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Vlatko Andonovski: Alex Morgan has different role in USWNT attack

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Alex Morgan is one of the best strikers in the world. As a true No. 9, she’s scored 121 goals in her illustrious U.S. women’s national team career.

And yet, she’s only had a few good looks through two games at this year’s World Cup, primarily helping feed Sophia Smith and Trinity Rodman on the wings. The U.S. offense has shifted between bouts of miscommunication and unfinished chances as well as clean connections and good looks on net, concluding Thursday’s match against the Netherlands with an 18-5 shot advantage.

Following the USWNT’s 1-1 draw with the Dutch in their second group-stage match, head coach Vlatko Andonovski said that’s by design.

“I actually think that [the] more time they spend together, [the] better. They’re gonna get very happy with how they interact together and how they play off of each other on the field,” Andonovski said. “I think it’s not hard to realize that Alex’s role is slightly different than the Alex we’re used to in the past. She does set up the other two forwards a lot more…

“It’s not that she’s not capable of scoring goals or getting behind crosses, but we can also see her playing balls to both Trinity and Soph, but also getting closest for them as well.”

Morgan isn’t the only USWNT veteran who’s assumed a different role at her fourth World Cup. Megan Rapinoe has taken more of a backseat in New Zealand, tasked with providing leadership and a boost off the bench.

On Thursday, Morgan created several good chances, including a goal that was called back for offsides.

“We played in their half almost the entire second half,” Morgan told ESPN after the game. “Just to see us come into the locker room, regroup and come out in the second half and put on that display, I’m really proud of the group. But yeah, we’re not happy if we’re not getting the win.”

If the USWNT wants to win their third straight World Cup, Morgan knows the team’s connectivity needs to improve in the final third, which they showed in spurts against both Vietnam and the Netherlands.

“I feel like some of the plays that we had were a little forced or rushed,” she said on Tuesday. “So I think it’s having a little more patience, switching a little bit more, having our movements be a little more synchronized. … I feel like at times we could have just stood on the ball a little more and kind of been a little more decisive with our play.”