all scores

Abby Wambach: Older USWNT players felt ‘threatened’ by Alex Morgan

(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

When Alex Morgan first joined the U.S. women’s national team as a 20-year-old in 2009, some of the older players on the team felt “threatened” by her talent, USWNT great Abby Wambach said.

The U.S. squad had won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics a year earlier, so Morgan was stepping into an established group already laden with stars.

“It’s hard to break into that team, let alone gain the respect of some of those older players,” Wambach said on her wife Glennon Doyle’s “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast. Morgan joined Wambach and Doyle in conversation on the most recent episode.

Some players critiqued Morgan’s play, which Wambach took as a sign of insecurity because “of course when you feel threatened, you find any little problem.” Wambach, though, leaned in the other direction, constantly encouraging the young striker to trust her instincts, as Mia Hamm had done for her.

“How was she so selfless and so uplifting of me and other people?” Morgan asked. “Because being threatened is kind of something that, you can’t help it.”

When Morgan received that first call-up, she recalls feeling intimidated by everyone, but “especially Abby,” she told Wambach and Doyle.

“And she was actually the nicest person,” Morgan said. “She was so welcoming. And she was someone that I felt like I could gain confidence from.”

She still remembers feeling “floored” by the praise she received from the player who would become a friend and mentor. Wambach played with Morgan on the USWNT until 2015, when she retired as the team’s all-time leading goal scorer.

At 33 years old, Morgan now finds herself in the position of seasoned veteran for the national team, and she tried to do for younger players what Wambach did for her. She mentioned 24-year-old Mallory Pugh in particular as the next in the line of succession.

“It’s kind of interesting, just the levels of the next generation carrying the torch almost and carrying the team,” Morgan said. “And I feel like she’s one player that has already made a huge impact but will have a huge career on the national team.”