Alex Morgan Talks World Cup, Wedding Planning, And Yoga On The Road

United States' forward Alex Morgan stands before an international friendly soccer match against Mexico at RFK Stadium Tuesday
United States' forward Alex Morgan stands before an international friendly soccer match against Mexico at RFK Stadium Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Alex Morgan is everywhere: from winning Olympic gold with the U.S. women's soccer team to beaming on your box of Cocoa Pebbles to making the New York Times' bestsellers list to posing for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue.

Just days after scoring twice in an international friendly against France, we found her in Miami Beach talking to kids about staying active and healthy, part of a program with Olympic sponsors McDonald's and Coca Cola. She'll also read them a section of her latest book "Kicks: Sabotage Season," part of a three-book series aimed at young girls. Then it's back to Oregon with the Portland Thorns of the National Women's Soccer League, before training begins in earnest for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada. "I'm really happy with where our team is right now," she says of the U.S., who aim to win their first World Cup since 1999.

Oh yeah, and Morgan's also planning a wedding to Servando Carrasco of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo. Clearly, America's star forward is back at full speed after being sidelined for months with a left ankle injury.

You're here talking to kids, and you've just put out your third book geared toward young girls. What about working with kids directly is the most fun for you?
It's the most fulfilling part about what I do. When I was younger and wanted to be a professional soccer player, I didn't know what that meant -- I thought it just meant playing soccer every day. There's really so much more to that. There's those young girls that I once was, looking up to Mia Hamm, Christine Lilly, all those players, and I know how much of an effect they had on me. Knowing that, I feel like I'm in a position where I can really help be a positive influence in girls' lives. I put out the books because I don't think there's enough for girls' soccer out there. I don't think there's enough for girls' sports, period. It's important to take on that responsibility and try to be a positive influence, impact them in a good way, and let them know that if they do want to become a women's professional soccer player, or [become a professional] in women's sports when they grow up, they can achieve that dream.

When you were that age, was there somebody that gave you good advice that you always remembered?
My dad has been to every soccer game that I've played in, both at the amateur level and at the professional level, and he always had great things to say whether we won or we lost, whether I felt great or not so great. I am where I am today because of my parents and their support, because my dad really encouraged me and because he felt like I was deserving of the stepping stones that I took to get where I am.

You obviously don't get a whole lot of down time, between your club play, the national team, and events like this. What do you do to recharge?
I really love to do yoga. Sometimes I forget about myself, forget about what I need and the calmness that I need at times. Yoga helps me just calm down and think about where I am in my life and the fact that I'm only 25 years old and that I still have so much of my life to live. I also love reading, and I love just being with my family. Most of the time when I see them, it's because I have a soccer game -- they're on vacation while I'm playing soccer, so when I actually get to relax with them, it's the best kind of rehab and therapy for me.

Is yoga something you do alone in a hotel room, or are you able to find classes on the road?
I always try to find a class, wherever it is. And on the national team, we have a massage therapist who's actually a certified yoga instructor, so they know how important it is for us. And whatever city I'm in, I think you can always take an hour out of your day to give yourself some time.

There's an endless media debate about the U.S. as a soccer nation -- whether it could be, how much of one is it? What do you think we do right, and what would you love to see improve?
I think there's good support for MLS and NWSL; I think it could always be better. We see so many more fans this World Cup than previous World Cups, but that doesn't always translate into the MLS, that doesn't always translate to soccer here in the U.S. The World Cup comes around once every four years; it's not like the Super Bowl, it's not like the World Series. I love the fact that people are coming together and celebrating the World Cup together, because that's really what soccer's all about: it's celebrating all different cultures, all different languages into one sport. That's really why I love the sport, but I think there's a long ways to go for the U.S. to become a soccer country. You see glimpses of it, but I wouldn't necessarily say that this is a soccer country.

Speaking of the men's World Cup, what's been your favorite match so far?
The Brazil-Chile game in the round of 16 was stressful, amazing. Beautiful soccer was played in that game. I had so much fun as a fan watching that game.

I really do believe that the U.S. men's team has a great team going into the World Cup. A lot of people doubted them, but I felt from day one they were getting out of their bracket. I even made my own bracket and had them coming out, and now that they face Belgium I think they have a great opportunity to make it to the quarters. I'm really proud of our guys, because the better that they do the more fans I think the U.S. will gain in MLS and with women's soccer, the NWSL. I think they're really taking hold of soccer and doing great things with it.

If you had to play a game with Kyle Beckerman's hair or Tim Howard's hair...?
Kyle Beckerman's hair. I think it's awesome. And although I love Tim Howard, I don't think the bald look looks good on me.

You have A LOT going on. What's the most stressful part of planning a wedding?
Probably trying to take on too much on my own. My fiancé knows me really well and he knows that although I don't want to do everything, I want everything to be done my way. So with that in mind, I need to let go of the reins a little. My sister has helped me so much, my fiancé wants to help me a lot more. I need to give up trying to make it exactly how I want it and know that my first job is playing soccer and that wedding planning is fun, not stressful!

At this time next year, the women's World Cup will be underway in Canada. Obviously qualification still has to happen, but at what point do you get nervous?
I don't think nervous would be the right word, but I always have butterflies before each game. Leading up to the World Cup we have a sendoff series just like the men did. We'll have those games and that'll make it really feel real, like it's around the corner. I don't think that it'll feel completely real until we're at the venue of our first game. But preparation starts now. We were one of the last teams to qualify [for the 2011 World Cup]; we had to go to Italy to qualify. So we're not taking it lightly this time.

How's the ankle?
The ankle feels really good. I don't feel it at all anymore, so moving forward I'm not thinking about my injury, I'm thinking about how I can be my best self for World Cup.



PHOTOS: Alex Morgan