BIRMINGHAM – When the U.S. women’s national soccer team visited Legion Field last Sunday, the game was like any other friendly for most of the team’s players.

Another city in front of thousands of adoring fans in a game that ultimately resulted in a win.

Yet, for at least one player, though, it was also something of a homecoming on top of all that.

Morgan Brian, a midfielder for the national team, had the fortune of playing in front of a large contingent of her family in the same state many of them call home.

Though not personally from the state herself, Brian’s mother, Vickie, is from Centreville, Alabama, graduating from Bibb County High School. Her father, Steve, attended Auburn University.

Family members from both sides were able to attend the game, many of whom hail from West Alabama.

“It was really nice to be able to play in front of all my family – most of my family, obviously everyone’s not here – but I got to play in front of a good amount of people her for me,” Brian said.

One family member who was unable to attend was Brian’s grandmother, Billie Jean Hamrick, who passed away on July 31 at DCH Regional Medical Center, nearly four weeks after Brian and the U.S. team won its third Women’s World Cup title in a 5-2 win over Japan, according to an obituary from Rockco Funeral Home.

“She’s in a better place,” Brian said. “I was just here about a month ago for her, but we were hoping she would make this game, but she didn’t. But that’s fine, she was watching from above.”

Hamrick, the mother of Vickie, was a Centreville resident. During and after the World Cup, she was the subject of stories from The Tuscaloosa News and CBS 42 in Birmingham.

“I’m very proud, very proud. She’s always been a good girl,” Hamrick told CBS 42. “She’s always worked hard for where she’s at, and I’m very proud for her.”

The U.S. women’s national team was in Birmingham on Sept. 20 to play Haiti, the fourth match of a 10-game Victory Tour, celebrating the team’s World Cup win. Brian, the youngest player on the national team at 22, started and played the full 90 minutes against the Haitians, an 8-0 win.

Brian was among the key cogs during the U.S.’s World Cup run in Canada this past summer, as her insertion into the starting lineup during the knockout stages permitted teammate Carli Lloyd to push higher up the field in attack.

From that point, the Americans hit their stride, with Lloyd scoring five goals -- including her now-famous hat trick in the final against Japan -- across three games, en route to winning the Golden Ball, which is awarded to the best player of the tournament.

Brian grew up on St. Simons Island, Georgia, a small coastal town 45 miles north of the Georgia-Florida border, where she honed her skills as the eventual No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation in 2011, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com.

From there, Brian chose to continue her playing career at the University of Virginia, where she won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to college soccer’s best player, during her junior and senior seasons, while splitting time with the senior national team beginning in June 2013.

Last September, Virginia traveled to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama, where the then-No. 3 Cavaliers came away with a 3-0 win. Brian was credited with four shots in 73 minutes of action on a team that eventually reached the NCAA championship game later that season.

This past January, Brian was selected with the first overall pick in the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft by the Houston Dash, where she just concluded her first season earlier this month.

Asked what she’ll remember about her most recent visit to Alabama, Brian, again, turned to a select few out of the 35,753 fans in attendance at Legion Field, the largest ever for a standalone women’s national team match in the southeastern United States.

“(Alabama)’s close to my heart since I’ve spent a lot of time here with my family and my friends,” Brian said. “And obviously, I have a lot of friends who went to Alabama and all my club team, and so they were here, and that was special.

“Just to be honest, it was a great game we played. We scored a lot of goals, I think we’ll remember that, and, to me, I think what I’ll remember the most about it is spending time with my family.”

 

Brian with her family after the game: