Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan has been as hot as a Central Florida summer. Shortly after arriving back from Olympique Lyonnais and recovering from an injury, Morgan started to come alive as she worked her way back into match fitness and her current form may be as good as any spell during her decorated career.
That form led to a five-game goal-scoring streak in the NWSL — one from tying Kim Little’s 2014 league record — and as a result she’s been voted the National Women’s Soccer League Player of the Month by the NWSL Media Association for August 2017. It’s the first time she’s received the honor and Morgan is the first Pride player to ever win the award.
Morgan scored seven goals and added two assists in five games, leading the Pride to the club’s first ever undefeated calendar month (4-0-1). She also set a new NWSL record in August when she scored the game-winning goal in the Pride’s last three matches — no other player in league history had scored game winners in back-to-back-to-back games before.
Behind Morgan, Brazilian superstar Marta, and an improved defense, the Pride turned a five-point playoff deficit into a three-point cushion between Aug. 1 and 31. The 28-year-old California product had a direct impact on nine of Orlando’s 13 goals in August and climbed to fifth on the NWSL goal-scoring list despite only appearing in nine of the Pride’s 20 matches this season.
Morgan, who captained the Pride in 2016, missed the beginning of the year after joining Lyon in December, stating a desire to grow as a player just as USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis began to show more love for younger players like Christen Press, Rose Lavelle, Mallory Pugh, and Crystal Dunn.
“My decision to play for Lyon was not an easy one, but it is an important step in my evolution as a player,” Morgan said in the club release. “I want to thank the Pride and our incredible fans and community for their continued support. I look forward to returning home this summer as a better player and leader to join my teammates at our new stadium as we compete for a NWSL championship.”
The move, as former The Mane Land writer Dan Garza predicted, benefited Morgan and she did return as a better player. The U.S. star played among some of the world’s best with Lyon, fighting just to see the field. She performed well, helping her club either win, or be in position to win, a treble, including the Division 1 Féminine, a domestic cup, and the 2017 UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Although the move rubbed some fans the wrong way — they felt the team captain was turning her back on her club — it seems to have paid off exactly the way Morgan hoped it would. She is playing well above her 2016 form — although admittedly with a better cast around her and far less travel than the Olympic year required of her — when she scored just four goals with one assist in 15 NWSL games. In those 15 games in 2016, Morgan attempted 44 shots and got 20 on target. This year, in six fewer appearances, she’s three-fourths of the way to her shot total, with 33 to date, and already has surpassed her shots on goal mark, with 21.
This form, this quality, this resurgence is exactly what Morgan hoped for when she went on loan to Olympique Lyonnais.
Here’s how her August went:
- Aug. 5 vs. Chicago Red Stars: Morgan scored the Pride’s only goal in a 1-1 draw, as Orlando earned its first-ever point against the Red Stars.
- Aug. 8 vs. Washington Spirit: Morgan set up Marta’s opening goal, forced a goalkeeper error that led to a Camila goal, and scored one of her own in the Pride’s 3-0 win. It was the club’s first victory over the Spirit after going 0-2-2 in the first four meetings.
- Aug. 12 vs. Sky Blue FC: Morgan led the Pride to a 5-0 shellacking of the New Jersey club, scoring twice and assisting on another goal as the club set a record for most goals in a game and most lopsided win.
- Aug. 19 at Boston Breakers: Morgan’s brace staked the Pride to a 2-0 lead on the road in a match that turned into an eventual 2-1 win.
- Aug. 26 at FC Kansas City: Morgan’s flick of Marta’s free kick in the 87th minute lifted the Pride to a second straight road victory and a club record fourth consecutive win overall.
Although other players have played well in the current stretch, it’s obvious that Morgan’s resurgence has positioned the Pride well in their search for the club’s first playoff appearance. She and her Pride teammates will look to take a step closer to that goal tomorrow night at home against the Boston Breakers at 7:30 p.m.