Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy were scouted at the same time for the University of North Carolina.
The Lionesses’ star striker Alessia Russo gave her university coach “sleepless nights” after his assistant coach mistakenly scouted the wrong player.
Anson Dorrance, head coach of the University of North Carolina (UNC) women’s team, said his assistant called him in a “panic” after watching a player he thought was Russo during an England youth tournament in California.
Dorrance told the PA news agency the university had already offered Russo a full scholarship when his colleague said the England forward would “never play for us”.
Russo has started every game for the Lionesses in the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, scoring the winning goal in their 2-1 quarter-final victory over Colombia.
Speaking of how Russo and her fellow England teammate Lotte Wubben-Moy came to be on the team, Dorrance said: “I’m sitting on a pile of cash, I don’t have anyone else I can recruit because this other American school has swept up all the best American players off the table.
“So all of a sudden we start tracking these two kids and then bang – Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy are on our recruiting docket and we’re starting to track them a bit and sure enough, yep, they can play.
“Of course, we had Alessia’s number so I sent my assistant coach to watch her play and he calls me back in a panic and says ‘Oh my gosh, Anson, I am so sorry’.
“We had already offered Alessia a full scholarship – (he said) ‘This kid can’t play, she’ll never play for us.’”
Dorrance, who also had a lengthy spell as manager of the US’s national women’s team, continued: “I’m thinking ‘Oh god, we’ve dumped all of our money into a player that can’t play’ and then all of a sudden I’m having sleepless nights.
“Then I get a call a couple of days later – ‘Oh no, Anson, I’m wrong, they had the wrong number on Alessia, she’s an ass-kicker and Lotte’s also fantastic so now of course I’m starting to sleep at night again.
“We bring these two wonderful kids in and they are fantastic – they were starters from day one in my programme.
“Not just soccer players, these were extraordinary human beings – they fit into our culture… they’re mature, they’re sophisticated and they were just fantastic for us.”