“The next Lindsey Horan”: Why Texas wonderkid Alexis Missimo is tipped to be a USWNT star of the future – scout report
The USA has a rich history of producing great female football players, with the likes of Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo just some of those hailing from the North American nation who have graced plenty of football pitches with their skill and talent.
However, whilst legends of yesteryear should be continually celebrated and idolised, it is also important to look to the future, with there always being a new generation of talent to discover and nurture, and the USA is not short of this either. In recent years, the names of those who have emerged from the college game include the likes of Sam Coffey, Savannah DeMelo and Naomi Girma, who have all gone on to be major names in the NWSL and who have been called up to USWNT squads as rewards for their efforts.
With them now established league players, the focus has switched back to the college teams in search of the next stars, and one of those who is continually catching the eye is Alexis Missimo (known as Lexi). Various analysis pieces have identified the Texas Longhorns player’s versatility and composure around the field as just some of the key reasons that she is attracting potential suitors to her services, and the fact that both Arsenal Women and Manchester City Women have offered her opportunities to join them shows that her exploits are leading to glances from abroad as well as her home country.
This tactical analysis will look in detail at what makes her such a special player, breaking down her key skills on the field and what she adds to her side’s tactics, as well as finding her best position and naming a few clubs that would benefit from having her in their squads. The scout report will also look at why she has been compared to current USA stars like Lindsey Horan, Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, and why many are tipping her to have the same impact on the international stage as they have.
When starting to build a picture of a young player, it is always important to identify their key skills and look at what they can do on the field, picking out their strengths and weaknesses and working out both what they can already do and where there is still a need for them to improve.
In Alexis Missimo’s case, there are more of the former than the latter, and one of her key strengths is an ability to read the game and always be two or three steps ahead of the rest of her team, with the result being that she is always in the right place at the right time whenever her teammates need to send the ball in her direction.
In this situation though, it is not just a case of reading the game, but also recovering from her mistake, with her initially overhitting her cross and clearing the heads of both Trinity Byars and Sydney Nobles and forcing the latter to move towards the far side of the field to regather the ball.
However, by doing so, Nobles has been forced to leave the central areas unoccupied, and that is what Missimo spots. As the yellow arrow shows, she instantly reacts by making a run into the Florida Gators goal area and taking up that central role, and the fact that the ball was sent in her direction only two passes later shows that this helped Texas to keep their attack alive and not lose their momentum.
Therefore, even though the obvious point to make here is her ability to read the game and take up good positions, it is also important to note how she never sits back and always looks to rectify her mistakes, and that is why her team rely on her so much when building attacks and maintaining the pressure on their opponents.
That ability to think quickly and not hesitate when she gets chances to create problems also comes into its own when her side are out of possession, with her often needing to use her pace to close players down and take as much time away from opposing attackers as possible. Here, Duke Blue Devils are trying to move the ball towards the Longhorns’ goal area, but have not been able to make too much ground due to Missimo moving forward to close it down, and the speed at which she does this actually catches Duke out completely here, with them losing possession and enabling Texas to launch their own counterattack.
It is not uncommon to see Missimo in these deeper areas of the field when her team are without the ball, and that shows a different skill that she has, with her not just being an out-and-out attacker and instead being capable of offering different qualities on the field. This is another reason that she has attracted so much attention in recent years.
Missimo also has good control of the ball, with her often limiting herself to one or two touches before moving it on to a teammate. By doing so, she never allows an opponent to close her down, and this is particularly useful when her side are on the attack and need to expose a gap in opposing lines before it is closed off.
When they are in these situations, it is common to see Missimo used as a pivot, with the idea being that the rest of the team work around her and enable her to transfer play into any area of the field that she sees fit, and that is something that is seen a lot in the modern game.
However, the downside of playing that way is that it only works if the rest of the team are on the same wavelength as the player in that role, and there have been a few occasions, such as this, when Missimo has not had that support. Therefore, when she has looked to move the ball into the spaces behind her, there has been no one available to receive her quick pass, allowing the opposing side, in this case West Virginia Mountaineers, to end the threat with ease.
Nevertheless, this should not detract from the skill that Missimo shows time and time again when in these situations, and it is another basic aspect of her game that clubs watching her will appreciate.
