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2018 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Alex Morgan

The USWNT striker struggled to translate her national team success to her club play.

Nikita Taparia

Alex Morgan completed her third season with the Orlando Pride and was — when healthy and not in USWNT camp due to Jill Ellis calling her team in earlier than other teams playing in the SheBelieves Cup and Tournament of Nations — a solid player once again. Originally acquired ahead of the team’s first season in October of 2015, Morgan has been the team’s talisman and biggest scoring threat.

She didn’t score the most goals on the team in 2018, but she was generally the team’s most dangerous player, lurking on the back shoulders of center backs and looking for service — which... let’s be honest, didn’t always come this past season.

So, how did her 2018 season stack up with the grade of 8.5 we gave her last season?

Statistical Breakdown

Morgan finished with five goals in 2018, which was good enough for second on the club — just one behind Sydney Leroux’s team-leading six. Her two assists were second among the club’s strikers — Leroux also had two — behind Marta’s four. Only Marta and midfielder Christine Nairn had more assists on the team in 2018.

She appeared in 19 of the Pride’s 24 games, starting 17, and playing a total of 1,500 minutes. Tom Sermanni only subbed her off three times in her 17 starts. That was the most minutes of any of the Pride’s strikers, including those with more appearances. Her 51 shot attempts was tied with Leroux for the most on the team, and her 23 shots on goal was one fewer than Syd’s 24, although Leroux did play in more games (though 69 fewer minutes). Her 61% passing rate was the lowest among the team’s strikers. Her 63.6% tackle rate was second among the team’s forwards (Ubogagu, 73.3%), and she finished the season with eight clearances (second among team forwards), 10 interceptions, and a 56.6% success rate on aerial duels.

She committed 16 fouls while drawing 22. She received no yellow or red cards.

Best Game

Morgan’s best outing of the year was May 26 on the road against the Chicago Red Stars in a 5-2 road victory. Morgan scored a goal and added an assist in the win, firing two shots — both on target — and having one of her best passing days on the season, completing 74.3% of her 35 attempts. That was tied for the second most passes she attempted in a match all year.

In the sixth minute, Morgan shook off a defender and attacked an aerial cross from Marta, heading it past Alyssa Naeher to make it 2-0 at the time. It was a record-setting goal as it combined with Rachel Hill’s earlier goal to make it the fastest two goals in Pride history — though that record would be broken in the second half of that same game.

After the Red Stars came back to tie the match at 2-2, Leroux took over the game and scored two quick goals to make it 4-2 to Orlando. But the Pride weren’t done scoring. Morgan helped put the game to bed in the 83rd minute when she made a run and took a pass from Nairn on the left side. The striker drew two defenders toward her and made a perfect curling cross for Dani Weatherholt to slam home for a 5-2 final.

That was really the one game where we saw the Pride at their best all season, so it’s no surprise that it was Morgan’s best match as well.

2018 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Morgan a composite grade of 5.5 for the 2018 season. In full disclosure, my personal grade for Morgan was slightly higher than the staff average. She may not have been quite as clinical in front of goal this season as she was last year, but the service from her teammates was often lacking and I think she made an inordinate amount of clever runs that went unrecognized by Pride midfielders and wing players until it was too late and by then she was 10 yards offside. Still, she did some uncharacteristic things like missing penalties, firing off target from good positions, and losing a few footraces against defenders that she probably shouldn’t have. Whatever plagued the entire team this season definitely affected her production.

2019 Outlook

With Alex Morgan being a federation allocated player, she’s expected to return to Orlando for the 2019 NWSL season. Still one of the world’s most dangerous strikers, she’d be a welcome member of the team, despite the fact that the World Cup will keep her out of the lineup for a good chunk of the summer. The NWSL roster expansion should help teams mitigate the loss of their international stars, but it’s unlikely the Pride will be able to replace Morgan with a comparable player.

Personally, I think it would be wise for Orlando to try to exchange some of the team’s international talent with either quality domestic players who aren’t quite in the USWNT pool or internationals whose teams didn’t reach the World Cup. While the team’s international players are certainly worth having around, there is something to be said for having more continuity and not having to replace nearly half the starting lineup whenever there’s a FIFA window.

Previous Season in Review Posts (Date Posted)

We hope you’ve enjoyed our look back at the entire 2018 Orlando Pride squad.