all scores

USWNT 2022 player grades: Alex Morgan shines at center forward

In her return to the USWNT, Alex Morgan has set an example for the next generation. (Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

It’s the end of the calendar year for the U.S. women’s national team, with 2022 performances all wrapped up in a bow. Naturally, that also means it’s time for end-of-year report cards to evaluate how each player did in the run-up to the 2023 World Cup.

Again, a quick set of criteria: Despite the team’s first three-game losing streak in decades, the U.S. lost only three games total in 2022. A failing grade would indicate a player is wildly unprepared for the game at this level, which is not something we saw from the group playing the lion’s share of minutes this year. Likewise, an A+ indicates a player with all-star, team-on-their-back, best-in-the-world status.

Throughout this series, which will grade players by position, I’m going to avoid those who didn’t get minutes in 2022 and those who have missed significant time due to injury.

So far, we’ve graded the goalkeepers, outside backs, center-backs, defensive midfielders, attacking midfielders and wingers. Now, let’s look at the center forward position.

Catarina Macario – B+

With more time, I have all the confidence in the world Macario could have ended the year with an A grade. But her ACL injury in June stopped the rising star from getting significant time in competitive games, meaning she didn’t play in either the Concacaf W Championship or against England, France or Germany.

Macario’s play early in the year showed a world-class player coming into her own, and her performance at the 2022 SheBelieves Cup showcased her potential as the USWNT’s playmaking generator. She has the ability to play both as a center forward and as a false No. 9, which opens up tactical possibilities with different personnel. She can also unlock defenses and score from distance. The U.S. will be eagerly awaiting Macario’s return in 2023.

Alex Morgan – B+

Morgan’s accomplishments in 2022 came with an extra degree of difficulty. She was away from the team for a number of months as younger players settled in, and then had to come in and adapt to a new style of play on the fly. Macario’s injury coinciding with Morgan’s return did neither player many favors, as they didn’t get time to work with one another in training or games to figure out an optimal attacking style.

Morgan became a steady veteran presence regardless, scoring the clutch penalty that both won the Concacaf W Championship and secured a 2024 Olympic bid for the U.S. She also kicked off the Concacaf campaign with an important, tone-setting brace against Haiti. Her red-hot year was briefly slowed by a knee injury in October, causing her to miss the England and Spain friendlies. Those results underlined that the U.S. is a far more dangerous side when Morgan is on the roster.

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Ashley Hatch – B-

When both Alex Morgan and Catarina Macario missed out on the USWNT’s important October trip to England and Spain, it would have made sense for Ashley Hatch to step in at center forward. Instead, the Washington Spirit striker made appearances off the bench and Sophia Smith moved into the middle, mirroring her role with the Portland Thorns. Smith has experience at the position, but Hatch finding herself behind another player on the depth chart even when options became thin at her position could indicate there’s still work left for her to do to move from the U.S. roster bubble to a lock for the World Cup.

Hatch’s development surged when she was having a career-best year for her club in 2021, and her fortunes in 2023 might depend on her bringing those on-field club connections with her in full force.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.