Morgan: US team morale is high
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Before taking on New Zealand in the quarter-finals of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament, USA forward Alex Morgan took time out of her busy schedule for an exclusive interview with

Morgan, one of the Stars and Stripes’ rising stars, has been in sparkling form alongside veteran strike partner Abby Wambach at London 2012. In fact, no fewer than five of the eight goals amassed by the United States thus far have been scored by the dangerous duo. How would you rate the way in which USA negotiated the group stage?
Alex Morgan:
I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve achieved up to now. We picked up three points in each match, and finished top of our group. We’ve actually been talking about the fact that our country’s never had such a good start before, either at the Women’s World Cup or the Olympic Games. So we’re obviously very satisfied with our results, and team morale is as high as it’s ever been.

Are there still aspects of your team’s play that you’d like to see improve?
We’ve played really well as a unit so far. But I do think that we could still do some work on our organisation and the way that we drop back to defend. We’re definitely one of the most on-form teams in the tournament, but due to the large number of matches and simple tiredness, we’ve got a tendency to occasionally lose focus in those areas. But it’s just little tweaks that are required, and I think that our growing confidence will help us a lot in the matches to come.

We’re definitely one of the most on-form teams in the tournament.
Alex Morgan on the USA's form so far

You have already scored two goals at London 2012. How do you feel you have performed individually?
I’m very happy with my performances. My stats are good, and my passes have generally found their intended targets. I still need to make improvements to my shooting, both in terms of accuracy and testing the goalkeeper more often. My team-mates often set me up brilliantly, but I need to get more of my shots on target. But sometimes that just comes down to the state of the pitch or the weather conditions.

You made a real impact coming off the bench at the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, but now you’re part of the starting XI. What has that change in status been like for you?
There’s no doubt that it’s a completely different role. I’m not the kind of person who hangs around in the background, and I always want to help my team to the best of my ability. It goes without saying that I’m delighted by the way in which I’ve gradually become a starter over the past six months. And now I feel pretty comfortable playing alongside Abby Wambach up front; we complement each others' styles and have built up a good understanding. 

Was it difficult for the team to move on from the defeat by Japan in the Final of Germany 2011, after it seemed as if victory was within your grasp?
Well, there really wasn’t that much of a gap between the loss and the start of our Olympic Games preparations. I do think, though, that it probably played on all of our minds for a few months. But when the Olympic qualifying matches began, we had something else to concentrate on and we didn’t talk about it anymore. We had to completely focus on this competition instead. 

You face New Zealand in the quarter-finals. You scored two goals against them in a friendly match in February. What are your thoughts on their team?
New Zealand are on great form at the moment. They’re very organised, with players that complement each other. In February, they were actually beating us, but I scored two goals that gave us a last-gasp win – that kind of thing doesn’t happen to us very often. I hope that they give us a little less trouble this time around.

If you win, are there other potential opponents that you would prefer to avoid in the next round?
I don’t really want to think about it too much, because we first have to concentrate on beating New Zealand and getting to the semi-finals. But we actually just re-watched the match between Brazil and Great Britain that attracted a 70,000 crowd at Wembley. The British team have been impressive in the tournament so far; they’re full of confidence and the country is behind them. If everything works out and we advance to the last four, we might well play them. And that could end up being an incredible match, for them as well as us.