Twenty-one year old striker Alex Morgan has made a positive impression on the U.S. Women’s National Team since debuting in March of last year. The UC Berkeley graduate has scored seven goals in her first 15 caps and has carved out a role as an impact player off the bench. Her seven goals have come in just 520 minutes of action, an average of a goal every 74 minutes. As she prepares with her U.S. teammates to face England on April 2 at Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road (live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m. ET), the top pick in the 2011 WPS Draft by the Western New York Flash sat down with ussoccer.com to discuss her role on the team, who could beat her in a foot race and why she is a huge Seattle Sounders fan.
ussoccer.com: You’ve been a 90-minute player at every level. How are you adapting to your role as a reserve with the full national team?
Alex Morgan: “I’ve really just tried to stay positive throughout the whole experience and any minutes at all, or even being on a roster, is an accomplishment. So I’m taking it one step at a time and just achieving small goals will hopefully one day make me a 90-minute player. For now, I’m happy to contribute in whatever way [U.S. WNT Head Coach] Pia [Sundhage] wants me to, whether that’s coming off the bench or supporting my teammates from the sideline.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve got seven goals in your first 15 caps. What are your keys to goal scoring?
AM: “First off, I think a goal is a goal and not all my goals are pretty. Pia has given me the opportunity to come into games and do what I do best, which is running at the back line. That has worked to my advantage in getting chances and I’ve managed to put a few away. I’ve also really connected with all the forwards, whether it’s Abby, A-Rod or Cheney and the more playing time I get with them the more comfortable I’ll feel on the field and that will lead to more opportunities not only for me, but for the entire team.”
ussoccer.com: What was the most difficult adjustment from college soccer and the U-20s to this team?
AM: “Probably just the amount of time we spend together because I was coming into a team that is preparing for a World Cup. Just getting yourself mentally prepared for every practice and having to stay focused for longer camps is tough. The training is way more intense and it can be as mentally tiring as it is physically. The adjustment has become easier the more camps you get called into, but also not being in college and being able to focus solely on soccer has helped me. I don’t have to worry anymore about taking a midterm on the day of the game or right after a hard training, which happened a lot.”
ussoccer.com: After spending four years in Berkeley you are now in upstate New York with your WPS club, Western New York Flash. Have you had any culture shock so far?
AM: “A little bit, of course, because I’ve lived in California my whole life, growing up and in college. Adjusting to the cold and learning how to dress for the cold was much different, but other than that, I’ve traveled so much with this team and the youth teams that it’s just a new and fun experience. I am really excited to have a new home in New York. We also have some players on the team that were on last year’s W-League championship team, so hopefully they can show me around a bit.”
ussoccer.com: You scored three goals at the Algarve Cup, despite only playing about 150 minutes during the tournament. Can you evaluate your overall performance in Portugal?
AM: “I think I started off the tournament not playing at my highest capabilities, but after going over video and talking to the coaches, I gained some more confidence and in the last two games I felt I got into a much better rhythm with my team and my own game. The biggest fear as a forward is not scoring in consecutive games, so I had to overcome that hurdle of not scoring in the last few games with this team. Once I stopped worrying about scoring, two goals came my way and that just helped build my confidence even more. Overall, I’m happy with my performance and how I contributed to our team winning the tournament.”
ussoccer.com: Who on the U.S. National Team just might be faster than you?
AM: “The first one that comes to my mind is A-Rod, because we are both forwards and she is just flat out speedy. We’ve never raced each other, but she might be a step ahead of me. I just hope I’m faster than the defenders I play against.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve never played against England at the senior level, but you played them in the quarterfinal in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2008. What were your impressions of that team?
AM: “That was a long time ago, but from what I remember, they were fast, strong and feisty. Every time I’ve seen England play, they are always tough competition. I think there is a little bit of a rivalry there as well, just because we are both English speaking countries and a bunch of their players play in the WPS, so it will always be a battle, especially this time playing in front of their fans.”
ussoccer.com: Your boyfriend Servando Carrasco, who also played at Cal, is in his rookie year for the Seattle Sounders. Who critiques each other’s game more?
AM: “I definitely critique his game more, which he maybe doesn’t like so much, but the way I’ve been brought up to is take critiques and turn them into positives in my game. I guess I wish he would critique me more! Which I guess is why I talk soccer with him a lot, but overall, we’re both very supportive of each other and we understand what both of us are going through trying to make a mark in professional soccer.”
ussoccer.com: Do you guys train together?
AM: “We have, but it’s more fun than intense. We play different positions so I like to shoot inside the box and he likes to take free kicks and shoot outside the box. We’ll do one-on-ones sometimes, but mostly it’s just getting out there and getting some touches on the ball. We also do a lot of working out off the field with weights, yoga and racquetball.”
ussoccer.com: You are a devotee of bikram yoga. Why would you recommend it to other athletes?
AM: “I would recommend bikram because it definitely helps with flexibility and athletes need to be flexible to avoid injury and play at their best. If you are an athlete, you probably love to sweat and I probably sweat more in bikram than I do in a full 90-minute game. It’s a great way to cleanse the body and feel energized.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve been with the national team for about a year now. In what ways do you think you’ve improved the most?
AM: “I’ve probably improved the most with my vision of the game and my movement off the ball. It’s a big step whether it’s from college or the youth teams to the full national team. Training as consistently as I have been with the national team, these improvements have come naturally with a high level of intensity and competition. You just have to think and move quicker.”