United States women's national team star Alex Morgan was in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon when I spoke to her. She talked about her ankle injury, the upcoming NWSL season and the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Bleacher Report: Hi, Alex, how are you?
Alex Morgan: I’m good.
B/R: You’re in Los Angeles right now promoting the Copa Coca-Cola. What can you tell us about the tournament?
AM: I’m teamed up with Coke today to help get the word out about Copa Coca-Cola. It’s a nationwide youth tournament played in 10 major cities and the final’s going to be played in Los Angeles. It’s for teenagers 13-15 years old, both girls and boys, and they can register for free on the Copa Coca-Cola website. It’s a 5 v. 5 tournament. Both the boy’s team and girl’s team that win are entered into a drawing for a chance to go to Brazil during the World Cup.
B/R: The U.S. women’s national team opens up camp tomorrow and you’re not going to be there. What can you tell us about your injury?
AM: I had an ankle sprain from quite awhile back (suffered in the October camp in the lead up to a friendly against New Zealand) that I tried coming back from because the doctors and trainers said it was a typical ankle sprain, but unfortunately it was not just a regular ankle sprain. I got a bone bruise and because we didn’t take care of it properly, it regressed to a stress reaction. Now I need to be off it, completely non-weight bearing for a couple weeks. I’m hoping I only have one more week on crutches.
B/R: What exactly is a "stress reaction?"
AM: A stress reaction isn’t as bad as a stress fracture—there’s not a clear crack in the bone—but, you can see it on the bone [in a scan]. The way they described it to me was that it’s worse than a bone bruise and to prevent it from becoming a stress fracture, I need to be non-weight bearing.
B/R: Is there any chance you’ll be back for the USWNT game on January 31 against Canada, or Russia on February 8?
AM: I’m going to get my ankle rescanned within the next week and I’ll know more information after that. But, if everything is healed in the next week, I’m going to start getting fit and train on my own and maybe I’ll be in at the end of the camp with the national team. It depends where my ankle is at after we get the scan.
B/R: In 2014, with World Cup qualification on the horizon, there are a lot of players who were abroad like Christen Press, Whitney Engen, Yael Averbuch, Amber Brooks and Meghan Klingenberg now coming back to the NWSL. What kind of impact do you see that making on the league?
AM: A lot of these players are going to be coming back for the second half of league, so initially I don’t see a huge difference. Right off the bat from when it was decided we were going to have an inaugural [NWSL] season, I knew that it was going to start from the bottom up. The first year there were going to be some players that were going to be abroad just because of the fact there wasn’t a league in the U.S. (at that time). With that said, I know the quality will continue to rise within the NWSL. These players are definitely going to help, but it’s going to take a couple years to get to where the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) was in its third year.
B/R: You recently got engaged. Congratulations. Your fiance plays for the Houston Dynamo. Is there any chance we’ll see you with the Houston Dash this season, or are you going to stay with the Portland Thorns?
AM: I’m really happy with the Portland Thorns and they’re a great organization—the best organization you could play for. They’re very professional and I’m really happy with the coach they brought in, Paul Riley. As of now, I am happy with the Portland Thorns and I think the organization is happy with me, so I don’t see any changes in the near future.
B/R: Back to the U.S. team, the squad seems to have an overabundance of talent up top (at forward) with you, Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, Christen Press and now Amy Rodriguez coming back. How do you see things shaking out up top?
AM: I really don’t envy our coach, Tom Sermanni’s position. He has to make tough decisions and he’s given so many players an opportunity to showcase their talent with these camps. It’ll definitely be interesting to see when he has to cut down the roster in the coming months leading up to the World Cup qualifiers. I don’t envy his job at all.
B/R: Sermanni’s brought in 44 players to different camps in his first year as the U.S. coach and everybody knows there are only 23 roster spots for the World Cup. How has that affected team chemistry in the camps?
AM: There have definitely been camps with different players, different faces coming in and a lot of the European players haven’t been there as much as we’re used to seeing them. Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath, we’re used to seeing in every camp. It’s been a little different, but I think leading up to World Cup qualifying we’re going to go back to seeing the same faces in terms of having more of a set roster, rather than bringing in up to 30 players at camp.
B/R: Coach Sermanni has a reputation for bringing in young players and over the past few months we’ve seen Crystal Dunn, Morgan Brian and Julie Johnston get called in multiple times. What’s your impression of the young players?
AM: Honestly, I really am glad he’s bringing in young players. They have some really great talent. Crystal Dunn, I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s going to do in the NWSL. She’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen, but she also has great technical skill. Morgan Brian, she’s going to do really well on this team in the future. She’s been busy with Virginia (2013 College Cup finalist University of Virginia) and school and she’s still in college for another year. Morgan [Brian] has something special and I think she’s going to go far with this team.
B/R: Only a couple years ago you were a newbie on the USWNT. Is there anything special you’re doing with these young players to help them get acclimated to the national team?
AM: It always helps to see a friendly face and to be open to these players—to let them know we’re not here to put them down in any way, but to help them feel like they’re part of the team. I think that Crystal has definitely felt that way. We were rehabbing our ankles together last camp. It’s good just to be able to hang out with the younger players and see how they’re doing. When I was first coming on the team, I was definitely a little nervous, my confidence was up and down. Helping them feel like they belong is what they need at this point.
B/R: The 2011 World Cup final had to be devastating, losing to Japan in penalties. Is that loss something that you and the other U.S. women are thinking about with the 2015 Women's World Cup only a year and a half away?
AM: Of course. We haven’t won the World Cup since 1999. We’re very aware of that. We’re ready to do everything we can to prepare for that moment in 2015 in Canada. I don’t want to speak for Abby [Wambach], but it says a lot that she’s continued playing. She’s very serious about going into the World Cup in top shape. She’s setting a good example for the rest of us.
B/R: How do you think the team will do in the World Cup?
AM: If we all bring our best game, individually and collectively as a team, I don’t think there’s any team better than us.
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