Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan was clutch for U.S. Women’s National team in the World Cup. Now she’s getting ready for the Olympic Games in London.
By Larry Morgan, Staff Writer
CARSON – The competitive streak in Alex Morgan won’t allow her to be satisfied.
Maybe it’s because of years of playing organized sports or simply board games with older sisters Jenny and Jeri and bearing the brunt of their victory celebrations. Maybe it was from the direction of her father Mike, who instilled in his youngest daughter the will to win and never accept anything less.
“He planted that in me at a very young age, which I’m very grateful for now,” she said.
Morgan, a rising star on the U.S. women’s national soccer team, has big plans and will stop at nothing until she achieves them, even after a memorable year in which she was the No. 1 overall draft choice of the Women’s Professional Soccer’s Western New York Flash, helped lead the national team to a second-place finish at the World Cup and became one of the squad’s most recognizable players.
“I’m very happy with my accomplishments, but I’m still not where I want to be,” she said during training camp at Home Depot Center, where the U.S. was preparing to secure a spot in this summer’s London Olympics, which run from July 27-Aug. 12. Qualifying will begin Thursday in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“There’s still a lot to prove to myself, prove to this team and to the country.”
The 22-year-old from Diamond Bar made her international debut with the senior team in March of 2010, when she came on as a substitute in a match against Mexico. But she already had made her presence felt in 2008 with the Under-20 team, which she helped win the FIFA U-20 World Cup. She also led the University of California to the NCAA tournament all four years, became a four-time All-Pac-10 selection and finished in a tie for third as the Golden Bears’ all-time leading scorer.
But it was with the senior national team where Morgan had the most dramatic impact. Her goal in stoppage time on Nov. 20, 2010 gave the U.S. a 1-0 victory over Italy in the first game of a two-leg qualifier for the 16th and final spot in last year’s World Cup. There also was her 69th-minute goal and her assist on Abby Wambach’s 104th-minute goal against Japan in last year’s Cup final, which the U.S. went on to lose in a penalty-kick heartbreaker.
“My life has changed pretty dramatically, I’d say,” Morgan said with a laugh after a training session last week. “It’s all been amazing.
“It’s what I dreamed of when I was younger. I never imagined two years ago that I would even make the World Cup roster. Having done that and contributed in us getting the silver medal I’m very happy how last year turned out and how much work I put into getting myself in that position.
“I’m happy with the outcome, but looking ahead we have another year ahead of us. Now it’s making the Olympics.”
Watching the U.S. women win the World Cup at the Rose Bowl in 1999 initially stoked her desire to play, but it was attending the retirement game of former U.S. stars Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett and Julie Foudy at The Home Depot Center in 2004 that convinced her what she wanted to do with her life.
Her father could tell early on during her playing days there was something special about her.
“Just coming from AYSO I didn’t really know what to expect,” he recalled of her moving to the club level. “In fact, I was really expecting she would be far behind the other girls. But she was able to step in immediately and be on par or even above their level, even though she really had no experience.
“I kept thinking, `She’s this good at this raw area, what is she going to do when she gets a coach other than me?’ I was never really a soccer coach or anything; I was just a bad coach. At Cypress Elite, she really met coaches who worked with her and her game really blossomed.”
She’s difficult to miss, not only because of her impressive speed – she was a sprinter at Diamond Bar High School – but also because of her pink headband and No. 13 jersey. The choice of the headband, she pointed out, has little to do with breast cancer awareness, although she did say the mother of her boyfriend is a breast cancer survivor.
“I really started wearing it because I like to be a girl outside of soccer,” she said. “I think that pink kind of showed off my personality a little bit when I was playing. My parents always said they could pick me out when they were sitting in a crowd. There’s really not one specific reason why I wear it.”
Her choice of jersey number mostly has to do with former national teammate Kristine Lilly, who wore 13.
“She definitely has a part in it because I did look up to her in the World Cup,” Morgan said. “Then I actually got to play with her on this team for six months when I wore 5 and 21. Thirteen has been something that since I was younger everyone thought it was the unluckiest number, and I loved it. I thought it was lucky for me, and I’ve worn it since I started playing club soccer since I was 13 or 14 years old.
“I’ve worn it on every team I’ve played on. As funny as it sounds, it’s helped me in my success.”
Morgan said she is hopeful that success will continue at this summer’s Olympics. She said she wants nothing more than to contribute – but with one small request.
“For me personally, I want to be a starter on this team,” she said. “Right now I’m coming off the bench, which I’m fine accepting that role for now.
“But I definitely want to strive for being a starter on this team and contributing more.”