New Haven, Connecticut — This past weekend, United States Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan spoke at Southern Connecticut State University. Soccer commentator JP Dellacamera guided the discussion with Morgan focusing on key points that shaped her successful career. With a young crowd in the audience ranging from kids playing on a U-6 team to collegiate athletes, Dellacamera started from when she first found a love for soccer and when she knew she wanted this to be her future.
Morgan knew she wanted to become a professional soccer player since the age of seven. However, she did not play with a club team until she was 14-years-old. Although she played other sports like basketball, softball and cross country, her love was with soccer. Her parents did not push her on any sport, which is why she believes it took her a while to decide to play on a club team.
Academics were important to her and her family, which is why she decided to attend the University of California Berkley on a scholarship. The year before starting her college career, Morgan tore her ACL and missed her last high school soccer season. Those months before starting at UC Berkeley, she focused on rehab and becoming healthier. Morgan did not want to red shirt her first collegiate season. Dellacamera joked around with her about her degree in political economy. She stated that many athletes majored in sociology or communications, but her interest was more towards politics, the economy and learning a new language. She had the chance to study a in Spain for a semester and graduated winter of 2010; a semester early.
She’s done it again. 🐐
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) September 23, 2019
Mixing school and Academics
It was beneficial graduating early because the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup was right around the corner. The soccer commentator focused a bit more on her college years and asked what it was like to balance playing soccer, studying and her social life, considering she featured in the U-20 World Cup her sophomore year. To her there was a steep learning curve.
“It was a little bit of failing along the way to learn,” Morgan said.
She did share a moment where she happened to fail a midterm. However, because of that she was able to learn and focus on what was important which led her to have a successful college career with the Golden Bears.
During the U-20 World Cup, Pia Sundhage, former coach of the USWNT, spoke to Morgan giving her that last push of hope that she could become a national player. Her international debut was a match against Mexico in snowy Utah in March 2010. The Orlando Pride forward expressed the nerves she had that day because of the snow and being the youngest player on the team at the time. Being a California girl, she had never played in the snow and frozen feet was something she was not used to. Apart from struggling in her first cap, six months later she scored her first goal against China in Philadelphia.
Dellacamera shared an interesting stat with the crowd. Every time Morgan has scored, the team has never lost. She already knew about this stat. However, she still does not know how she feels about it.
Congratulations to all! Well deserved! 👏🎉🎊
— FIFPRO (@FIFPro) September 23, 2019
Tournament play, challenges and triumphs
The FIFA World Cup loss was a difficult one for the USWNT. The 33-year-old expressed how, “the lost against Japan is one of the saddest moments of my life.” She believes that USWNT was better in the World Cup whereas, in the Olympics, Japan was the better team. This World Cup loss inspired the fire brought to the Olympics in 2012. She emphasized how the difference in schedule between the World Cup and the Olympics does affect the kind of play. Because the Olympics is a condensed two weeks, playing in overtime is tiring for the players.
Her favorite goal to this day is the 123rd minute goal against Canada in the Olympic Games semifinal. Morgan described to the crowd how tired the team was from playing for so long but the refused to stop pushing during such an important game. Meanwhile, the 2015 World Cup was more of a learning experience for her because she went into the tournament injured and was not as fit as she needed to be. Morgan observed players like, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Christie Rampone while on the bench.
Dellacamera wanted to pinpoint what was different in 2015 than 2016, as the USWNT lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. She stated how after the World Cup, eight veterans retired and one had maternity leave. Needless to say, there was a different dynamic in the group and it reflected in their play. She laughed about how, “It didn’t feel like the Olympics, we never made it to the village. My family hadn’t even made it yet.”
🏆 #TheBest FIFA Women's Player 2019
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) September 23, 2019
That fateful fourth star
Dellacamera discussed the criticism the USWNT received because of a 13-0 win against Thailand in this summer’s World Cup. Morgan replied back simple, saying, “We did not want to face a defeat like that again and we didn’t.”
Morgan thought about how the media focused on the celebrations after each goal instead of the sportsmanship the team showed after the match was over. She consoled forward Miranda Nild from Thailand and Carli Lloyd embraced goalkeeper Sukanya Chor.Charoenying. Dellacamera asked if there was ever a match during the tournament where they panicked.
“The only semi-panic was when France picked up momentum and they scored,” Morgan admitted.
Since the World Cup final in France, Morgan has had a busy life with the parade, ESPYS and returning to the Orlando Pride. She was recently diagnosed with a knee injury which will leave her out for the rest of the season.
“I already felt so bad because I missed eight games because of the World Cup, and I didn’t want to miss anymore,” she said.
Morgan did have a slight knee problem during the World Cup but was able to keep it under control for the tournament.
Ciao from Italia! 😘 Tbh, we could not dream up a better group of people to represent the 🇺🇸 even if we tried. pic.twitter.com/3vc4WYKwhx
— U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) September 24, 2019
Equal play, equal pay
During the end of the event, Dellacamera brought up the continuous fight the USWNT is facing with equal pay rights. They filed lawsuit this past March and have court date set for May 2020, which is relatively close to the Olympics. Morgan said that the proceedings will “it’s going to take time.” However, she hopes for a resolution sooner than later.
Another change the USWNT will have is a new head coach, as Jill Ellis will step down after the October victory tour matches against South Korea. This will be the team’s new head coach since 2014. Now, they need to find a new head coach before the Olympics. Morgan is aware that slow changes are going to take effect but believes the new coach will take it slow.
As a few final words of wisdom to the young crowd she said, “Success takes self-belief. It’s been a crazy, busy year. I’m living out my dream.”