Alex Morgan has had a crazy, eventful year – Orange County Register

How crazy and turbulent have the last 12 months been, even by 2020 standards, for Alex Morgan?

The co-captain of the 2019 Women’s World Cup champions had a baby. She and her family survived COVID-19. She attempted to prepare for an Olympic soccer tournament that wasn’t played in 2020 (and whether there will be a 2021 Tokyo Olympics still seems uncertain), and now acknowledges she might have been rushing it.

She had an opportunity to play in England in the fall, going from the NWSL’s Orlando Pride to Tottenham Hotspur on loan, and scored two goals in the four matches she played for Spurs’ women’s side before opting to return to the U.S.

And when she met the media on a teleconference last week in advance of the SheBelieves Cup tournament, which begins this week in Orlando, the 31-year-old Morgan sounded at turns energetic, wistful, just this side of stir crazy, passionate about being a mom, and positively bubbly over a new Taylor Swift re-release.

Hey, these past 12 months have played tricks with everyone’s emotions.

Morgan, Diamond Bar’s own, was not on the national team roster when it appeared in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament last February and the SheBelieves Cup last March. But she was around the team for the semifinals and final of the Olympic qualifier in Carson, baby bump and all.

She gave birth to daughter Charlie Elena Carrasco on May 7 and started working toward a July return shortly afterward, which she says now was probably a little hasty.

“It would have been an incredible challenge,” said Morgan, who has 107 career goals in 170 matches with the national team. “I definitely wanted to do my best to be on the field at Tokyo in 2020. But I knew that, honestly, some of it really wasn’t up to me. It was up to just how my body was going to recover.

“So not having to go through that and being able to elongate my recovery and everything from the birth, I mean, there’s no other way to put it, (it) was very helpful. And I’m very happy that I was able to get an extra amount of time and be able to still compete for a spot in the Olympics.”

How important is that Olympic participation, assuming it takes place? For the U.S. women, plenty. They’ve won four World Cups, including the last two, and three Olympic gold medals. But no country has ever won the World Cup and Olympic competitions in the same cycle, and while it wouldn’t be in back-to-back years it’s still a chance to make history.

So 2020 was far more of a competitive desert than Morgan expected or wanted. When she returned to the national team for a friendly against the Netherlands in November, it had been 509 days since she’d last worn a U.S. uniform, in the 2019 World Cup final. In fact, since Aug. 21, 2019 – her last NWSL match with Orlando – Morgan has played just six matches, five with Tottenham Hotspur and that Thanksgiving weekend friendly for the U.S.

Her stint in England to regain form and fitness was shorter than expected – she returned home in late December – but also better than she expected. The team was struggling, and in fact changed managers while she was there, but was 2-0-2 in the games she played and won both in which she scored goals.

“To be honest, if someone would have asked me nine months or a year ago if I would have considered playing in Europe I would have said no,” she said.

“I really loved it more than I expected. I got to know the girls a lot more than I thought, and the decision (whether to stay or go) ended up being a lot harder than I expected.”

But it was a strain, and she ultimately decided it was better to return to the U.S., get back into camp with the national team and prepare for a full NWSL season with Orlando.

But there was one more complication. After her return home, mom, dad and baby all came down with COVID-19 over Christmas. Morgan said it took “three weeks or so” to get past it.

“We were together for, you know, 10, 12, 14 days, just recovering, sleeping as much as we could,” she said. “I was fighting off a little bit of fever for quite a few days.”

Morgan has discovered a couple of things over the past 12 months. For one thing, everybody in her sport has dealt with inconsistent workloads in one way or another thanks to the pandemic, and maybe the break helped extend careers in some cases or re-stoked passion for the sport in others. In her case, it was likely both.

“If there is a silver lining in this, it’s that all of our bodies could have probably used a break that we would have never gotten until we retired if not for this pandemic,” she said. “For me, I feel like it did re-spark that passion for the game. … I feel like I’m making the most of it when I go to training. I don’t want to give 90 percent. I want to make sure I give 100 percent every time I go to training because that’s pulling me away from Charlie.”

The other thing she discovered?

“It’s just so fun to have Charlie around and for her to get used to having a lot of people around, and different people holding her, playing with her, and her to be just around all these incredible women that are so strong, in such an intense environment,” Morgan said. “She just kind of brightens up the room, and I think it lightens everyone up.

“Just having seen this before with (teammates) Kate Markgraf, Christie Rampone, Syd (Leroux), Amy Rodriguez, so many others, it’s really fun to now be in that position. However, my life has definitely made a 180. When we have an afternoon gap between trainings or whatever it is, it’s not like, ‘Oh, let me lay down and watch TV and take a nap, whether it’s 45 minutes or three hours. I’m hanging out with Charlie the whole time.

“I’m on her schedule and I absolutely love it.”

jalexander@scng.com

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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