When US Soccer announced in August that the women’s national team would be playing England in a fall friendly, the federation hyped the game by tweeting a photo of the forward Alex Morgan‘s tea-sipping goal celebration from the 2019 World Cup semifinals.
But on Thursday, when coach Vlatko Andonovski released his 24-player roster for the Oct. 7 game at London’s Wembley Stadium, Morgan’s name wasn’t on it. The national team’s leading active scorer was ruled out because of a knee injury, which will come as a disappointment to English supporters, who sold out the game in less than a day.
“With Alex, I can’t go into details about how serious it is. It is a knee injury,” Andonovski said of Morgan, who sat out last week’s game with her NWSL club, the San Diego Wave. “What I can say is if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and she was going to play in this game, no question.”
Attendance for the game, the first between the top-ranked US and No. 5 England at Wembley, is expected to top 80,000, making it the second-largest crowd to watch the women’s national team after the 90,185 that attended the 1999 World Cup final at the Rose Bowl. A record crowd of 87,192 packed Wembley in July for England’s European Championship win over Germany.
The US trip to Europe will also include a game with No. 6 Spain in Pamplona on Oct. 11.
“I want to say the results [are] secondary in this situation. But it never is when you coach this team,” Andonovski said. “We’re looking at it as an opportunity to play against some of the world’s best teams. We’ve always said that we want to create adverse environments for our players. We want them to figure out a way to overcome it.
“And what better way to do it than playing in front of a full stadium, away, against England and Spain.”
Morgan’s absence opened a spot on the roster for Harvard-Westlake senior Alyssa Thompson, who had a goal and an assist in the U-20 World Cup in August. The call-up is Thompson’s first with the senior team. At 17, she is the youngest player to be called up since 2017.
“Alyssa is a very creative player with a very good understanding of the game,” Andonovski said. “I have no doubt that she will fit in well in our system. I think it’s a great experience, great exposure for her. And it’s a good experience for us to have an opportunity to work with her. What happens from there, we’ll see.”
The two European friendlies will be the final games before the draw for next summer’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
Eighteen of the 24 women on the roster played in the team’s friendlies in September, including two-time World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn. Among the additions is defender Crystal Dunn, who is hoping to make her first appearance since giving birth to a son in mid-May. She participated in the September training camp but did not play against Nigeria.
“We’re excited about Crystal being back. We had her as a training player for the last games and she looked as sharp as ever,” said Andonovski, who is 41-2-6 with the national team.
Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).
Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current), Becky Sauerbrunn ( Portland Thorns FC).
Midfielders: Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC), Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).
Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy).
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.