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The past year has been a whirlwind, conspicuously so for USWNT striker Alex Morgan, who gave birth to her first child last May, played a stint over in Europe and is now in the midst of preparing for an extremely unprecedented Olympic Games.
“Last year was a unique one for the whole world. But for myself, learning how to take care of a baby girl and how to do my job as a mom and get back to playing at the highest level in soccer,” Morgan tells InsideHook, has not been easy.
“It’s definitely been a big challenge for me, but I feel like I’ve been able to do really well in my recovery from giving birth. I feel like now, getting ready and preparing for the Olympics, I’m in a really good spot mentally and physically. It’s been a very unique journey … I’m really proud of myself for coming out like this and in a really good position to make the Olympic roster and do really well at the Olympics,” she adds.
After taking time off from the sport to be with her daughter Charlie, the 31-year-old left the states in September to play in north London with Tottenham Hotspur. While it was a short spell (Morgan was recovering from a knee injury and ended up only playing five games), she says the experience was still a formative one.
“I think that playing abroad really helped me with my soccer IQ and developed a different side of me in terms of my style. So I think it greatly benefited me,” explains Morgan, who is no stranger to playing football across the pond. In 2017, Morgan had a stellar campaign with Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, France’s most successful club and a dominant force in women’s soccer over the last decade. While Morgan tells InsideHook she’s happy to have spent the bulk of her career in the US, playing in Europe is an opportunity she’d encourage female players to take advantage of if given the chance.
“I think that it would definitely benefit the American female soccer players to explore other styles of play, not just spend their whole career in the US.”
Coinciding with her own impressive comeback, Morgan is partnering with Michelob Ultra on a new campaign called The Greatest Comeback that also includes NBA players Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler, WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike, golfer Brooks Koepka and tennis icon Serena Williams. The campaign’s goal? To get fans hyped up for the comeback of live sports.
“It’s really fun to be able to be paired up with the other five athletes because, as athletes, we don’t really cross paths very often,” says Morgan. “The Greatest Comeback is something that I think we can all relate to and in the campaign, being able to give away these amazing experiences for fans to go watch us athletes on the highest stage. That’s why I play my game: to give excitement to the fans. It’s to make people love sports in the way that I do.”
Now, after returning from overseas to resume playing in the NWSL for the Orlando Pride (where she’s proper “crushing it”), Morgan is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics — an Olympics, if not postponed due to the coronavirus last summer, she would’ve missed.
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this summer’s Games, like whether spectators will be permitted in some capacity and whether all the events will even go on as planned due to rising COVID-19 concerns in Japan. Despite the uncertainty, Morgan says she and her fellow teammates are preparing for the events as intended, though she adds the entire Olympic experience is going to be drastically different in comparison to prior Games.
“For us right now, we’re expecting that the Olympics is going to happen and doing everything we can to prepare for that, but knowing that there’s a lot of unknowns. Are there going to be any fans in the stadium? At this point, we have no idea. Is there going to be anything that we can do outside of the village or our hotel? Are we there to do a job and then come home?”
“The Olympics is typically about the entire experience, and this time around you have to focus on playing your events and going in, getting the job done and leaving. There’s not really the freedom to support other athletes on team USA by going to their events and really grasping the Olympic experience,” says Morgan. “I’m grateful to have had two Olympics behind me and know what the experience is because this Olympics is going to be very different.”
If they do end up bringing home the gold, the USWNT will be the first team in history to win the World Cup and an Olympic gold medal back-to-back.
During their 2019 World Cup run, the USWNT was adamantly outspoken about the unequal treatment and compensation they’ve had to endure compared to their male counterparts. It’s an issue Morgan and her teammates are still fighting, as their battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation continues.
“We’re still in an active lawsuit between us and U.S. Soccer. Of course, there are new developments weekly, so that will continue to be a priority for us, as players, to fight for equality within our sport by the federation, by the soccer governing body in the US,” she says.
“But at the same time, we know that once we touch down in Japan, we are there to win an Olympics to represent our country, to show that we are the best team in the world. It’s always a balance of making sure that we are focused. I think we’ve been able to show that in 2019 with the World Cup and even before that. This team has really just done so well to persevere and prove that we have been able to focus on the task at hand, which is playing soccer as well as fighting for the things that we do believe in.”
Here’s hoping Morgan and her teammates do nab the gold and make history with their back-to-back wins — primarily so we can watch them turn up as they so iconically did following their World Cup victory. (If you have yet to watch USWNT’s Ashlyn Harris’ Instagram stories from the team’s locker room celebration, please do so now.)
“I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves because we still have a tournament to play,” cautions Morgan. “But if we’re able to pull off winning a World Cup and Olympics back to back, there’s going to be big celebrations.”
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