Amira Ali of San Diego Wave and Voorhees, NJ returns home for an NWSL game against Gotham FC.

If you’re looking to start your professional football career more than 2,000 miles from home, this could be a place with perfect weather almost every day.

Perhaps also for the manager who led the Manchester United women’s team and as a player was a 17-year-old England fan. With a team president who coached US women to win back-to-back World Championships.

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Oh, and would it be nice to have Alex Morgan as a teammate?

Yes, Voorhees’ Amira Ali is in a pretty good spot in her first season with the San Diego NWSL wave. Now the 23-year-old is gearing up for her first professional game in her native New Jersey: in San Diego at Gotham Stadium, on Sunday at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison.

Kicking off at 4:00 pm is the first regular season NWSL game on the CBS broadcast network, part of a women’s sports coverage day that includes the Connecticut Sun-Washington Mystics WNBA game. And speaking of good places, The Wave is in first place in the NWSL standings.

The aforementioned manager Casey Stoneyand President Jill Ellis form one of the most formidable leadership tandems the NWSL has ever seen. But they are not intimidating, Ali said—in fact, they are just the opposite.

“They are really good coaches, but they are also just very good people and they really care about each of us in everything except football,” Ali said. “On and off the field, they are always there for us. I think it’s also a testament to their character: not only are they all in football, they’re here to help us grow as individuals.”

It was also easy to get scared working with Morgan, the biggest star in American football. But off the field, Morgan is affable and charming, and Ali had time to see it.

“She is truly a role model both on and off the pitch,” said Ali. “But she can also have a good time and laugh with us and just be herself. … On cameras, you always see a tough and very focused version of her, but she can have a good time and be fun.”

Ali was on the radar of football scouts long before she turned professional. She was named South Jersey Girls’ Footballer of the Year in 2015 and 2016 by The Inquirer at East High, and was named United Soccer Coaches Girls’ Player of the Year in 2017. She also played for the youth club Winslow Tigers coached by the father of another South Jersey NWSL professional, Cyarra King of Sicklerville.

“I really attribute a lot of the foot skills that I have, the movement, the awareness, the football IQ that I have off the ball, just because he taught us and taught us,” Ali said of Rich King. She and Ciarra, now based in Seattle, OL Reign, were childhood friends and remain close.

Ali went to college at Rutgers and was selected 22nd overall by the Portland Thorns in 2021. Knights in the second Final Four in the team’s history.

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But at this time, the Thorns sold the rights to Ali in San Diego. She called the moment “bittersweet” but says she has no regrets about it or staying at Rutgers.

“No offense to anything,” she said. “I just want to keep growing no matter where I am.

Ali has played in 14 games for The Wave this year, but only played 372 minutes on the field. A minor knee injury just over a month ago didn’t help, but Ali also knows his place on the depth chart. In addition to MorganThe wave of the veteran of the England team Jody Taylor and swedish persistent Sofia Jacobsson.

However, Ali left a mark on the playing time she received. She scored her first professional goal on April 2 in a win over Angel City and learned a lot from the veterans.

“Honestly, it’s a dream,” Ali said. “I mean, when you grow up listening to Alex Morgan, you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be like her one day and I want to play like her,’ and you feel like that’s never going to happen. But being able to get on that field and play with her is very important for a player in every way.”

Ali said that Morgan is “always behind us, always helping us, always giving us some advice” and Taylor “talks to me all the time, kind of takes me under her wing.”

They are, according to Ali, “normal people”.[s] just like everyone else, and getting to know them is just amazing – and playing with them is also amazing.

And now Ali is the latest South Jersey professional soccer player to garner attention just a few months after the most famous of them left the field.

“Carly Lloyd is one of those names that you just look at and think, ‘This is the kind of woman who put in everything she could to succeed,'” Ali said. “Now that she’s retired, I think it’s time for us to step up and also show the same amount of grit and mentality that she has. We’re working on it and I think we can definitely represent South Jersey like she does.”

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