Six Sites Predict Whether Alex Morgan Will Be on Olympic Roster

Former Cal star Morgan is on the borderline of being on the USWNT 18-player soccer roster for the Paris Olympics. Most say she’ll be on it, but some say she won’t.
San Diego Wave FC forward Alex Morgan takes a photo with one of her fans on June 7
San Diego Wave FC forward Alex Morgan takes a photo with one of her fans on June 7 / Abe Arredondo-USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Emma Hayes is expected to announce the 18-player U.S. women’s soccer roster for the Olympics later this month, and there is growing speculation about whether former Cal star Alex Morgan will be on that roster.

Near the beginning of ESPN’s report predicting the roster is the question every women’s soccer fan is asking: “Where does veteran striker Alex Morgan -- and her 123 career international goals -- fit into the equation?”

Following the June 4 game against South Korea, six reputable sites predicted which players will be on the U.S. women’s Olympic roster. Five suggest Morgan will be on that roster while noting she is not a sure thing, and one site said she would not be on the Olympic roster, but noted that it was a tough omission.

The American rosters for previous competitions this year all had 23 players; the Olympic roster will be reduced by five, so some players who made the previous rosters won’t make the cut for the Paris Olympics, which begin July 25 for women’s soccer. Hayes will go with the 18-player Olympic roster for the final two U.S. tuneup matches against Mexico on July 13 and Costa Rica on July 16.

Morgan was in the starting eleven for the San Diego Wave’s game this past weekend, suggesting the ankle injury that sidelined her for a month this spring is healed.  However, she has yet to score a goal in National Women’s Soccer League play this year.

The fact that Morgan did not play at all in the June 1 game against South Korea led to speculation that she might not make the Olympic roster. But coach Emma Hayes offered a reasonable explanation for keeping Morgan off the pitch after that game. Krysyan Edler of the Deseret News made specific mention of that in her projection of the U.S. Olympic roster.

Here are the six projections of the forwards expected to be on the U.S. roster for the Olympics, and comments regarding Morgan:

ESPN

Forwards (5): Mallory Swanson (Age: 26 / Caps: 92); Trinity Rodman (Age: 22 / Caps: 38);  Sophia Smith (Age: 23 / Caps: 48); Jaedyn Shaw (Age: 19 / Caps: 14); Alex Morgan (Age: 34 / Caps: 224)

The site has this comment about Morgan

No roster topic has demanded more conversation over the past two years than the status of striker Morgan. Each time she has ostensibly been moving toward the bubble, Morgan has answered the call to remind Hayes and the wider world of her continued value to the team. She did that again with a strong showing in the Gold Cup after joining the team a day before the opener following Mia Fishel’s 's injury.

Morgan bucks the USWNT's trend of versatility as an out-and-out No. 9, but she has several things in her favor. Hayes has lauded Morgan's leadership on several occasions and stressed the need for veterans in the locker room. Morgan is easily the most capped player left in the mix, one with two World Cup titles and the last remaining player from the 2012 gold-medal team.

On the field, her ability to hold up the ball, control play and endure physicality from opposing defenses to win free kicks in dangerous areas makes her stand out as a lone striker. Morgan led the counterattack to spark Dunn's opening goal in the team's most recent friendly.

Morgan's inclusion would come at the expense of a young player at a different position -- or even a healthy Lynn William, who was left off Hayes' first and only camp roster to date -- but Hayes has consistently stressed the need to balance veterans and youth.

Deseret News

This Deseret News report lets us draw conclusions about the roster based on the players who have been on USWNT’s four previous rosters.

The following 14 players have been on all four rosters: Jane Campbell, Casey Murphy, Tierna Davidson, Emily Fox, Naomi Girma, Casey Krueger, Korbin Albert, Sam Coffey, Lindsey Horan, Jenna Nighswonger, Emily Sonnett, Trinity Rodman, Jaedyn Shaw, Sophia Smith.

Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, Abby Dahlkemper, Lynn Williams and Olivia Moultrie were each on three of the rosters. On this latest roster, Williams and Dahlkemper were left off and Moultrie was included as a training player.

