When US Soccer announced in August that the women’s national team would play England in a friendly in the autumn, the federation heated up the game by tweeting a photo of striker Alex Morgan sipping tea from the 2019 World Cup semi-finals.
But on Thursday, when manager Vlatko Andonovski released his 24-man squad for the October 7 game at London’s Wembley Stadium, Morgan’s name was not on it. The national team’s top active goalscorer was out with a knee injury, which will come as a disappointment to England fans who sold out the game in less than a day.
“With Alex, I can’t go into detail about how serious it is. It’s a knee injury,” Andonovski said of Morgan, who sat out last week at her NWSL club, the San Diego Wave. “What I can say is if this was a World Cup final, Alex would be on this journey and she would be in this game, no question.”
Attendance for the game, the first between leaders USA and No. 5 England at Wembley Stadium, is expected to top 80,000 making it the second largest crowd for the women’s national team after the 90,185 at the 1999 World Cup Final at the Rosebowl . A record crowd of 87,192 packed Wembley Stadium in July as England defeated Germany at the European Championships.
The US trip to Europe will also include a game against No. 6 Spain in Pamplona on October 11th.
“I want to say the results [are] secondary in this situation. But it never is when you coach this team,” Andonovski said. “We see it as an opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the world. We’ve always said that we want to create unfavorable environments for our players. We want them to find a way to overcome them.
“And what better way to do that than playing away to a full stadium against England and Spain.”
Morgan’s absence earned Harvard-Westlake senior Alyssa Thompson, who scored one goal and one assist at the U-20 World Cup in August, a spot in the squad. The call is Thompson’s first with the senior team. At 17, she is the youngest player since 2017.
“Alyssa is a very creative player with a very good understanding of the game,” said Andonovski. “I have no doubt that she will fit well into our system. I think it’s a great experience, great exposure for them. And it’s a good experience for us to have the opportunity to work with her. We’ll see what happens then.”
The two European Cup friendlies are the last games ahead of next summer’s World Cup draws in New Zealand and Australia.
Eighteen of the 24 women in the squad played in the team’s friendlies in September, including two-time world champion Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn. Among the new additions is defender Crystal Dunn, who is hoping to make her first appearance since having a son in mid-May. She attended the September training camp but did not play against Nigeria.
“We’re delighted to have Crystal back. We’ve had her as a practice player for the last couple of games and she looked as good as ever,” said Andonovski, who plays 41-2-6 for the national team.
Also on the roster is Sofia Huerta, a 2011 Centennial High graduate and native of Boise who has played her way back into the team.
Goalkeeper: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
Defender: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), Becky Sauerbrunn ( Portland Thorns F.C.).
Midfield player: Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Forward: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy).