July 11, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. -
California rising sophomore forward Alex Morgan helped the United States earn a berth in the FIFA Under-20 World Championships at the qualifying tournament in Mexico last month. The World Cup is slated for Nov. 19-Dec. 7, 2008, in Chile. Morgan, who hails from Diamond Bar, Calif., led the Bears in points (18) and goals (8) in 2007 on her way to earning freshman All-America recognition. She recently sat down with CalBears.com to discuss her experience representing her country.
CalBears.com: How did you get selected for the U.S. Under-20 National team?
Morgan: "The national team is selected by coaches from that age group who scout girls throughout college and club soccer. My case was a little different because of my ACL injury. I was not seen as a top player in the fall of 2007 due to the fact that I had not reached my full potential since my ACL injury in January of 2007. So, around January or February of this year, my coach, Neil (McGuire), told me that the U20 World Cup would be coming up later this year, so he worked with me a lot and tried to get me seen by the national team coaches. When April came around and I still didn't get any calls, Neil made a phone call to the assistant coach to try to get me into their next camp because he believed I should be in the national pool. I was asked into the next camp, which was two weeks after Neil's phone call, and I've been invited back ever since."
Calbears.com: What was your reaction when you found out you were selected for the CONCAF qualifying tournament in Mexico?
Morgan: "The CONCACAF tournament selection was very nerve racking because about 24 girls were selected to the training camp in Park City, Utah, for six days before the tournament, but only 20 could earn spots on the roster for Mexico. So, the coaches had to cut four players in Park City. The coaches had only seen me play a few times because my first camp was in April. So, many girls had an advantage over me. When the coach told me that I would be continuing with the team into CONCACAF, I was shocked. I had been working so hard for this, and I finally made the team and would play for my country in my first international games."
What was it like to where the U.S. uniform and represent your country?
"I can honestly say that I have never been so proud to wear red, white and blue. When I stood out there singing the national anthem, I really felt honored to wear the U.S. jersey and represent my country."
CalBears.com: How much did scoring a goal and posting three assists in your first tournament with the U.S. Under-20 National team boost your confidence?
Morgan: "I'm a forward, and as a forward, we are supposed to score. Every position has their roles, and mine is to score. I think scoring that goal helped me realize that I am here for a reason, and that is to help my team qualify for the World Cup and eventually become the best country in the world at the U20 level."
CalBears.com: Was the experience representing the United States a lot different from competing for Cal?
Morgan: "This experience is not very different than competing for Cal. One difference is that I am not around these girls as much as my teammates at Cal, so it takes much more effort to become friends, especially in shorter periods of time. The camps help us all connect with each other and become a close team, but then we have a month away from each other. Playing for Cal and playing for the national team is really not much different. I put all my effort into my teams, and I take pride in wearing any jersey, Cal or the U.S."
CalBears.com: Did you get to see much of Mexico while you were there or was it all business?
Morgan: "We definitely weren't allowed out of the hotel by ourselves, but we did have one day where we visited a city near by named Cholula. We visited these amazing pyramids there and were able to walk around and buy things. A big hit were sombreros, and about half the team bought one and danced the whole way back to the hotel in the bus wearing them. It was great."
CalBears.com: Did any of your family make the trip to Mexico?
Morgan: "Yes! Both of my parents made the trip to Mexico. It was awesome."
CalBears.com: When will you find out if you've been selected to compete in the FIFA U20 World Cup?
Morgan: "The coaches hopefully will be selecting the team in August, but there are definitely no decisions made yet."
CalBears.com: How has your game changed and improved since your 2007 rookie season at Cal?
Morgan: "Two things specifically have helped my game since the 2007 season. One thing is my speed. During the season, I didn't have all of my speed back, which really hurt my game, but once January came around, I had my speed back (since having my ACL injury). The second thing is my ability to hold the ball in the final third of the field with pressure on my back. The U20 team was really looking for a player that can do this, so a few times a week I would work on this with my coaches. Neil would kick a ball into me, with Brian (Zwaschka, assistant coach) having pressure on my back. Don't worry. Brian is only 6-4! It has really improved my game."
CalBears.com: Is making the U.S. Senior National team a goal of yours?
Morgan: "Definitely! That is my life dream! I am only trying to take one national team at a time, though, so for now it is the U20. Hopefully I can progress to the U23 and finally the senior team."
CalBears.com: What else have you been doing this summer?
Morgan: "In between two camps, my mom and I flew to London to visit my sister, who is currently living there. We then flew to Barcelona, Spain, which is currently my favorite place I have visited".