This suggests that Morgan will be on the Olympic roster, and Edler provides this additional reason why Morgan is likely to be included:

The average age of those 14 players before the start of the Olympics would be 25.5. Morgan, who will turn 35 a couple of weeks before the tournament, could provide important experience and knowledge to a young team. Only three of those 14 players have played in an Olympics. Morgan would be the fourth Olympian and the only gold medalist on the team.

The Deseret News then provided this significant note regarding Morgan’s absence from the first South Karea game.

Morgan was kept out of Saturday’s game [against South Korea] but started on Tuesday. Hayes told reporters that it was out of precaution and there was no need to read into the decision.

“We felt yesterday — this is an important issue to raise — maybe stretching a little bit of pelvic area, and us women who have had children have to focus on, you know, keeping their pelvic floor agile, and I told her yesterday we’re going to take any risks today because I want her to play Tuesday,” Hayes said Saturday in her postgame press conference.

Pro Soccer Wire

Pro Soccer Wire via USA Today was more straightforward in predicting the members of the 18-member Olympics roster, and Morgan was not on it.

Here are the five forwards Pro Soccer Wire projects to be on the roster:


Forwards: Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw, Mallory Swanson, Crystal Dunn

And it adds this about Morgan:

That brings us to Alex Morgan, the toughest omission from this group. The veteran forward still has plenty to offer as a true target striker, drawing fouls and doing valuable work in the build-up. But the USWNT simply hasn’t looked as dynamic with her on the pitch recently, while the likes of Smith, Rodman, Macario and Swanson all have the ability to lead the line — albeit in a slightly different way.

Bleacher Report

Bleacher Report put just four forwards on its projected Olympic roster but one was Morgan, with an explanation

--- Forwards: 1. Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), 2. Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars), 3. Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), 4. Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave)

Alex Morgan didn't shine in her start for the U.S. on Tuesday, but there's likely still room for her in the squad as a veteran leader.

Yahoo Sports

Yahoo did not break down its predicted roster by position, but simply noted the players who are locks to make it, some who are likely to be on the roster, the bubble players, and the long shots.

Locks (10): Naomi Girma, Tierna Davidson, Emily Fox, Jenna Nighswonger, Sam Coffey, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Swanson, Sophia Smith, Jaedyn Shaw, Trinity Rodman

Likely (6): Emily Sonnett, Crystal Dunn, Korbin Albert, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario, Alex Morgan

Bubble (3): Casey Krueger, Sam Staab, Abby Dahlkemper

Long shots (3): Lily Yohannes, Olivia Moultrie, Lynn Williams

Putting Morgan in the “Likely” category suggests she will probably be on the Olympic roster, but we shouldn’t be too surprised if she’s not.

This report predicts that Sophia Smith will be the starter at the striker spot, with Morgan the second choice at that No. 9 position. Swanson and Rodman are the predicted starters at the other two forward spots on the wings.

Depth chart:

Wingers (2): Swanson, Rodman, Shaw, Smith, Dunn

Striker: Smith, Morgan, Macario

The Athletic (via The New York Times)

Finally we have the roster projection from The Athletic, presented by way of the New York Times.

Forwards (5): Alex Morgan, Trinity Rodman, Jaedyn Shaw, Sophia Smith, Mallory Swanson

Starting forwards: Trinity Rodman (RW), Sophia Smith (ST), Mallory Swanson (LW) 

The Athletic pointed out one thing that could affect Morgan’s selection to the roster. Crystal Dunn, typically a defender or midfielder, was one of the starting forwards in the second game against South Korea, and she scored a goal in that contest. The Athletic had this to say about that situation:

If Hayes truly sees the forward line as Dunn’s new home, it could complicate selection status for Alex Morgan — although the goal wouldn’t have happened without some sharp facilitation in build-up from Morgan. Still, it was a quiet camp for the veteran striker and one that could open the door for alternatives who offer greater positional flexibility.

With a new coach looking to begin a new era and a small Olympic squad to work with, we could see some surprises

Indeed, we don’t know what Hayes is thinking in terms of the formation of her roster. We do know that Morgan has scored 123 international goals, the most of any active American player. We also know that she had an ankle injury that limited her activity in the spring and has not been scoring goals as frequently as she did in past years.

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Jake Curtis

JAKE CURTIS

Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.