Alex Morgan happy to return to Orlando, eager to help Pride reach NWSL playoffs
June 13, 2017
Alex Morgan marked June 17 on her calendar — the day she would dress in an Orlando Pride jersey again and take the field for her first National Women’s Soccer League game of 2017.
She looked forward to the day all year, but she’ll have to wait a little longer.
“That’ll be prolonged a bit, but I’m just happy to be back with the girls,” Morgan said Friday during her first press conference since returning from a five-month stint playing in France. “It’s just so nice to be back.”
Morgan has not yet officially re-signed with the Pride. She suffered a hamstring injury in France that will sideline her for the next few weeks. When she does return, a player will need to be waived or traded to make room on the roster.
Doctors said the injury is not that serious, according to Morgan, and she was able to warm up with the team for the first time Friday, participate in passing drills and do fitness work on her own.
“I have my own personal goals, but I want to make sure I’m 100 percent and ready to go before I put myself in a vulnerable position,” she said.
Many of Morgan’s most devoted fans held their collective breath when she packed up and took off to play with French side Olympique Lyonnais at the end of January.
She said she would be back in June, but what if she loved it so much she never returned? Morgan said they had no reason to worry.
“I made a commitment at the time … that I would be back after the transfer window opened. I always was going to stick to that,” Morgan said. “I’ve missed this team a lot.”
She kept tabs from afar, streaming Pride games at all hours of the night. She enjoyed seeing the club add quality domestic and international players and display improved chemistry, passing accuracy and possession from last season. And it was difficult for her to watch the games and points they needlessly dropped.
She’s eager to help the team climb the NWSL table and push to be among the top four teams that advance to the playoffs.
Pride coach Tom Sermanni said Morgan’s re-integration with the team should be seamless. Many players from last season returned and she’s previously played with some of the new additions, such as defender Ali Krieger and midfielder Marta.
“We already have a great deal of mobility in our attack, and somebody like Alex coming back in the team will add to that,” Sermanni said. “I think she’ll do very well in this team, particularly having someone like Marta supplying her with chances.”
Morgan also kept in touch with Pride players to help make her return easier. She said she wished luck to many of them before matches and checked in specifically with those moved around in the lineup, either added to or taken out of starting XI.
Although the Pride as an organization wasn’t thrilled to lose their marquee player for the first part of the season, the staff did support her decision and patiently awaited her return. Morgan said communication with Sermanni was open and transparent throughout.
“Now coming back in here, it’s like I’ve been in here the whole time with Tom,” she said. “He’s just really supportive and it helps having a coach who is fully behind all his players.”
The challenges France presented are what drew her to the move: living alone overseas, communicating with a coach who spoke no English when she spoke no French, learning to play a different style of soccer — more one-two touch combinations and finding space in front of the back line instead of behind it, as is the typical style in the United States — and in different positions all across a three-person front line.
“I had to change up my runs a little bit from always trying to look in behind first to checking to the ball and making diagonal runs with the other forwards,” Morgan said.
She enjoyed walking around Lyon and barely having to use a car. She savored the limited travel to play matches, unlike in the vast United States, where playing a league opponent can sometimes mean getting on a six-hour flight.
But she missed home, her husband and Blue, a nearly 100-pound chocolate-colored pit bull mix. Upon her return from France, Blue greeted Morgan with furious tail wags and scratches down both her arms while jumping in excitement.
“The girls were amazing, my team was really awesome and welcoming, but there’s nothing like my family,” Morgan said. “I just missed everything about Orlando and just that feeling of being home. Just being part of a community that I’m used to, that I’m comfortable with, that I feel absolutely at home with.”
She didn’t miss the heat.
No longer used to the muggy, 90-degree Florida weather, she said it will take a week or so to adjust.
Overall, Morgan said she’s glad she took the opportunity to play in France, it was challenging and fun, “but it was a five months I’m happy I did and now I’m ready to get back and get started with the Pride.”
Will she take another overseas adventure?
“I don’t know,” she said. “Right now, I’m really happy with what I accomplished and with what the team accomplished in France, but I’m thinking about this season with the Pride. . . . I’m really just focused on the Pride right now.”
(Via Orlando Sentinel)