Morgan Brian, 21, Hopes to Build on Fantastic 2013
When she's not studying for midterms or hanging out with pals, the University of Virginia student moonlights as a midfielder for the United States women's national team.
BY John D. Halloran PostedOVER THE PAST YEAR Morgan Brian has been one of the busiest players in women's soccer, leading the University of Virginia to the College Cup semifinals, winning the Hermann Trophy, earning her first senior cap with the United States women's national team, and scoring her first international goal at the senior level. But Brian's rise with the U.S. team is not just a nod toward the future—she's already making an impact. Along with 24 other players, Brian was recently called up to the U.S. squad for this month's Algarve Cup in Portugal. The tournament represents the U.S.'s only official tournament between now and World Cup qualifying in October and the team will face stiff competition in Japan, Sweden, and Denmark. Brian's inclusion on the roster, as well as her starts in the U.S.'s last two friendlies, indicate her growing importance to the team. What makes Brian's recent rise even more remarkable is that she is still only a junior in college. While the rest of the U.S. team can focus on training, Brian, a kinesiology major, must spend her free time hitting the books. For the 21-year-old Georgia native, this dual life has become second-nature. "I've been with the [U.S.] youth teams for a while. I think that experience has helped me come into this environment," Brian told American Soccer Now. "I've definitely gotten used to it. I've had to manage my time, my social life, and other things at the same time and try to get the proper training and proper nutrition—there's a lot of things to worry about." As a typical college student, she does, however, still find time for herself. "I like to watch movies a lot," Brian said. "I grew up by the beach, so I like going to the beach and hanging out there. Hanging out with friends, I like to do that a lot." Looking back at 2013, Brian admits she hasn't had the time to let all of her accomplishments sink in, but acknowledges how special it has been. "It's been a great year," she said. "If we had won the national championship it would have been almost a dream come true. But even without that, it's a dream come true. I never thought I would be with the women's national team at this point and time in my life. We had a great year with Virginia, it was a great year with the national team, and I'm hoping for even better this year." In 2014, Brian has already achieved another first, earning her first start with the senior side in the team's 1-0 win over Canada in January—an experience she cherished. "I definitely wouldn't have imagined my first start like that," Brian said. "I was incredibly grateful to start that game. It was a good game, very competitive. I learned a lot from Lauren Holiday in the midfield when we were playing together. I couldn't have asked for a better game for my first start." Two weeks later, Brian was in the starting lineup again, this time alongside Carli Lloyd in the team's 8-0 victory over Russia. In fact, Brian, Holiday, and Lloyd were the only three players who saw time at the center-midfield position for the U.S. during its last camp. And Brian was selected for that camp, as well as the Algarve Cup roster, over several, more experienced national team players. At first, coming into the national team was intimidating, as Brian found herself playing alongside women she had idolized as a youth player. "That was one of the biggest things for me coming into my first camp," Brian said. "These players are popular and famous and you've watched them on TV and dreamed about being where they are. For me, that first time I came into camp, I was more star struck than anything. I watched [Abby Wambach] growing up and her will to win, her heart, and her desire to never lose is something I idolized. To play with her and against her [in training] every day is pretty cool." But even though Brian was called into the No. 1-ranked women's team in the world with the deepest roster of any international side, she says her fellow players, especially the veterans, have made her feel welcome. "They responded really well to the younger players being called in," Brian said. "I think they really like it because it's creates a more competitive environment and it pushes people every single day to play their best. I think at this point in time one of the best teams in the world is the U.S. and that's what you want in that environment. You want to be pushed to your limits every single day. The youth and the new faces are definitely something [the veterans] like having in the camp." As fate would have it, for Brian, some of the players who have been most accepting are the same ones she idolized as a kid. "They've accepted everyone pretty well," Brian said. "They've all been really nice and helped me with the process. Abby was the first person to talk to me when I got to camp. Lauren Holiday has been great. Everyone has helped me along the way." Despite her youth, Brian knows that the year ahead has the potential to be a big one and has set some lofty goals. "I'm hoping I'm fortunate enough to make the 2014 World Cup qualifying roster. That's the first priority on the list. Then, I'd say win a national championship with my college team." Considering her success in 2013, you wouldn't want to bet against her. John D. Halloran is an American Soccer Now columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
March 03, 2014
March 03, 2014