Morgan, Harris receive top CONCACAF awards

Alex Morgan Goal vs FRA

By TOM SLATER

The United States Women’s National Team didn’t win the biggest team award in 2016 but that hasn’t stopped the American players from continuing to pick up individual honors.

Alex Morgan, who has just begun her European club career in France, was named the Confederation of the North Central and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) 2016 Female Player of the Year while United States and former Orlando Pride teammate Ashlyn Harris was named CONCACAF Female Goalkeeper of the Year.

In addition, six USWNT players were named to CONCACAF’s Female Best XI.

The awards were a result of votes by men’s and women’s National Team coaches and captains of all the member association, media and fans.

This is the second time Morgan received this award and it was Harris’ first time. Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica was named the Men’s Player of the Year. He earned the honor for the first time

United States’ midfielder Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), the 2016 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year, finished second in the voting while United States striker Crystal Dunn (formerly of the Washington Spirit and now Chelsea Ladies FC) finished third.

A U.S. player has won the CONCACAF Female Player of the Year award every year since its inception in 2013 when Morgan won it for the first time. Abby Wambach won it in 2014 and Carli Lloyd in 2015.

Morgan overcame an injury-filled 2015 season and had a strong season on the international level in 2016 with 17 goals in 21 matches.

Morgan marked her 100th cap for the USWNT in a 5–0 friendly win against Ireland in January 23, by registering a goal and an assist. At the  CONCACAF Olympic Qualifiers in February, Morgan scored the fastest recorded goal in tournament history and in the history of the USWNT, netting after just 12 seconds, before later adding a second, in a 5–0  win over Costa Rica. 

At the first She Believes Cup last year, Morgan was awarded the Golden Boot and MVP award.  She scored in victories against France and Germany as the USWNT won the tournament with three wins from three.

She scored twice in Rio, including a game-tying strike against Sweden, a match the United States lost on penalties. Morgan has recently began a European career with Olympique Lyon.

Harris has been part of the USWNT since 2009 but has played sparingly. She played in three international matches in 2016, winning all three and allowing two goals. She, along with Alyssa Naeher, are said to be the heir apparent to Hope Solo, whose contract was terminated following Olympic controversy.

Winners in other categories were: Men’s Goalkeeper of the Year – Keylor Navas (Costa Rica and Real Madrid); Coaches of the Year – Óscar Ramírez (Costa Rica) and Amelia Valverde (Costa Rica); Referees of the Year – César Arturo Ramos (Mexico) and Carol Anne Chenard (Canada); Goal of the Year – Jesús Corona (Mexico), in the 80th minute of the Copa America Centenario match against Venezuela.

In addition, the United States placed six players on the Female Best XI: Harris, defenders Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City) and Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), midfielders Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC) and Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), and Morgan (Orlando Pride and Olympique Lyon).

It was the second such honor for Sauerbrunn, Lloyd and Morgan, who were all on the CONCACAF Best XI last year, the first year it was selected.

The CONCACAF Awards are designed to honor the year’s outstanding performers and achievements in confederation-sanctioned competitions involving national teams at all levels and age categories, including FIFA World Cup matches and qualifying for both genders. Performances eligible for recognition also included those achieved in professional club leagues within the CONCACAF Member Associations.