With a basic profile of what makes Alexis Missimo such a good player now set out, the next question is where her team can use her positionally, with the Texas star evidently a player who can offer a lot on the field and who is destined for great things, but who also needs to be used in the right way in order to have the best possible effect on the game.
To answer that, it does seem that she is at her best when given space to roam around in and left to her own devices, with Texas head coach Angela Kelly tending to utilise her in a box-to-box role and allow her to affect the game in any way that she can. That means that situations like this happen when she is able to make significant territorial gains and create difficulties for the Gators defenders, with them knowing what will happen here and yet unable to close her down due to the risk of that leaving those Longhorns players alongside them with a clear route to goal.
Once she gets into these areas, her decision-making and passing ability immediately come into the equation, with her needing to pick the right pass in order to allow her side to take full advantage of their quick attack. Fortunately for the Longhorns, this is another of Missimo’s key qualities, and the fact that her pass to Liz Worden here enables Byars to score shows just how dangerous Missimo is when allowed to play in this amount of space.
The other reason that she is best used in a free-roaming role is that she can then adjust her positioning on the field and adapt to what is happening around her. In this case, she has initially hung back and is not part of the initial attack, with her alongside the ball and not in her teammate’s eyeline when they are looking to progress the ball up the field.
Instead, she is part of the second wave of the attack, with her role being to pounce on any loose passes that Utah State Aggies make through any attempted clearance, before sending the ball back where it came from and either finding a teammate or having a shot on goal.
However, once the ball is passed on the far side of the field, she instantly recognises the need for Texas to have another player in the forward line, with the need to provide more than one player to aim for once the ball is taken into the right position on the far side of the field. Therefore, she runs forward and joins the first line of the attack, and that is what is meant by her adapting her role and once again reading what is happening around her.
If she were given a specific role on the field, either in attack or defence, then this would not be possible and her team might struggle to turn this move into a goalscoring opportunity, so, again, being in a free role is where any side that signs her can best use her.
This is not to say that she couldn’t be used in a specific role though, with her demonstrating just as much quality when confined to one particular area of the pitch as she is when moving around it. Here, with Iowa State Cyclones getting numbers back behind the ball, there was a need for Texas to have a player inside the final third who could find ways to break them down, and Missimo’s quick style of play and composure in possession meant that she matched the profile of player that they were looking for.
With that in mind, it goes without saying that she helped her side to turn this chance into a goal, with her quickly assessing what was in front of her and then lifting the ball over the Cyclones’ line and into the path of Byars, who was able to find the back of the net. Not many players can think that quickly, but Missimo can, and it shows that, even though giving her freedom is the best way to use her, she can operate in specific roles and have just as big an effect on the game.
Now that Alexis Missimo’s basic skills and best position have been set out, the focus of this analysis will turn towards finding the right club for her, both from those that have already been monitoring her progress and those who would benefit from having a player like her in their squads.
As mentioned at the beginning of the scout report, one of the teams who are reportedly keeping a very close eye on her are Arsenal, and it is not hard to see why when considering how Jonas Eidevall sets his team out and the tactics that he has implemented during his two seasons in charge.
Ordinarily, he wants his team to play with a high intensity and to move the ball up the field at speed, and a lot of his recruitment and squad decisions are made with that in mind. As this graphic indicates, Missimo has made plenty of progressive passes for the Longhorns during the last year, and, as was mentioned before, she tends not to keep hold of the ball for too long once she receives it. Therefore, she would fit in with the identity that Eidevall has been building in north London.
Another reason that Missimo would be a good fit for Arsenal is that they need players who can make runs behind opposing defensive lines and act as false nines, especially with Netherlands star Vivianne Miedema operating as a midfielder before her season-ending injury and Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius dropping a little deeper in more recent games and looking more dangerous in that role.
To balance that out, Norway midfielder Frida Leonhardsen Maanum has often been the one looking to get forward and has been one of Arsenal’s main goal threats as a result, but she cannot sustain that role on her own and Missimo would enable more squad rotation and support in that sense.
Manchester City Women
The ability to move forward and take up those advanced roles would also suit Manchester City, the other side reportedly watching her, as they already have several good ball progressors in their side and so would potentially use Missimo in a 10/false nine position.
