Alex Morgan moved into fifth place on the U.S. national team's all-time scoring list, past the great Michelle Akers, when she scored her 108th career goal in the 6-0 win over Argentina to conclude the SheBelieves Cup.
The goal was the first for the USA since she scored the winning goal in the 2-1 win over England in the 2019 Women's World Cup semifinals in Lyon.
"To say it's been a long time was like an understatement," she said after the game. "It's been over 500 days, so you guys don't have to sugarcoat it."
It's actually a lot longer than that: 603 days between international goals.
But to Morgan, the goal had a greater importance. It was the first she scored since she took time off last year for the birth of her first child, Charlie Elena Carrasco.
"I'm very excited to get my first goal back with the national team and join the list of moms on the team who have scored goals and played as a national team player," she said. "I just want to be an example for other female athletes who are moms or wants to become moms, knowing that they still belong in the game after they have kids. You can be a mom and still be at the top of your game. I want to continue to show that and tonight was the first step of that."
Morgan, 31, returned to action last fall, playing five games for English club Tottenham and starting for the USA in its 2-0 win over the Netherlands. But after returning home for the holidays, she contracted COVID-19, which kept her out of the national team's camp in January.
Her three outings at the SheBelieves Cup -- 26, 70 and 45 minutes -- were her first in two months.
"I'm feeling pretty good, actually, physically," she said. "I feel like I'm getting my legs underneath me. I got 70 or so minutes the other night. It was a transition game and I felt at times I was trying to catch my breath, but looking at the numbers, I had a lot of running in that game and I was happy with kind of the way that I've progressed. I still don't feel like I'm 100 percent, I feel like I'm 99 [percent] or so. I'm getting there. My timing needs to get better. My instincts need to get better, but I think that will come with like a month straight of team training. I really haven't been in a team environment since December."
Morgan is in her third cycle with the national team, bursting on the international scene in 2011 at the World Cup in Germany and becoming a star the next year at the Olympics, where she matched Christine Sinclair and scored a hat trick in the USA's epic 4-3 win over Canada in the semifinals at Manchester United's Old Trafford.
She knows how hard it is to go from a World Cup, where rosters are 23 players, to the Olympics, where rosters consist of 18 players (plus four alternates). That process of cutting the U.S. roster down by five players is made even more difficult with the current team, whose unbeaten streak is 37 games, dating back to its opening game in 2019.
"I think it's always extremely difficult to go from a World Cup roster of 23 to an Olympic roster of 18," Morgan said. "We now have had an extra year, so there has been even more players that have been added to the mix."
She doesn't envy new coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose record with the national team is now 16-0-0.
"He has an incredibly difficult job to do coming up," Morgan added, "but as you can see, he's taking a look at multiple players and I'm glad I got some time to get significant minutes in this tournament."
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire