Alex Morgan wasn’t even a professional player when she stepped out onto the field for the USWNT on November 20th, 2010. Her team was full of them, but she herself was still nearly three months away from being drafted by the Western New York Flash into Women’s Pro Soccer. Die hard fans of the USWNT had probably heard of her before that night, but a quick look at Google Trends will tell us that few people outside of those diehards knew anything about Morgan at all back in November of 2010.
The USWNT was in a precarious position that night. Despite being ranked #1 in the world at the time, they were dangerously close to crashing out of qualification for the 2011 World Cup. They had been upset by Mexico, and now needed to beat Italy in a two legged-playoff in order to qualify for the tournament the next summer.
That night, the US couldn’t score. And failing to score meant Italy would take the full might of of the away goals rule into the second leg: for every goal that Italy scored in that second game, the US would have had to score one more to have a chance of winning. A tie meant Italy would win.
But, in a game that was only supposed to last 92 minutes, there was an Alex Morgan break out moment in the 93rd minute; it was anything but heard of.
Superficial time stamps are all over this goal: Megan Rapinoe has dark hair, Abby Wambach has long hair, and Morgan is rocking the #5 jersey instead of the #13 she would later make her name in. This goal happened all of 5 years ago, and it was incredibly important.
You can see the rejoice expressed by all of the USWNT. Wambach immediately jumps up in the air in delight at the sight of the goal. Veterans such as Christie Rampone, the aforementioned Rapinoe, and Lauren Holiday (then Lauren Cheney) all rush to embrace Alex Morgan. It’s hard to say with the grainy video but it looks like Rampone has tears of joy in her eyes. Morgan was a hero, a savior of the USWNT that day, and she was just a 21-year-old that no one had ever heard of.
With her goal, the dye was cast. The USWNT would go on to win the return leg in Chicago 1-0, and advance 2-0 on aggregate over Italy to the 2011 FIFA World Cup, where Morgan would turn herself into a household name.
This Alex Morgan break out moment proves even the great ones have to start somewhere.
Follow me on Twitter: @yetly