When Alex Morgan made her senior debut for USA on 31 March 2010, not even she could have imagined the life-changing developments that would ensue over the next three years.
While used as a substitute at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™, Morgan was one of the first names on the teamsheet a year later at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in London. A remarkable 12 months was subsequently crowned with a nomination for the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year award.
“First of all I was really honoured and then I wanted to see who I was nominated with,” Morgan told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “And it was my former colleague Marta and Abby [Wambach] my team-mate, who I really look up to.”
Indeed, it soon becomes clear just how influential Wambach has been on the 23-year-old’s career. “Abby has been huge for me. She’s such a great role model, not only for all the little girls out there who dream of becoming a professional soccer player, but for her team-mates as well,” Morgan continued. “She’s a really great leader and carries herself very well. Leading up to the World Cup and the Olympics I did extra training every day so that I could give her my best every time, because I know she is working hard and doing extra too. It was only fair to go above and beyond for her and do the extra work.”
Under Wambach’s guidance, Morgan became a pivotal member of the USA squad and she has played no small part in their recent successes. It will be some time before the memory of the striker’s decisive goal in the Olympic semi-final against Canada begins to fade.
“I remember those last three minutes of injury time at the end of extra time. I wasn’t even thinking about penalties,” recalled Morgan. “We just had this belief and I kind of knew something was going to happen and someone was going to score. I don’t know how, but I suddenly had so much more energy than I'd had the previous 45 minutes. When that cross came in, you see me and Abby both ready to head it in, but it came to me, which isn’t usual. Fortunately, I was able to put it in.”
USA went on to win gold but their hunger for trophies did not stop there. Led by new coach Tom Sermanni, the team beat Germany in the final of the 20th edition of the Algarve Cup, where a brace from Morgan ended their opponents’ 22-game unbeaten run.
It was the latest in a series of performances that highlighted the forward’s development over the last three years. “A lot of people think that I came into the team and that it was very rapid progression from only getting a few minutes of playing time to becoming a starter,” Morgan said. “But I think that Pia [Sundhage] as coach had a plan for me and it worked out for both of us. I knew my role in 2010 and then it changed in 2011 to me coming from the bench and playing a little bit more. And once 2012 came around and I earned my starting position, my role changed again.”
Morgan is equally is perceptive when reflecting on the qualities that have propelled her to global stardom. “I think the best part of my game is always being in the right position in the box, always wanting to score. Just having that instinct and confidence - knowing that I am going to score, even if I have missed the last 20 shots.” It is a mindset that has certainly served her well until now.
A new chapter awaits Morgan in April, with the kick-off of the freshly-minted National Women’s Soccer League. The forward will team up with Canada international Christine Sinclair in attack at Portland Thorns FC.
“I am very excited for the new women’s league starting there,” Morgan said. “My dream is to play in the US, to stay in the US. I am looking forward to playing here for many years so that young girls can grow up, dream of playing here and have that dream come true."
The new domestic league is not the only thing occupying Morgan’s thoughts, with her focus also turning towards the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015. “The World Cup is always on our minds. I am very proud of what we accomplished in 2012 but there is much more looking ahead, like the 2015 World Cup. It never ends - once the Olympic gold medal was put around our necks we got a couple of weeks off and then we started up again. 2013 is definitely a year to prepare for the World Cup."