Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

The United States won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for a record fourth time as they overcame the Netherlands to win 2-0 in Lyon. The States’ victory followed those in 1991, 1999 and 2015 with top performances. The players of Jill Ellis’ side have received appreciation throughout the tournament. One such player who played and fought for the title was the co-captain, Alex Morgan.

On the field Morgan darts around defenders to the net one minute and overpowering them the next. A blur on the pitch, she overwhelms with her attacking style, bringing defences to their knees and fans to their feet. She has scored late goals in World Cup and Olympic matches. She is a pressure performer.

Morgan’s prodigious talent is undeniable and unmistakable. She is one of the biggest players alongside Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath and others. The forward has over 100 caps and 100 games for her national team. She has a World Cup, Champions League, and an NWSL title.

This tactical analysis will profile USA’s forward Alex Morgan.

Background

Morgan’s entire professional career to date has been in the United States. She dominated college soccer while playing four years for the California Golden Bears. She made her mark immediately. Morgan was the Bears leading scorer as a freshman in 2007.

She made her debut for the U.S. women’s national team in 2010. She was also selected by the Western New York Flash in the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer draft.

Her career truly took off in 2012, when she was third in FIFA World Player of the Year. That was a banner year when we truly saw what looked like the arrival of the next Mia Hamm.

The striker joined Orlando Pride in 2016 where she scored four goals in her 15 appearances for the Pride. The club finished in ninth place during the regular season with a 6–13–1 record led by head coach Tom Sermanni.

To improve her game, she joined French club Lyon on a six-month loan in 2017. Lyon is considered to be the world’s best women’s soccer team, she figured that she needed to train with the best to become the best. In 15 games with Lyon, Morgan scored an impressive 12 goals. She announced in September that year to leave the French side and return to Orlando Pride.

USA

The States is the most potent group of attackers anywhere in the world of women’s soccer. Morgan leads the way for the squad. She has refined her skills by adding strong hold-up play to her renowned scoring touch. Ellis prefers a 4-3-3 formation with Morgan flanked by Megan Rapinoe on the left and Heath on the right.

The striker has had 169 appearances for the national team with 107 goals till date. She has been a key player of the squad since her early years.

Her first appearance for the under-20 team occurred during the 2008 Women’s U-20 Championship. She scored the winning goal in the final which helped the US win the championship. At the 2011 World Cup Morgan became the youngest player on the US roster. The 22-year-old scored in the semi-final against France and scored again in the final against Japan. This was the spectacular introduction to one of the most prolific goal scorers in U.S. soccer history.

Her 28-goal, 21-assist season in 2012 still stands up as one of the most prolific in women’s soccer history. The U.S. claimed a gold medal during her first season as a starter. She joined Hamm in the race as she was the only player to reach 20 goals and 20 assists in a single year.

Over the years, her game has progressed into a more well-rounded forward. She has been able to lead the American squad to victory in a myriad of ways. In April 2019, she scored her 100th goal, which was a trademark Morgan goal. She out-muscled a defender, crashing towards the goal with incredible force and speed.

The forward is the face of United States women’s soccer. She was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year and U.S. national team co-captain in 2018. She also played a prominent role in the United States’ 2015 and 2019 World Cup triumph.

Playing Style

The four most important attributes of a high scoring striker are speed, agility, endurance, and precision. With Morgan’s flair and pace along with her dribbling ability and overall threat on goal, she can dominate the possession of the ball.

Morgan is a forward whose game is based on speed and direct play. The analysis of her tactics relies on goals scored as the only metric for judging a forward who has found ways to more subtly influence the game. This scout report analyses her ability as a striker.

Morgan scored five times as the United States opened their Women’s World Cup title defence with a record-breaking 13-0 victory over Thailand in Reims. Ellis’ side registered the biggest win in the competition’s history, bettering Germany’s 11-0 triumph against Argentina in 2007.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tacticsWhen she went to Lyon in 2017, her game evolved to all-new levels of dangerous. She was able to meg a defender and outrun them. Her visions and runs off the ball are as good as it gets. She returned to the NWSL as a more complete forward.

