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Why Emma Hayes was right to leave Alex Morgan off the USWNT’s Olympic roster

The gold medalist’s career has finally passed on to its next stage.

7 min read

The performance Alex Morgan put in against the Chicago Red Stars on Friday carried with more dramatic irony than any rational mind could comprehend. 

The San Diego Wave striker suited up a mere two days after being cut from the U.S. women’s national team’s Olympic roster, the first major tournament Morgan would not be attending since 2008. No doubt she took the news hard, as anyone would. What’s more, Wave head coach Casey Stoney had been fired quite suddenly a mere 48 hours before that

Morgan’s reputation as a fierce competitor might lead one to the presumption that she would charge out of the gates in front of a raucous home crowd of 24,000 strong. A legendary performance would serve as a harsh rebuke to U.S. head coach Emma Hayes for deigning to leave Morgan at home. 

And then this happened. 

Look, players miss penalties all the time. Most of the research around the psychology of penalty taking is, uh, not great. Her potential mental state cannot predict what happens once the ball leaves her foot. But man oh man, it sure is tempting to think that the walls were crumbling around her.

Whatever your personal feelings about Morgan or your memories of her former self as a player, the fact remains that she’s no longer one of the six best forwards in the United States. And what’s more, the only thing she seems able to do doesn’t fit with everything the USWNT forward line wants to do. 

We’ll need to move through the five Kubler-Ross stages of grief to understand why that’s the case. Okay fine, we don’t really need to. But it’s more fun this way. I promise.


“Alex Morgan is still great.”

This isn’t total denial, in some ways. Morgan has posted 0.39 non-penalty xG per 96 so far this NWSL campaign, which is a pretty respectable figure. 43% of her shots have come in the “sweet spot” – the 96-square-yard zone that runs from endline to penalty spot, post to post. 

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