Alex Morgan scored twice against Haiti in the USWNT’s Concacaf W Championship opener. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Alex Morgan told ESPN that her eight-month removal from the USWNT provided a chance for the star forward to “reset.”

Following last summer’s Olympics – in which the team walked away with a bronze medal – Morgan was left off the USWNT roster through the fall, winter and spring. Questions arose about whether her time as one of the team’s top players had passed.

Rather than become discouraged, Morgan made the best of the time away from the team.

“Getting removed from the national team gave me a reset,” Morgan said. “At this point in my career, I’m playing soccer because I genuinely love it. And I’m having fun,” she said. “It’s not that I need it to fulfill myself, or need it to feel value in myself, or that I need it financially — I’m playing because I want to keep playing.”

For four straight USWNT camps, from October through February, Morgan was not called in. Then came a fifth in April. Andonovski informed the forward she wouldn’t be joining the team again, and that snub came as a surprise, Morgan told ESPN.

“It was a hard discussion,” she said. “But one of the things I really respect about Vlatko is just his honesty — having those hard conversations is not easy for anybody. I was disappointed, but at the same time, it wasn’t about pointing fingers, it was just: OK, if my name’s not on the roster, now I need to make sure it’s going to be the next time.”

Then she began the NWSL season with debut club San Diego Wave FC.

So far this season, Morgan has 11 goals with the league-leading expansion side. That’s enough to put her in first place for the Golden Boot and to make her a frontrunner in the MVP race a little over halfway through the season. While Andonovski has cited NWSL play as an important part in his USWNT decision-making process in the past, Morgan said it wasn’t at the forefront of her mind. Still, she played like she had something to prove.

“It’s not a bitter, I’ll-show-you sort of response,” she said. “I can’t have in the back of the mind that I’m playing to get myself back on the national team. I’m playing to prove Jill [Ellis, Wave president] and Casey [Stoney, Wave coach] right in why they traded me and why I’m here — and to prove to myself right that I am worthy of scoring goals in the NWSL and being on the national team.

“But my end goal wasn’t: I want to make it back on the national team. It’s: I’m playing to make San Diego the best and most successful expansion team that there’s ever been in the NWSL. I am on one team and one team only and that’s San Diego.”

June brought another call from Andonovski. This time, and after eight months away, he was inviting her to the USWNT camp and World Cup qualifiers.

That decision paid off in the team’s first qualifier against Haiti: Morgan notched a brace, her first multi-goal game at the international level since 2019. She’s been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster tournament for a squad that holds high expectations.

Morgan and the USWNT will continue their journey in the Concacaf W Championship with a semifinal matchup against Costa Rica at 7 p.m. ET Thursday.