Alex Morgan Exclusive: USWNT Star Talks Olympics, Abby Wambach Record, Neymar
Whether it's dazzling fans with her skills on the pitch or dealing with the responsibilities of being a national celebrity, chances are Alex Morgan is keeping herself busy.
On Thursday night, Morgan was alongside United States women's national teammate Abby Wambach when she became the greatest scorer in women's international soccer.
Wambach's four goals against Korea Republic gave her 160 for her career, two more than former U.S. superstar Mia Hamm, and Morgan—who has scored 44 goals in 66 international appearances—provided the assist on the fourth before being subbed off in the second half.
Less than a day later, Morgan was at the boardwalk along the Jersey Shore on Friday to mark the beginning of summer and to celebrate the region's comeback following last year's devastation by Hurricane Sandy.
Morgan, a finalist for the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or, joined New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie in a ceremony marking the final board being placed in the world-famous boardwalk. Morgan also hosted a soccer clinic for local kids.
Almost a year after helping the U.S. win a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Morgan plays her club ball with the Portland Thorns of the Nation Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and recently released her first book, The Kicks: Saving the Team, the initial volume in a three-part series for middle-schoolers.
With all that going on, Morgan still found time to speak with Bleacher Report world football lead writer Michael Cummings on Friday about the U.S. women's and men's national teams, Wambach's record, winning the gold medal and even Brazil forward Neymar.
Here's what she said.
Bleacher Report: I understand you’re at the Boardwalk in Jersey today. How is everything there, and what can you tell me about what you’re doing there and how you’re working with Coca-Cola?
Alex Morgan: It's looking really great and it's perfect weather. Right now I'm here at the Jersey Shore to declare it open for summer. I just want people to get active for the summer and enjoy this weather.
B/R: You were on the pitch (on Thursday) night when Abby Wambach set the record. How special was that? And can you see yourself challenging for the record one day?
AM: I was really proud of Abby. She has worked so hard and she has really proven herself on this team time and time again, just as a leader on this team, and really is a great role model that I've looked up to so many years.
With that said, I'm just so proud of her and honored to be a part of that moment—that historic moment in, not only women's sports, but sports in general.
AM: That semifinal game is probably the craziest game I've ever been a part of, but definitely one of the funnest, which is a reason I love this sport. This is a reason that this is the most beautiful game in the world and people get so passionate about it.
It's a roller coaster, definitely, you need to stay in it from the first minute to the 90th minute—or the 123rd minute. That's what we did, and then going to play Japan in the final for a little bit of revenge (Japan beat the U.S. in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final), that felt good to get the gold medal.
I have, since I've been a little girl, wanted to be an Olympic gold medalist or just an Olympian, so having that gold medal around my neck was the most amazing feeling.
B.\/R: You’ve already accomplished so much at a young age. Obviously the World Cup is still out there for you, but what else do you hope to accomplish?
AM: I want a World Cup championship. There's nothing better than that, obviously. We haven't won it since '99 so it's been a long time.
For me, personally, I just want to keep improving, continue to help my teammates improve, make my teammates look good. Continue bringing something new to the game, never getting completely content and always trying to get better.
B/R: You’re with the Portland Thorns this season. How are you finding that experience and the NWSL?
AM: I've been really happy in Portland. We're getting close to sold-out crowds, so around 15,000 in all of our games, which is fantastic. They've really welcomed us since day one…so I'm very happy in Portland.
B/R: I’ve seen on your Twitter feed that you follow Barcelona and Lionel Messi. What did you think about Barca signing Neymar? Have you been watching him play?
AM: I have been watching Neymar. I actually just watched the game that they played just a couple days ago (Neymar scored a goal and assisted another as Brazil beat Mexico 2-0 on Wednesday), and I think it will be interesting, definitely, because Messi grew up with Barcelona in their youth academy, so he's a team player.
I think Neymar can definitely learn a little bit from Messi, but a lot of people haven't really seen Neymar that much since he's been in Brazil. So now moving onto more of an international stage…it's going to be interesting for the world to see Neymar and Messi working together, if they do work well together.
B/R: The U.S. men's team has been on a roll lately. Have you followed along? What do you think of their chances at the World Cup, assuming they qualify?
AM: I think they have a pretty good chance—I think now it's about 99 percent (that the team will qualify). I've been really excited for the men's team, they've done so well and I've watched the last couple of games and tried to support them as much as I can. I was so happy for them because they stepped up when they needed to.
Jozy Altidore has definitely stepped up, Clint Dempsey, all the players—all the new players that haven't even been on the team for six months or so are starting games. So it's really great to see guys stepping up and taking on roles that they weren't used to.
B/R: You had a book come out in May, and the sequel, Sabotage Season, is coming in September. How did you get into writing? Need any supporting characters based on soccer reporters?
AM: I have a book that just came out, called The Kicks: Saving the Team, which is part of a three-book series. I was so excited to put it out. It's about a middle-grade soccer team, and it is a novel but it's also based on experiences from when I was younger.
I didn't see anything like it out there, so I wanted to put something out there where girls, boys, teenagers could relate, because around the age of 12 is when I really got a lot more committed to the sport of soccer and when I really focused on soccer. I think that girls at that age are determining whether to play soccer, whether to put more emphasis on academic life, whatever it is, I think it was important for me to put something out there.
Alex Morgan spoke to B/R courtesy of the Coca-Cola Company.
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