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San Diego Wave FC 2022 Player Postmortem: Alex Morgan

It was a career year for the superstar.

Chicago Red Stars v San Diego Wave FC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Alex Morgan is a superstar, one of the soccer players who are genuine household names in both the U.S. and abroad, but her form for her clubs always paled severely compared to her play for her country. Until 2022, that is.

Moving to San Diego Wave FC for their debut season, Morgan was sure to be a box-office draw for the NWSL expansion side, but in spite of her eye-popping resumé, she had really only had a couple good seasons in the NWSL on an individual level. This year, she unleashed her best, winning her first career NWSL Golden Boot, notching 20 goals for Wave FC across all competitions, and getting her first career NWSL Best XI selection in the process.

The signs were there from the beginning that Morgan was bought in immediately. She scored four goals in six NWSL Challenge Cup games, likely using the tournament much like the new team, to figure out how to play with the teammates and find some form. Scoring an early brace, in the club’s first-ever win, against Angel City FC, was a good omen for the season ahead.

She continued that form in the regular season, posting a stunning 15 goals in 17 games. With Casey Stoney essentially building the attack around Morgan — stunningly, you could argue Morgan had never had that in her club career previously, in part because of the attacking stars around her, and in part because of long absences due to international duty and maternal leave — Morgan knew her job was to get the ball, shoot, and score. She did, and did, and did.

Here are Morgan’s stats with Wave FC in 2022:

Alex Morgan San Diego Wave FC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Challenge Cup 6 5 413 4 1 19 9 1 0
Regular Season 17 16 1,440 15 2 44 26 0 0
Playoffs 2 2 207 1 1 5 1 0 0
Total 25 23 2,060 20 4 68 36 1 0

Here’s the compilation of Morgan’s regular season goals in 2022. You can see the varied ways she scores and that yes, at 33, she’s still got it.

Her consistent form earned Morgan a recall to the U.S. Women’s National Team, after it looked like head coach Vlatko Andonovski was ready to move on from her and hand the program off to the younger players, but she ended up helping the U.S. book their ticket to the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Paris Olympics by winning the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, scoring four goals in 10 games during the year. She ultimately won the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament as well.

Back with San Diego, Morgan saw a bit of a dip in the waning months of the regular season, and it appeared the mini-slump, coming as she was on the cusp of her 50th career NWSL goal, but she got it, and then a few more.

Then, her biggest goal came in San Diego’s first playoff game, in stoppage time, as she got a ball at the flank and hit a shot no one else on the field could have converted.

Obviously we know Morgan can make big plays in big games, but again, she hadn’t done it a whole lot on the club front in her career. In this game, however, she grinded and scored the first winning goal in a playoff game in Wave FC history.

As mentioned, Morgan earned the NWSL Golden Boot, was voted to the NWSL Best XI, and was a finalist for NWSL MVP. It was a stellar season and she was absolutely full value for San Diego. She was the marquee star, she was the attendance draw around the league, and she remained a rare superstar who was willing to speak to the press fairly regularly, on a variety of topics.

Plus, Morgan played a central role, dating back years, in insisting the league create and enforce an anti-harassment policy to protect players, in the wake of a deluge of scandals on nearly every team prior to 2022, including head coaches who engaged in sexual misconduct and other abusive behavior. She was also one of San Diego’s player representatives for the NWSL Players Association, which negotiated and ratified the league’s first-ever Collective Bargaining Agreement this year. Most players of her profile don’t participate in this advocacy work on the league side, but Morgan has shown throughout her career that she’s willing to use her power to help other players who may not have as much power, and that should not be forgotten amidst her on-field exploits.

As for the advanced stats, it was a surprisingly mixed bag in spite of pacing the league in scoring. Morgan was 13th in the league in ASA’s Goals-added metric, at +2.96, second on Wave FC, behind Taylor Kornieck. But I was surprised that her scouting report graph, while certainly not bad, did not show her to be as elite in the attacking categories as I expected. Perhaps the parity of the NWSL counted against her here, as other top players in Italy and England play in much more stratified competitions.

At any rate, Morgan supplied everything San Diego were looking for and more. Wave FC had an outstanding core to take them through an unprecedented season in NWSL history, but Morgan set the tone and got the goals to clinch results. It was a great season befitting a great player.

Moving forward, she’s obviously under contract to San Diego for 2023, but it may be a very different season for her and the club, in terms of her availability. Yes, she missed a month this season on international duty, but if she stays healthy and starts the 2023 season in good form, I think there’s a good chance she’ll be on the plane to the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. If she goes to the World Cup, she could miss major time and Casey Stoney will have to find alternatives to get goals, but obviously they know it’s a distinct possibility. In the meantime, hopefully Morgan can continue to be productive for as long as she is on the field for Wave FC.

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