When she is at her best, few centre-backs in the world can keep up with her. She can take advantage of the space she creates when defenders react to her passing.

The striker is not only a goal scorer but also works for the team with and without the ball. She makes sure her teammates have either an option to pass or space to play. In the following picture, these tactics can be noticed. Morgan runs to create space for the midfielders to show up the top of the box. Both Lavelle and Samantha Mewis like to step to those areas to shoot from outside. Just by dribble the ball forward, Morgan makes sure she attracts defenders with her to open those spaces.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

When Morgan first emerged with the States national team, she did it as a one-dimensional player. She is capable of bursting beyond opposing back lines at any moment. She can fire left-footed shots that tuck neatly into the net beyond the reach of goalkeepers.

Another great tactic used by the striker is the way she plays with her back to the goal. She works as a pivot to her teammates and holds the ball for the right time. She knows exactly when to release the ball to her team in good positions. In the following picture, it can be seen how opposition gets attracted by her work on the ball. She left empty pockets and spaces for the midfielders or wingers to support her and run to the dangerous positions up on the field.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

That’s another aspect that makes Morgan’s current surge so compelling. Not only is she doing it with a more well-rounded game, but she is also producing at a rate that rivals her early success. She patiently takes touches in front of the opposing defences.

In the following picture, her tactics of positional play against the Netherlands can be seen. Her run inside Demi Stokes meant an overload of five versus four in the attack. Bronze’s uncertainty when dealing with Lindsey Horan in the half-space gave the midfielder time to cross for Morgan to head home her sixth goal of the tournament. The States had their second goal in the final from a move started and finished by Morgan.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Morgan likes to stretch opposition’s defensive line and create spaces between the defenders. These counter-attacking situations brought the US squad great chances throughout the World Cup. One such example is in the following picture. From a combination between Heath and Morgan out on the right-hand side, the right-winger made a run into the space between the centre-backs. There, she picked up the pass from Morgan and made a cross into the box. Rapinoe followed that by a shot into the right bottom corner.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Morgan’s best attribute as a forward is her ability to get in behind back lines and beat defenders with pace. It’s a dangerous skill, and one she can execute as well as anyone.

In the following picture, Morgan loses the centre-backs instead exploiting a height advantage over left-back Stokes. She meets Horan’s cross with perfect timing as Horan picked out Morgan for a simple header.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Her tactics demand more patient and technical play. She constantly has check-down runs with hold-up plays. She often goes for one-on-one dribbling which creates space in tight confines around the box.

From the get-go, the striker looks to make an impact by battling for loose balls and causing problems for the opposition’s defence. Usually, Morgan’s movements will attract the opponent’s defenders, opening pocket of spaces behind their defensive line. This can be seen in the following picture.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Morgan became only the second player to score five times in a Women’s World Cup game, a feat previously achieved by compatriot Michelle Akers. The statistical analysis shows success of 71.9% of accurate passes with an interception rate of 2.46. Her aerial duels account for 44.4% with an average of 3.84 touches in the box.

The striker likes to pressure the opponent along with her teammates when the ball is lost. The idea is to get the ball back as soon as possible so as not to let the opposing team arm themselves and settle on the pitch. This is done by reducing the spaces to the opposition to lower their field of action. This forces them to make another mistake. This formation also generates numerical superiority in all sectors of the pitch.

Alex Morgan 2018/19 - scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Conclusion

This tactical analysis has given enough evidence to support Morgan’s striking ability. Her gift of acceleration has been flanked with the skill for which she’s worked hard. She has speed and athleticism. The striker is graceful and gritty when it comes to the possession of the ball. She performs exceptionally well under pressure and leads her squad towards victory. She thrives when the stage is grand, and all eyes are on the sport she owns.

The forward has been a revelation at this summer’s Women’s World Cup. She is an out and out striker who leads by example and has an eye for goal. She gets opportunities for scoring more goals and dominates the games offensively. 15 years after her sport first washed up on American shores, she is the new face of US Women’s Soccer.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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Shipra Kapoor

Sports Journalist from India. Inclined towards Manchester City and Olympique Lyonnais.
Shipra Kapoor