Alex Morgan adds another highlight to momentous season

Alex Morgan tours the Wave's new home ahead of the Sept. 17 opener at Snapdragon Stadium. (Ryan Young).

Alex Morgan has played in the NWSL since its inception in 2013 and won multiple Olympic medals and World Cups with the U.S. women’s national team since 2010. With that resume, it would be fair to think the star forward has seen it all.

But Morgan says the “most exciting thing” in her career didn’t happen until she saw the San Diego Wave’s brand new Snapdragon Stadium, a home she’ll be able to share with 32,000 others, located on the campus of San Diego State University at Mission Valley.

As of Tuesday morning, the Wave had sold over 27,000 tickets to their opening match at the new stadium on Sept. 17, breaking the NWSL single-game attendance record. One of the first players to sign with the Wave, Morgan knows how hard the expansion club has worked on and off the field to make this milestone possible.

“I’m so proud to be a part of that,” she said. “I just feel fortunate to be able to experience things like breaking records still in my career and being wowed and impressed, and this is one of those moments that I’ll look back and see as one of those ‘wow’ moments for me in my career. Just seeing the growth of women’s sports in general.”

The previous NWSL single-game attendance record was 25,218, set by the Portland Thorns at Providence Park in 2019. The league drew outsized attention that year following the USWNT’s run to the World Cup title in France.

San Diego will host fellow 2022 expansion team Angel City FC at the Snapdragon opener. Morgan scored her first goals with the Wave against Angel City in the group stage of the 2022 Challenge Cup, launching her on a torrid goal-scoring pace.

After notching four goals in the preseason tournament, Morgan now leads the NWSL Golden Boot Race with 12 regular season goals, helping the Wave stay near the top of league standings. On Saturday against the Houston Dash at the Wave’s temporary field, Torero Stadium, she became the fifth player to score 50 NWSL goals in her career.

Morgan’s impressive club campaign earned her a call-up to the national team in June for the Concacaf W Championship. Before then, she hadn’t appeared for the team since October. Referencing her eight-month hiatus from the USWNT as an opportunity to “reset,” Morgan went on to lead the team to the Concacaf title in July and win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

Morgan credits her success this year to the support she’s received from the Wave and the positive locker room culture her teammates have fostered. It helps that San Diego is where she calls home and where she looks forward to settling down when her playing days are over. To play for the city is something she couldn’t have imagined even just one year ago.

“Now, having this opportunity, it just feels like I’m very settled, happy,” she said. “I want to represent the city proudly, and I think that that’s just translating to my on-field success.”

When Morgan initially heard there was going to be a team starting in San Diego, she remembers being intrigued but unsure of the club’s short- and long-term goals.

It was the same when the Wave staff told Morgan six weeks ago that they were hoping to sell out the Sept. 17 match against Angel City. She was “cautiously excited,” wondering how they would make it happen.

Every step of the way, the team has lived up to its promises of helping grow the women’s game. And Morgan, 33, has held up her end of the bargain on the field, leading the Wave’s unprecedented charge to second place in the standings at 8-5-4 and ambitions for more in the playoffs.

“I’m just extremely impressed with their execution of this and seeing how the city has rallied behind this team in only the six months of our existence that we’ve been here in San Diego, representing this city and this club,” she said. “It’s just been really fun for me and it’s almost created some youthful energy for me all over again. I think that’s helped with our success on the field.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.