, as she helped the United States knockout Canada in the semifinals of the Olympic tournament, en route to a gold medal.
Now, playing in her first World Cup, Leroux has the opportunity to help the United States bring home the most prestigious trophy in women’s soccer. Leroux is a speedy, feisty forward with a knack for scoring goals and a mean streak that intimidates opposing defenders. The de facto “bad girl” of the USWNT, Leroux will look to utilize her athleticism and attitude to terrorize opposing defenses.
2. Tobin Heath
A teammate of Alex Morgan’s on NWSL’s Portland Thorns, Tobin Heath is probably the most creative player on the USWNT roster. Check out this ridiculous display of skill on Abby Wambach’s second goal against Mexico in a recent friendly. Heath is a specialist at putting the ball basically wherever she wants it, serving as a free kick specialist for the USWNT throughout the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics. Tobin has assisted on numerous goals during her college career at UNC, her professional career with Paris Saint-Germain and Portland, as well as her international career with the United States. Her ability to beat defenders on the wing and pick out passes to strikers like Leroux and Wambach will be key to the national team’s success, making her a key player as the USWNT marches towards World Cup glory.
3. Carli Lloyd
Carli Lloyd is the unquestioned “Number 10” of the USWNT and is probably the closest thing women’s soccer has to Lionel Messi. Lloyd dominates ball possession, and constantly picks out beautiful passes for teammates, as well as scoring some goals of her own. Carli has over 100 international caps with the USWNT, and is most famous for scoring the winning goals in the gold medal games of both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Her ability to get forward from the midfield will be key to the United States, as they will need someone to pick up the goal scoring slack with Morgan likely coming on as a substitute for much of the group stage. With 63 international goals under her belt already, I have no doubts in Carli Lloyd’s ability to pick up that slack. Lloyd was undoubtedly the most impressive player during the national team’s three send off friendlies, and USWNT fans will hope that she can translate that amazing play when the national team heads north to Canada.