Star United States forward Alex Morgan will be in uniform on Sunday when the U.S. Women’s National Team opens their three-game World Cup send-off series at Avaya Stadium, but may not see the field until the tournament opener against Australia on June 8, according to head coach Jillian Ellis:
“She’s got a bone bruise and we’re just being cautionary with it. So she’s gonna sort of rest the next couple weeks.We’ll build in the fitness piece and what we’re able to do. We’re just kind of taking it conservatively at this point.”
The bone bruise is on Morgan’s left knee, but exactly how the injury came about is unclear, as Ellis says she doesn’t know when or where it was sustained. Paul Riley, manager of Morgan’s club team the Portland Thorns, told The Oregonian on April 17 that the 25-year-old sustained the injury while on international duty.
The issue is that Morgan has been dealing with the injury for at least a month, not making an appearance for the Thorns since their season opener on April 11. That coupled with the injury issues that have caused Morgan to miss extended periods over the last two years, and Ellis has no incentive to rush the striker back with the World Cup looming less than a month away:
“We feel it’s better to let it rest because we can. We’re not in the World Cup. It’s still three weeks away.”
According to Ellis, the injury is unrelated to Morgan’s previous ailments. An ankle injury sustained in October 2013 kept her out for eight months, while a left ankle injury a year later barred Morgan from participating for much of World Cup qualifying.
U.S. reserve midfielder Tobin Heath will also be sidelined Sunday with a hamstring injury, but Ellis said she is ahead of schedule, with Heath’s availability for the May 17 clash against Mexico still up in the air:
“She’s good, she’s progressing well. Probably further along than I thought at this point. She’s back in doing a little bit of training, the technical work. So, it’s coming along. Initially the prognosis was a bit longer than I thought. We certainly won’t use her in this first game. Potentially is she available in this second one? We don’t know at this point.”
Ellis and the U.S. likely aren’t sweating the injuries for the time being, especially going up against an Ireland side who failed to qualify for the World Cup, and have a handful of key players unavailable due to club obligations.
It’s unclear if the U.S., who currently sit No. 2 in the FIFA world rankings, will get much out of the matchup, other than a chance to extend their streak of nine consecutive wins. Any other result against this Ireland side would be seen as a catastrophe, even without Morgan.
The U.S. Women kick off against Ireland at noon tomorrow at Avaya Stadium. Game can be watched on Fox Sports 1.