FOX Soccer Exclusive
Morgan building on past experience
From magazine photo shoots, to television appearances, to growing crowds that gather to catch a glimpse of her, you couldn’t blame Alex Morgan if her budding stardom and status as the new face of the US Women’s national team were starting to get to her.
Morgan may have more off-the-field responsibilities than she did just a year ago, when she was a young prospect worried about making the US World Cup team. Needless to say, plenty has changed in the year since.
Combining stunning good looks with an exceptional playing style, Morgan has followed up a breakout performance at the 2011 World Cup with an outstanding run of form three months into 2012, having catapulted her from prospect to superstar.
The 22-year-old striker takes it all in her stride. She credits her experience last summer at the World Cup with helping her not only to grow as a player, but to mature as a person.
“I had no idea what to expect [at the World Cup]. I now know what to expect going into the Olympics,” said Morgan in an interview with FOX Soccer. “It’s not that I was going blindly into the World Cup. I had been playing for many years, and going into so many training camps with the team prepared me, but having gone through that experience I know what I need to do to prepare and what I need to do to contribute to team success.
“Now that I have a little more experience at the highest level, and at the best tournament, I’m able to look toward the Olympics a little more calmly, and know exactly what I need to do to prepare for the Olympics.”
US women’s national team veteran Heather O'Reilly believes Morgan is starting to prove herself on the world stage.
“She always had the raw ability, she’s very athletic and quick, but she’s really putting it together and her general professionalism has been great over the last year,” said O’Reilly. “She’s been thrown into a lot of things, in terms of media, and a much better role on the team and she’s done really well with it all.
“She has a good head on her shoulders, and she’s got good people around her. She’s very hungry and I think she wants to win a gold medal as bad as any of us.”
All Morgan has done since the World Cup is establish herself as the team’s most dangerous attacking player. She has scored 12 goals in 12 games in 2012, cementing her place as a starter at forward alongside US legend Abby Wambach.
Unlike the majority of the top players on the US women’s national team expected to take part in this summer’s Olympics, Morgan has yet to compete in one. In fact, four years ago, she was a 19-year old coming off her freshman year at the University of California, waking up early in the morning, just like other US fans, to catch a glimpse of the gold medal-winning 2008 team.
Morgan insists that at that point in her budding career, she hadn’t even considered being on the Olympic team four years later, even though earlier in the summer of 2008 she had first begun to make a name for herself internationally with a stellar showing at the Under-20 World Cup.
“I was just a college student trying to be a regular starter on my college team,” Morgan said with an extra helping of modesty. “I remember waking up at 4 a.m. to watch the matches, but I never really thought about playing in the Olympics.”
Almost four years later, the Olympics have now become the biggest focus of Morgan’s life.
“The Olympics is everything, it’s all that I’m thinking about this year,” Morgan said. “Any sort of training or preparation I’m doing is for the Olympics. I’m trying to eat healthily, keeping my fitness at a high level. I’m trying to do everything I can to prepare myself for when the Olympics come by.”
Part of Morgan’s preparation includes signing with the Seattle Sounders Women of the W League, for whom she debuted on Tuesday.
“Seattle is one of the great soccer cities in the country, and knowing how much the Pacific Northwest respects soccer, it makes me really look forward to representing the Seattle Sounders and the city of Seattle,” Morgan said. “The city of Seattle has already welcomed us so much as a team, and we’re really looking forward to getting some pretty good crowds for these next couple of games.”
As the Olympics draw closer, the sting of the 2011 World Cup agony has subsided for Morgan, who scored in the semifinal and final last summer. She looks back on her first major international tournament with more pride and less disappointment.
“I don’t know where I completely turned the page from the World Cup,” Morgan said. “I know it took a long time to finally realize that we got the silver medal, and that I was okay with that. I was happy with the way our team played. We can say we played our best soccer and there was nothing more we could have done.
“That’s when I realized I’m happy with a silver medal around my neck,” Morgan said. “That being said, it still makes us want the gold medal even more this year."
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.
More Stories From Ives Galarcep