The Orlando Pride are first in the NWSL and Alex Morgan has been a crucial part of the Pride’s early-season success. Orlando is undefeated and has scored seven goals in five games. Morgan has four of those seven goals.
Morgan is set to miss some time with the Pride because of international duty. Who the Pride will replace her with is not straightforward. Orlando Head Coach Marc Skinner has a few different options that he can try.
The first option is to keep basically the same starting XI from the Pride’s previous match against the Washington Spirit the same, only slot in Sydney Leroux to play for Morgan. This will allow for Leroux, Marta, and Taylor Kornieck to shift attacking roles. Leroux has done well dropping back into deeper areas of the field to defend, so the veteran likely would not stay as a striker the entire match. Perhaps the big target Kornieck could play atop the formation.
With this lineup, the Pride did well defensively. Orlando limited the Spirit’s attacking options. While Washington had 21 shots, few were dangerous. The negative of this is that Orlando looked poor on the other end. The Pride struggled going forward, and Morgan was often isolated up top, especially in the first half.
If Skinner uses Marta, Leroux, and Kornieck in the attacking midfield, that would leave few options up top. Crystal Thomas could see a run of games. The forward has made three appearances off the bench. There is little striker depth on the team and Thomas is the only natural forward on the roster that will likely see the field. However, Abi Kim has an outside chance at playing that role. Kim is a player Pride fans have not seen much of. She has yet to make a regular-season appearance this year, and so it would be strange to see her jump straight into a starting spot.
Another option is to have Chelsee Washington start. Washington has played in four games so far this season. She’s only played 29 minutes but appears to have the trust of the coaching staff. She could start in the midfield, pushing one of Kornieck, Marta, or Leroux up top. Washington would be a player to keep an eye on during the match as she is not proven yet. Still, she could be a player who can drop and support the defense, while also joining in the attack.
It will be tough to replace Morgan’s offense, as it has been so integral to the team’s early success in 2021. She’ll be missing for a good chunk of time during the Olympics, especially if the USWNT makes a deep run, as expected. But, the Pride are in first place in the league and are playing well. If they continue this run of form in Morgan’s absence, her time away to help the national team will be much more palatable for the fans.