Paris 2024: Alex Morgan left off USWNT Olympics roster

SAINT PAUL, MN - JUNE 04: US Women's National Team forward Alex Morgan (13) looks on during the women's friendly match between the U.S. National team and Korea Republic on June 4th, 2024, at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, MN. (Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alex Morgan won’t be making the trip to the Paris Olympics this summer after being left off the U.S. women’s national team roster. (Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team coach Emma Hayes has omitted Alex Morgan from the USWNT’s roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

U.S. Soccer released the 18-woman roster Wednesday. There were no stunning inclusions. But Morgan was a somewhat surprising exclusion.

Hayes, who formally took charge of the USWNT last month, essentially chose both Casey Krueger, a defender, and Crystal Dunn, a do-everything utility player, over Morgan, who would have served as a change-of-pace backup striker.

Goalkeepers (2): Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders (6): Tierna Davidson (Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Arsenal), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave), Casey Krueger (Washington Spirit), Jenna Nighswonger (Gotham FC), Emily Sonnett (Gotham FC)

Midfielders (5): Korbin Albert (PSG), Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Lyon), Rose Lavelle (Gotham FC), Catarina Macario (Chelsea)

Forwards (5): Crystal Dunn (Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Jaedyn Shaw (San Diego Wave), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Mallory Swanson (Chicago Red Stars)

Alternates: Jane Campbell (GK), Hal Hershfelt (M), Croix Bethune (M), Lynn Williams (F)

As that change of pace, Morgan still offered value. As a target forward who links with teammates, and as a defender from the front, she has no parallel in the U.S. player pool. She was also the only player with an Olympic gold medal seriously considered for this roster; the rest of the USWNT’s 2012 team has either retired or been phased out.

But her goalscoring — a striker’s most valuable trait — has dried up. She was left off a 23-player roster this past winter for a reason. She was eventually called up to that roster as a replacement for the injured Mia Fishel; but for the Olympics, the 18-player limit proved too restrictive.

Including Morgan would have left this USWNT roster unbalanced, with seven players who could only fill the four highest positions on the field, at the expense of depth in defensive positions. And the other six attackers, at this stage of their respective careers, are simply better. Mallory Swanson was a lock to make the roster, and start in France this summer. Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Jaedyn Shaw were obvious inclusions.

Catarina Macario is also included — as a midfielder who can also play as a center forward. Hayes clearly likes Macario, whom she signed while still the coach at Chelsea in England.

Hayes also included Dunn, who has spent most of her USWNT career playing fullback, but can play anywhere in midfield or as a winger.

Versatility is especially valuable at the Olympics. The 18 players can only be replaced by alternates permanently in case of injury. Dunn, although listed as a forward, essentially gives the USWNT depth at seven different positions. Emily Sonnett, similarly, will serve as a backup center back, backup fullback and backup defensive midfielder. Krueger can play in either fullback spot, or even as a side-center back in a line of three.

Morgan, on the other hand, can only play in one position — a position that Smith, Swanson and Macario can usually play better.

Perhaps the most notable exclusion beyond Morgan was Lily Yohannes, the 17-year-old midfielder who made waves with her passing and a goal in her debut earlier this month.

But Yohannes was always a long shot. She has only ever played 20 minutes for the USWNT. Hayes felt comfortable with the depth offered by Dunn and Sonnett, and with Korbin Albert — despite the transphobic social media activity that continues to trail Albert, and will continue to trail her until she further publicly addresses it.

Yohannes won’t be an alternate, either, likely because she has not fully committed to representing the U.S. internationally. She could also be eligible to represent the Netherlands, and has not yet made a decision between the two.

More broadly, the roster’s biggest question mark is at center back. Naomi Girma and Tierna Davidson are the starters. There is only one other player among the 18 and the alternates, though — Sonnett — who has any experience playing the position. It’s unclear what Hayes’ backup plan would be in case of injuries or yellow-card suspensions.

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