Alex Morgan meets some fans. Image: San Diego Waves

FIFA Women's World Cup 70 Day Countdown: Day 20 - Alex Morgan In Focus

Feel the thrill of anticipation as we surge into the third week of our '70-Day Edge of the Crowd' countdown leading up to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. This week, we're cranking up the heat and focusing our unapologetic enthusiasm on seven extraordinary players. These chosen ones, imbued with phenomenal skill and sheer tenacity, are ready to take the center stage and ignite the tournament with their astounding performances.

Alex Morgan is one of the world’s best strikers, and the most accomplished to appear at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. While this tournament will be graced by the likes of Sam Kerr, Bunny Shaw, Debinha and Ada Hegerberg, only Morgan has achieved the ultimate glory before.

The American forward has two World Cup winner's medals, one runner up, three CONCACAF Championships and an Olympic gold medal. The USA has been a dominant team in this era, but getting onto that team and staying on it for over a decade is testament to her ability and consistency, especially for someone who only began playing the game at age 14.

Morgan is a star but is not generally appreciated as the best in the world at any one aspect of her game. She does not have the physical gifts of Kerr and Shaw, or the other-worldly footwork of Marta and Tobin Heath. She is fast but not blisteringly quick like an Ellie Carpenter. Having said all that, she is a clinical, composed finisher and a consummate winner at this level.

Instead, Morgan is better than most players at most aspects of the game, and mixes this with an ability to read the game that puts her in the right place at the right time. She is ruthless and clinical in front of goal, while having the in-game intelligence to create and read opportunities, or pounce on mistakes.

There are few better recent examples of Morgan’s technique and football IQ than last season’s NWSL playoff game for the San Diego Waves. Morgan had been spectacular for the newly arrived team, but when the quarter-final against the Chicago Red Stars went into extra time, she had been kept goalless.

When the moment to win the match arrived, Morgan began to impose herself on the contest. A headed effort somehow bounced off the inside of the post and stayed out, but as every player on the field fatigued, Morgan took her chance.

She received the ball wide in a crowded penalty area and hit a low shot across goal in the most dangerous zone. Any touch from a defender or teammate would have deflected it in. Instead, it found the net itself. In a split second, Morgan had picked the best possible option and had the skill to make it happen.

She is capable of all types of finishes. It was 2008 when Alex Morgan first announced herself to the world. At the Under 20 World Cup, she slalomed through the North Korean defence to score a sensational solo goal. It was one of four in that tournament as the USA went on to lift the trophy.

Three years later, she scored once and assisted another in the 2011 final despite the USA losing to Japan. The rising star was now one of the brightest in an enviable USA constellation.

At the 2019 FIFA World Cup, Morgan began the tournament with five goals in a single game against Thailand. At the time there was some criticism of the USA piling goals onto an international minnow, but this Thai team had pushed Australia to a penalty shootout at the previous year's Asian Cup.

Since then, Alex Morgan’s profile has continued to rise. Morgan is one of the sport's most well-known and marketable athletes with a list of endorsements ranging from Coca Cola to video game giant Ubisoft. Despite her viability, she has been known to speak out about issues in the women’s game.

Morgan was vocally critical of a proposal for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be sponsored by Saudi Arabia. As a World Cup winner, and one of the most famous faces in the game, Morgan’s words carried weight.

“I think it’s bizarre that FIFA has looked to have a Visit Saudi sponsorship for the Women’s World Cup when I, myself, Alex Morgan would not even be accepted of supported in that country,” she said.

“I just don’t understand it. I think what Saudi Arabia can do is put an effort into their women’s team that was only formed a couple of years ago, and doesn’t even have a current ranking within the FIFA ranking system because of how few games they have played.

“That would be my advice to them, and I really hope that FIFA does the right thing.”

How much impact her words had on the decision to rescind the controversial sponsorship is unknown, but in a World Cup year, while on national team duty, Morgan would have been within her rights to focus on the game at hand. Instead, she stepped up, just as she has for club and country her entire career.

On the pitch, the stats speak for themselves. Morgan has 121 goals for the USA in 206 games and 20 goals for San Diego in 25 games since 2022. She is elegant, aggressive, skillful and in deadly form as she prepares to arrive in New Zealand in July.

To get the full experience of Edge of the Crowd's 70 Day Countdown to the FIFA Women's World Cup this July, don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Also don't forget to listen to the Australian World Cup Podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.