As this graphic shows, she would be comfortable in that role and would pose a threat, with her assisting plenty of shots and goals from advanced areas, and having her in these spaces would then allow Jamaica captain Khadija Shaw to play with more freedom and to drop back into a 10 role at times, just as she did to great effect at former club Bordeaux Féminines and has done in some recent matches with her current team.
Rather than moving to another country, Missimo may of course decide to stay in her home nation and make her name in the NWSL, and there would be no shortage of interested parties if she did decide to take that option.
One team who should perhaps look at her is Angel City, who attracted a lot of question marks over their midfield before the 2023 season got underway, with many feeling that that was the section of the team where they were weakest.
Currently, they have Dani Weatherholt as a defensive midfielder (with reports that France international Amandine Henry will join from Lyon Féminin to add competition for her) and Savannah McCaskill as a creative 10, but what they are missing is an engine room player who can link both areas of the field together. Last season, it was Cari Roccaro and Clarisse Le Bihan who tended to occupy that role, but the former left for Chicago Red Stars in the summer whilst the latter has yet to feature in 2023, so they are experimenting a bit at the moment in order to bridge the gap.
Ever since playing their first game a year ago, the Los Angeles-based side have played with a small roster, but there is clearly a need to add a player who can affect the game during transitions, and, with Missimo passing the ball well and occasionally demonstrating her dribbling skills, she would not be a bad player to look at if she becomes available to sign.
Portland Thorns would also be a good club for her, due to them having a preference for midfielders who can play with pace and who are versatile, as shown by their successful captures of Coffey and Japan international Hina Sugita in the Draft and from INAC Kobe Leonessa respectively.
Both have demonstrated that they like to get on the ball and make things happen during their time in Oregon, and the fact that Missimo offers the same threat and can play in a deep-lying, box-to-box or creative role would make her a perfect fit for Mike Norris’ side.
One other club that might take a look at her is Washington Spirit, with their coach Mark Parsons having a knack for signing young players with huge potential (he was responsible for adding Olivia Moultrie and Sophia Smith to the Thorns’ roster during his time at Providence Park, whilst he also added 15-year-old Chloe Ricketts to the Spirit roster ahead of this season).
The Audi Field-based team are currently undergoing a rebuild after finishing second-bottom of the NWSL last season, and they have played with a clear identity so far under Parsons which has seen them get on the front foot and try to catch their opponents out on the break, using the pace of Trinity Rodman and Ashley Hatch to exploit the spaces behind opposing defenders.
They do already have Ashley Sanchez as their main creative outlet, but, in order to maintain the balance in their side, they need the rest of their midfield to be made up of players who are capable of progressing the ball up the field and unlocking those key threats, and that is where Missimo could come in, with her having the freedom to roam around and affect the match in different ways.
Given that she had a 61.13% accuracy for passes into the final third last season, she would fit Parsons’ aforementioned style of play and would give Washington a way of moving the ball across distances at speed, as well as being the type of young up-and-coming player that he is always on the hunt for.
In conclusion, this tactical analysis has looked in detail at young American star Alexis Missimo, breaking down what makes her such a special player and why she has been tipped for a big future.
What has certainly been made clear throughout the scout report is that comparisons made between her and current stars Horan, Mewis and Lavelle are not unreasonable, because there are traces of Horan’s deep-lying threat, Lavelle’s pinpoint passing and creativity behind the striker and Mewis’ box-to-box nature in the 20-year-old’s game.
For Missimo’s part, she has never looked to model herself on any other player during games and has only ever set out to be the best player that she can. However, with her reportedly looking up to PSG and former Barcelona star Lionel Messi when growing up, it’s clear that she has tried to implement some of his skills into her game, such as his vision and control of the ball, and the Argentina great is never a bad player to learn from.
For now, there are no solid rumours around what Missimo’s next step will be, with her focusing purely on the here and now and keeping her options open. In the long run, she has said that she wants to turn professional and to play for a national team, although she has yet to commit to one and is eligible for England as well as her native USA. Nevertheless, wherever she decides to move to next, there will undoubtedly be a lot of eyes following her and a great deal of excitement over her continued development.