By Brittany Alvarado
The first day on a new job can be plenty intimidating. It comes with uncertainties, new tasks, and new faces. U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder Morgan Brian knows the feeling all too well.
In June 2013, the University of Virginia college junior went from competing against some of the finest players in D-1 soccer to battling the world’s best players when she was called up to the U.S. Women’s National Team.
With a new environment and new teammates surrounding her, Brian came onto the scene knowing that she had to continue to develop and make an impact in order to stick around the sport’s highest level.
What she needed was a mentor of sorts; someone to help empower her and see her future on the team. That’s where veteran Lauren Holiday (Lauren Cheney, at the time) came in.
“I remember hitting a shot and it went in, and she gave me encouragement right after,” Brian said of Holiday. “I was like, wow, that’s the first time someone said something to me. Every time I came into camp, she was the first one to talk to me, and make me feel comfortable.”
Brian had the typical rookie nerves and felt the pressure, but Holiday saw something that Brian didn’t see in herself at the time.
“When Morgan first came in, she was extremely confident,” Holiday said. “I tell people all the time, there are only two players that have come in when I’ve been here that have just had all the confidence in the world, and that’s Morgan and Alex [Morgan]. I remember Morgan coming in and being extremely confident and I was like, this girl is going to be here for a while.”
Impact On & Off the Pitch
In most cases, rookies tend to look up to the veteran players, but in the case of Brian and Holiday, it was a two-way street. Holiday will not take credit as a mentor, but instead says that she was able to learn a lot from Brian.
“I admire Morgan’s game,” Holiday said. “The way she plays is sophisticated beyond her years, so I watch her play and I want that same composure. I think that I have that to a certain degree, but the way she handles pressure, her game is so mature. I think I’ve definitely taken pages out of her book in that.”
When Brian and Holiday are on the field together, the connection they have with each other is evident. It’s one that despite the age difference, they are able to hold each other accountable, by extracting the best from one another.
Brian believes that she and Holiday have the same play style in the realm of creativity and quickness, which has allowed them to feed off each other right away. Not to mention, they also somehow always find each other for goal celebrations. Brian’s first international goal against Mexico on September 3, 2013 was followed by smiles and a big Cheney embrace.
Like any friends, Brian and Holiday have each other’s backs.
“Some girl got a yellow card on me and it was a really bad tackle,” Brian said of a friendly against Canada in 2014. “She [Holiday] was the first one in the referees face. She has another side to her when she gets mad, so everyone calls her alter-ego ‘Shanaynay’, so that came out and I thought it was really cool.”
A lot of what bonds Brian and Holiday are their beliefs off the pitch. With the same goal in mind (to play and glorify God), Holiday invited Brian to church during her first camp. As believers, Holiday said that it allows them to be honest with each other in conversations about struggles.
Being around Brian has allowed Holiday to go back in time and relive the glory days as a “new kid.”
“Off the field, just having fun, enjoying it and being young. You forget what it’s like to be that player,” Holiday said. “That was me, that was A-Rod [Amy Rodriguez], that was Tobin [Heath] years ago. Just being around her and hanging out with her and getting to know her, I’ve gotten to experience that again and that’s been fun for me.”
Brian’s Time To Shine
The 2015 Women’s World Cup was a break out time for Brian, who was the youngest player on the roster.
Holiday’s yellow card accumulation suspension gave Brian the opportunity to take the leadership role as a central midfielder against China in the quarterfinal match. Her defensive sharpness allowed players like Carli Lloyd to be more attack-minded, where that lacked in prior games. Most would agree that was the turning point for the United States, and where they completely took off.
The flourishing continued for Brian as she played side-by-side with Holiday for the rest of the tournament. On July 5, 2015, the dynamic duo held up the trophy after a 5-2 victory over Japan in the World Cup final. A dream come true.
Passing the Torch
Just shortly after becoming World Champions, Holiday announced her retirement from professional soccer, which left many shocked. While Holiday is going out as a champion, there is a void that needs to be filled in her absence. A void that Brian is well aware of.
“I hope I can fill her shoes. That’s a lot to do,” Brian said. “Obviously, no one on this team wants her to retire and I don’t for sure. I try and talk her out of it still to this day, but she seems pretty set on it. She’s been great for us on and off the field especially with team chemistry and stuff like that. We need someone to step up in that realm and hopefully I can do that on the field. We will miss her a lot.”
Holiday, who is very quietly unaware of her impact on the team, knows that the future is bright for Brian.
“I’ve told people this before- Morgan is going to be the star,” Holiday said. “I think that you guys just saw a glimpse of what she can bring to the table in the World Cup. I told her a year before the World Cup started, she would be starting in a World Cup final and I don’t think she believed me at all. But, she did and I think she did a great job for us.”
As for the jersey #12? Does Brian have any thoughts of rocking Holiday’s number for the rest of her career?
“No, no, no…that’s her number,” Brian said laughing. “Only if she wants to give it to me, but I think I’m going to stick with 14.”
On the other hand, Holiday is on board with the thought of Brian wearing her number across her chest.
“Oh, I would totally let her wear #12,” Holiday said. “I actually don’t even know what number Morgan is – like what she wants to be number wise. But, I would totally give her 12 if she wants it. She might have just told you a lie though. I might give it to her and she might not take it.”
No matter what number Brian wears, there is one thing that will always hold true. A piece of Holiday will always be instilled in Brian.
Just as the young, selfless, hard-working Holiday grew up with the National Team, Brian will take the same path and grow with them as well. Lauren Holiday can’t be duplicated, but if anyone can fill No. 12’s shoes, it’s Morgan Brian.
The torch is lit and Brian is ready to set the world on fire.
For full interview click here.