U.S. Women’s National Team star forward Alex Morgan stepped onto the pitch for the first time as a member of the national team 13 years ago in Sandy. On Thursday, she’ll play in the same stadium 213 appearances later.
This weekend won’t be Morgan’s first time playing in Utah since that fateful day, but when talking with reporters ahead of Tuesday’s training session, she still reflected on her first cap at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s been a long time since that first cap, but it’s always nice coming back to Salt Lake City because I definitely have a lot of memories, and we get to play here every couple of years,” she said. “There’s always a great crowd, and it’s a beautiful stadium so really can’t can’t complain at all when we come here.”
Morgan’s first match with the USWNT almost didn’t happen in Utah due to a snowstorm, which almost canceled the game. Morgan recalls her dad sitting in the stands with maybe 300 people, braving the elements.
“There was literally a foot of snow on the ground except for an 18-yard box where they shoveled the snow out, and so definitely a lot of emotions (that day). But I was just trying to stay focused on the game and came in and played up top with Abby (Wambach) and she scored and (I) was happy to get a win.”
Morgan entered the game as a sub for Amy Rodriguez, who is now the Utah Royals head coach. After Wambach scored, Morgan and some of her teammates made snow angels on the field to celebrate. The Southern California native said that was the first and last time she has made a snow angel.
And it wasn’t just Alex’s first cap, it was also the first ❄️ 𝒔𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒈𝒂𝒎𝒆 ❄️ in WNT history!
*cue snow angel celebrations* pic.twitter.com/0WY7W4jO45
— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) March 31, 2020
What did Alex Morgan say about the Utah Royals and coach Amy Rodriguez?
Morgan plays for the San Diego Wave, one of the National Women’s Soccer League’s most recent expansion teams. The Wave qualified for the playoffs last season and finished this regular season with the best record in the league.
“I think just the league expanding and the valuation of the teams currently, you could just see how the league is growing exponentially every year, and the quality is continuing to get better,” she said.
She believes fans will rally around the Royals and hopes they’ll build on the success of the previous iteration of the team under head coach Amy Rodriguez.
“We’re continuing to attract and keep not only domestic players, but attract international players, so having this team in Utah, it’s gonna be a great addition,” she said. “We’ve seen that it was a success previously, so I hope that it’s even more of a success starting next year under the leadership of Amy Rodriguez. And I know that they’re gonna do a great job in the city and really rally the fans, just like a lot of other teams in places like San Diego have.”
Morgan was teammates with Rodriguez during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She knows Rodriguez will bring “passion” to the Royals.
“She knows the women’s soccer landscape really well and the players in this league, so I think in general, she’s going to be someone who is going to want to do a fantastic job from year one,” she said. “She’s gonna demand a lot from the club in terms of just expectations and accountability and providing resources. I know she’s probably getting to work from the moment that she was hired and trying to figure out who the team is that she wants to bring in, the personnel, where that all fits in. And obviously, it’s an expansion team. So it’s knowing a long term vision but having you know, an immediate plan of action as well.”