‘A different outlook, a different journey’ – USWNT star Alex Morgan on the World Cup, motherhood, growing up and explaining to her daughter why she can’t always play with Megan Rapinoe
“She’s starting to ask questions,” Morgan tells GOAL with a smile while promoting her latest campaign with Orgain ahead of the World Cup. “She asks a lot of questions about mom and soccer and just, in general, life. I think she’s figuring out so much more each day and she’s just asking so many questions.”
The questions are coming thick and fast now as Morgan prepares for this summer’s World Cup, the fourth of her career. It will be her first since becoming a mother, the latest achievement to add to her resume since she and her husband, ex-MLS star Servando Carrasco, welcomed Charlie into the world.
She’s already scored more goals than any other mother in USWNT history. She’s played in the Olympics, won an NWSL Golden Boot, and been named to the FIFPro Women’s World XI twice. Motherhood hasn’t slowed Morgan down. Not in the slightest.
What it has done, though, is change her perspective. Once a nervous kid that felt totally overwhelmed by playing on the big stage, Morgan heads into her fourth World Cup with a new outlook on life. Part is that is due to her experience; she does have 206 caps and 121 goals (and counting) to her name.
But the other part of that is due to Charlie. Since welcoming her daughter into the world, Morgan sees life in a different light. The big moments, like a World Cup, are just as big, of course, but those small moments seem just a bit bigger as well.
Ahead of the World Cup, Morgan sat down with GOAL to discuss motherhood, the World Cup and everything in between as she prepares for another chance at history with the USWNT…
A different outlook
It feels so long ago, given all that has happened in the years since, but there was once a time when Morgan felt overwhelmed by it all.
Her first chance to play on the big stage came all the way back in 2011, when she, at just 22, was the youngest USWNT player called up for that summer’s World Cup. She had earned her first USWNT cap in March 2010, scored her first goal in October, helped the U.S. book their World Cup spot in November and, by the next July, she was a key player as the USWNT looked to retain their spot as the most dominant women’s soccer team on planet earth.
It didn’t go to plan. The U.S. fell to Japan in a famous final, one which saw Morgan provide a goal and an assist. She scored twice in that tournament, good for second-most on the team, and she never looked shaken by the occasion of it all.
Now, 12 years later, she can admit that she was, in fact, shaken at some points. She admits to being a bit consumed by the moment, the spectacle, the chance at immortality. She admits that the Alex Morgan that became a household name that summer in Germany is much different than the one that remains one heading into this summer in Australia and New Zealand.
“Going into my first major tournament, I was very wide-eyed and super anxious and so overly-critical of myself in moments that I needed to be more forgiving of myself and give myself more grace,” Morgan tells GOAL. “It goes from playing and missing a shot to feeling like you said something wrong to the media.
“When you get into a major tournament, you’re going to already have so much criticism from the outside, you don’t need it from inside. The last thing you need is to be self critical. You need to have almost like a full thinking-forward mindset and like a forgetfulness. The last shot, the last game, it’s behind you. You have an opportunity coming up.”
She continues: “I think that, going into this World Cup, the level of excitement is there, just as much as my first one, but definitely the outlook and the anxiousness and the feeling of kind of being overwhelmed is a little bit at bay.”
Now in her 30s and with a family of her own, Morgan has been blessed by perspective, experience and, most importantly, a little bit of balance.
“If you are going through group stages or knockout stages and you’re still there, you’re doing something right,” she says. “And so you don’t need to be critical of yourself in that moment. You’ve prepared all before and done all the 99 percent to show that one percent to the rest of the world and you could be critical of yourself during that 99 percent, but once you get to the top, this is your time to enjoy and to shine.
“I think that that’s where I could have learned a little bit more in my first or second go around.”
Lessons from 2016
Morgan already has two World Cup trophies on her resume, having been part of the team that won it all in 2015 and 2019. The U.S. are among the favorites this summer, too, as they look for a historic three-peat, an almost unfathomable achievement given the rising level of women’s soccer.
However, like many major athletes, Morgan is quick to admit that she still looks back on her failures, even though there have only been a few of them.
The biggest lesson of her career came in 2016. One year prior, she was on top of the world, having lifted her first World Cup. The U.S. went into the Olympics as favorites once again with a chance for Morgan to add another major win to her resume.
And then thud. That infamous loss to Sweden, a loss that Morgan says motivated her for years to come. Her missed penalty haunted her and gave her the first real crossroads moment of her career.
“I do think that losing teaches you so much that has helped, that makes winning worth it so much more,” she says. “After feeling like we’re on top of the world in 2015, we lost in the quarters, which was our worst exit ever in the Olympics against Sweden in penalties. I felt like that was definitely a reflection moment for me in years after that.”
It took a few years for her to get over it, but she did. The 2019 World Cup was her chance at redemption, her chance to prove that, after winning the World Cup as a youngster in 2011, she could also win it as a leader and focal point.
The U.S., of course, triumphed in France, with Morgan finishing level on six goals with Megan Rapinoe and Ellen White as the tournament’s joint top scorer.
“To come back from,” she begins, “to feel confident to do penalties, to feel like I can lead the team both on and off the field and recover from a hard loss like that, I feel like in 2019, it was an incredibly special moment for the team, just coming back from that loss and knowing how hard we all individually and collectively worked for that.
“So yeah, just moving forward, I think there’s definitely reflection points and I think like having those failures along the way are important to kind of just honoring and valuing the peaks.”