The Alex Morgan we'll see at this summer's Women’s World Cup got her national team break with the U.S. U-20 national team that under Coach Tony DiCicco won the 2008 U-20 Women’s World Cup.
“Playing with the U-20 team was huge thing for me,” says Morgan, a late arrival to the squad after her freshman season at Cal. “It was a great experience having to focus more on soccer than I ever have before. And it got my foot in the door of the national team because Pia [Sundhage] was the coach at the time and see came to watch us play and saw the talent in me, and in some of the other players on the team. And I was called into the first team the next year.”
DiCicco had called Morgan in hoping to find a “big-time center forward.” She didn’t convince at her first camp but DiCicco saw enough to call her back for a second chance to make the U-20 World Cup squad.
“I saw glimpses,” he said. “Some players need a period of time to get adjusted, get their legs under them. … When we sat down with her after the first camp, we told her, “You did well but you didn’t score enough goals. And we need a goalscorer. So if you have a chance to get back in, you need to score goals.”
Said Morgan: “I hadn’t been in a [national team] camp since U-17s, when I did my ACL, and the U-20s were a big jump for me. I was a bit nervous at times.”
When DiCicco called her in for a crucial camp at which he would finalize the squad, Morgan, he said, “scored goals, and hasn’t stopped since.”
Morgan struck four times during the USA’s 2008 U-20 World Cup-winning campaign. Sydney Leroux, who’ll team up Morgan this summer in Canada, won the MVP Golden Ball and Golden Shoe, with five goals.
“Leroux had an awesome tournament but I always felt that Alex Morgan was our most complete forward in that tournament,” DiCicco said.
The U-20s have won another World Cup since -- in 2012 under Coach Steve Swanson with a squad that included current full national team midfielder Brian Morgan. But at the 2014 U-20 World Cup, the USA, coached by Michelle French, fell in the quarterfinals.
French is in the process of preparing a squad that for the next U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2016. To spread the net wider, U.S. Soccer has created a U-19 national team, part of an overall increase in programming for the USA's youth women's and girls national teams that now has teams U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, U-20 and U-23 levels.
Both the U-20s and U-19s head to camp Saturday at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California.
Women’s Development Coach Jitka Klimkova will guide the U-19s’ camp with a staff including U.S. Soccer Youth Women’s Technical Director April Heinrichs, Women’s Head Development Coach April Kater and Women’s Development Coaches Mark Carr and Tricia Taliaferro.
The U-20 World Cup has an age cutoff of players born on or after Jan. 1, 1996. Thirteen players in the camp were born in 1996, seven in 1997 and three in 1998, including Jordan Harr and Mallory Pugh, who each scored when the USA swept its three games the Six Nations Tournament in La Manga, Spain, in early March -- England (2-1), Japan (1-0) and Norway (2-0).
Pugh, after finishing her sophomore year in high school, started all four U.S. games at the 2014 U-20 World Cup and is eligible for the next two U-20 World Cups.
Between national team camps, Pugh rejoined her Mountain Vista High School team in Colorado, and the junior scored 17 goals and made nine assists in six games.
The U-20s will split its squad on April 17, to play matches against USC and UCLA.
U.S. U-20 Women’s Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Caroline Brockmeier (Florida State; Tallahassee, Fla.), Samantha Leshnak (Ohio Elite; Liberty Township, Ohio), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.).
DEFENDERS (7): Schuyler DeBree (Duke; Fair Haven, N.J), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Ally Haran (Wake Forest; Linden, Mich.), Natalie Jacobs (Slammers FC; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Courtney Petersen (Michigan Hawks; Canton, Mich.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.), Jessie Scarpa (UNC; Lakeland, Fla.).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Megan Buckingham (UNC; Novi, Mich.), Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Jordan Harr (Dallas Sting; Sachse, Texas), Mikaela Harvey (Texas A&M; Liberty Hill, Texas), Gabrielle Matulich (UCLA; Los Gatos, Claif.), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Parker Roberts (KC Metro Dynamos; Leawood, Kan.).
FORWARDS (5): Alexa Ben (DePaul; Schaumburg, Ill.), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Taylor Racioppi (PDA; Ocean Township, N.J.), Kelly Sweeney (Vardar; Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), Ally Watt (Pride Soccer Club; Colorado Springs, Colo.).
U.S. U-19 Women’s Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ella Dederick (Washington State; Camarillo, Calif.), Lauren Rood (Crossfire Premier; Camas, Wash.), Brittany Wilson (Real Colorado; Littleton, Colo.).
DEFENDERS (7): Elysse Branton (William & Mary; Sterling, Va.), Alana Cook (Match Fit Academy; Far Hills, N.J.), Ellie Jean (Oakwood SC; Coventry, Conn.), Annia Mejia (California; Bloomington, Calif.), Jacey Pederson (PSV Union; Palo Alto, Calif.), Allyson Swaby (Boston College; West Hartford, Conn.), Michelle Xiao (Gretna Prima; Omaha, Neb.).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Dorian Bailey (Sporting Blue Valley; Mission, Kans.), Carlyn Baldwin (Tennessee; Oakton, Va.), Alyssa Baumbick (Internationals SC; Avon Lake, Ohio), Olivia Erlbeck (San Diego Surf; Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.), Alissa Gorzak (Eclipse Select; Naperville, Ill.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Christina Kalum (Providence; Rockville Centre, N.Y.).
FORWARDS (7): Michaela Abam (West Virginia; Sugar Land, Texas), Jorian Baucom (LSU; Phoenix, Ariz.), Rachel Corboz (Georgetown; Green Brook, N.J.), Hana Kerner (Match Fit Academy; Upper Saddle River, N.J.), Madeline McCracken (Richmond United; Lynch Station, Va.), Taylor Otto (CASL; Apex, N.C.), Zoe Redei (Eclipse Select; Highland Park, Ill.).