It was late in the game. Reign FC were jealously guarding a 2-1 lead over Sky Blue FC, hungry for their first win of the season. And then, calamity. Michelle Betos went down, and she wasn’t getting back up. Vlatko Andonovski was out of subs. Surely he did a lightning round of mental math at the moment, the calculus of how many potential minutes were left in stoppage and who he had on the field. He beckoned to Morgan Andrews.
It was an unnerving sight, particularly if you’re a Reign fan: Midfielder Andrews, in a pinnie and gloves, standing with authority in goal. Stoppage crawled on, three points on the line. Andrews collected a cross to resounding cheers, though she was all concentration, swinging her arm in that familiar goalkeeper motion for push up. In the end, Reign took the win with 10 on the field.
She's there when you need her.@MorganEAndrews filled in at goalkeeper for @ReignFC in Week 6 to claim an honorary #NWSL Save of the Week award. pic.twitter.com/CJX3tIlphh— NWSL (@NWSL) May 20, 2019
Afterwards, Andonovski told Reign comms that Andrews was his first choice. “We asked her if she’s ever played goalkeeper and when we said that, her eyes lit up,” he said in quote sheet provided to media. “She went: ‘Oh, I can do this.’ Her confidence went up. I think she wants to be the goalkeeper for 90 minutes next game. That’s how confident she looked.”
Andrews herself couldn’t say why Andonovski turned to her in that moment, except that she agrees it was probably her confidence. Not that she’s 5’9” and might have good hands, but her willingness to step up in a crisis moment, and even that Andrews wouldn’t entirely take credit for. “I wouldn’t say that he chose me in particular,” she said, “Because I know for certain based off of the mentality and the culture that this club maintains that if he had asked anyone on the field, everyone else would have said yes as well. I think it was half coincidence and half trust in the entire team that everyone was going to do their job.”
Andrews has no plans to go back in goal any time soon. She laughed when asked about joining goalkeeper practice and is instead hoping that if the wackiest possible thing has already happened this season, luck will be on the Reign’s side for the rest of it. She can focus on things like the Reign book club instead.
“The book of the month now is Lord of the Flies,” she said. Ah, Lord of the Flies, that fun and frothy summer beach read. Andrews said that the last book they read was similarly harrowing, Tara Westover’s memoir Educated, which goes into the author’s childhood as a member of a survivalist family that did not believe in using doctors or public schools.
“[Educated] led to a lot of discussions about formal education and that sort of thing,” she aid. “It was great. We met for like two hours and time absolutely flew by. We didn’t know we had spent that much time speaking about the book.”
Andrews says the group votes on what to read each week; after Lord of the Flies, she’ll be putting Women Rowing North in for consideration. The book examines how women transition into old age - not a concern for Andrews just yet, but certainly in line with the sense of careful, polite thoughtfulness she brings to interviews.
A small side story about Andrews: I first met her as a teenager when she was playing for the New England Mutiny, in WPSL Elite. Some years later, she was practicing with the Boston Breakers in anticipation of joining up with their college academy team in the summer, and I approached her to introduce myself, assuming she wouldn’t remember me. She looked me directly in the eye and greeted me by name while shaking my hand. Whether it was well-developed professionalism or simply being raised with impeccable manners, that’s Morgan Andrews.
Back to present day: Andrews is ready for the upcoming World Cup stretch in the NWSL season. Already US internationals have departed, with more players to follow in the coming weeks. That means precisely nothing in terms of the Reign’s plans to try for three points every game. Of course, there will be personnel and lineup changes, but Andrews believes in the ability of her team to step up. “I think that every player will take advantage of the new opportunities that are coming throughout the World Cup period,” she said. “We have an amount of leaders on and off the field that will be with us such as Bev Yanez and Lu Barnes. Even the new players who have come to the squad, I think everyone’s going to take advantage of it. Everyone is here genuinely for the love of the game.”
It’s something every team is facing right now; international stars are gone and the World Cup is pulling a lot of literal and emotional attention. We talk a lot about a “World Cup” bump but what about the players staying with their clubs? Andrews hopes that fans will be just as enthusiastic as always. “So far the fanbase in Tacoma has been so wonderful and very supportive,” she said. “I look forward to that continuing. With our international players leaving and everything, we’re looking forward to that support going unchanged. We hope that our fans will still appreciate the hard work and effort that all of the players and the whole team, no matter what players’ roles are on the team, we hope that everyone gets supported. It’s still a fun and interesting game.”
No Lord of the Flies scenarios here. The way Andrews describes them, if the Reign were stranded on an island, rescuers would probably pull up to find them living happily in a small, supportive community (probably thanks in part to the advantage of being empathetic adults, not a bunch of rich English schoolboys). Just no more goalkeeping for Andrews. Her advice to anyone else struck by unlucky lightning?
“Just be brave. My only advice is you’re in there for a few minutes and you don’t want to have any regrets, so if you gotta lay your body on the line, that’s something that you’ll have to do. Be ready for it.”