Alex Morgan is a special talent, but a new era for the U.S. Women’s National Team is not far away, and the rising star must start proving at the 2013 Algarve Cup that she is ready to lead the next generation of players.
The United States has become a powerhouse in women’s soccer because of players like Morgan and Abby Wambach who are exceptional athletes with incredible technical ability.
But every great team needs leadership to achieve memorable results, and right now, the older players are providing this.
The first game of the tournament in Portugal provided an excellent example of how valuable the guidance and composure of the veteran USWNT players are to the squad.
After struggling against an inferior Iceland team in the first half, goals came from Rachel Buehler, Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach in the final 45 minutes to record a convincing victory.
Buehler is 27 years old and earned her 100th cap in the contest. Boxx is 35 and has appeared in 183 international matches for the U.S., and Wambach is 32 with 201 caps.
When the team failed to find a rhythm and played down to the level of its opponent, veterans with vast amounts of experience made plays to earn the result the team needed.
This is the example Morgan must follow.
Players like Wambach, Boxx and Christie Rampone, who have been fixtures for the USWNT for many years, will soon be hanging up their cleats.
A new set of standouts will take over, but none have Morgan’s star power.
Sydney Leroux, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath are all going to play major roles for the team in future tournaments along with Morgan, but it will be the 23-year-old Californian who needs to set the tone.
Morgan’s talent has allowed her to record 60 caps already despite her age, and by the time the older generation of players is gone, she will have an impressive amount of experience on the international stage.
She is on pace to have the stature and track record to command respect from her teammates, but it will be games like the one she just played in where she must show her leadership qualities.
There is no doubt that Morgan has the talent to be one of the USWNT’s all-time greats, and she proved in the Olympics that she is capable of coming through in clutch moments when she scored in the closing moments of overtime to lift the U.S. to a 4-3 victory over Canada in the semifinals.
Going forward, she must be the one who scores crucial goals when her team needs a spark. When Wambach and the older stars leave, there may not be another player who will step up if she does not.