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Soccer star Alex Morgan leads a model life

U.S. soccer star has everything going for her after gold-medal effort, from TV appearances to a series of books she will write.

September 16, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • The two faces of U.S. national soccer player Alex Morgan: during an international game and backstage at the Just Dance Fashion Show by Tumbler and Tipsy.
The two faces of U.S. national soccer player Alex Morgan: during an international… (Koji Watanabe / Getty Images…)

Everybody, it seems, wants something from Alex Morgan. Or perhaps that should say everything, because Morgan's popularity hasn't been limited to one species since she won an Olympic gold medal in soccer last month.

Thursday night a family of persistent raccoons came scratching at the door of her Manhattan Beach apartment. And that comes on the stilettoed heels of her first walk down the runway in a New York fashion show, ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange — on 9/11, no less — a photo shoot with Nike and TV appearances on the "Today" show and "Live!" with Kelly Ripa.

"It's all just unbelievable," says her father, Mike Morgan. "You just have to sit back and go 'Omigod!'

"I'm not known any more as Mike Morgan. I'm Alex Morgan's dad. That's how I'm introduced."

His daughter, meanwhile, is frequently introduced as the future of U.S. soccer. Because if Mia Hamm was the past and Abby Wambach the present of the American national team, the next generation will almost certainly belong to Morgan.

"She's fast, strong. You would say that she's the all-around package, much like what Mia was in terms of she's very marketable, she's pretty, she's smart, she's athletic," Wambach says. "And then also she's got the accolades to back it up.

"So I would like to think that, yeah, there is a passing of the torch going on between Alex and I."

Here's another sign that torch is being passed: When U.S. Soccer set up a post-Olympic victory tour for the women's team, the first game was played in Wambach's hometown of Rochester, N.Y. The second stop comes Sunday at the Home Depot Center, where Morgan, who is from Diamond Bar, will play for the first time in front of more than 100 friends and family members.

Then there's the fact that Sunday's game will mark Morgan's 50th international cap, and in less than three seasons, she already has 31 goals, including two in the World Cup and three in the Olympic Games. Hamm needed seven years and 67 games to score her 31st goal.

"My style [was] more of a slasher type, being able to use my speed and acceleration to get behind players," Hamm says. "Alex has that ability, but she's also so strong that she's able to just kind of hold off players, probably more than I ever was. You see her score a lot of goals by getting the ball served into the box and players bouncing off of her."

But, Hamm says, speaking from experience, soccer talent alone isn't enough to sell the sport to a U.S. public that tends to look up every three or four years for the Olympics or the World Cup. And though Morgan is just 23 and less than two years out of college at California, Hamm says she already has a firm grasp of how to market the game — and herself.

"I've talked to her a couple of times, but more so just listening and reading some of her interviews, it sounds like she's got a tremendous head on her shoulders," Hamm says. "Unfortunately, in sports you don't get to do this for the rest of your life. And the window is so small it's not only what you do during that time, but how you do it is extremely important.

"She's doing a tremendous job."

After a morning spent house-hunting in the South Bay with teammates Kelley O'Hara and Tobin Heath, Morgan takes a seat on the patio of a trendy restaurant a block from the beach, listens to Hamm's praise and does her best not to blush behind her makeup.

Then she returns the favor, saying she's just following the trail Hamm and others have blazed for her.

"It's a team sport," she says. "It can't just be me, me, me. It's 18 players, 21 players. We all have to be on the same page every day. Now it's our responsibility to help grow the game."

Next the new face of U.S. soccer confesses she also wears makeup on the pitch, though she confines that to mascara.

"A girl always has her one thing, whether it's lip balm or mascara or blush. Mine is just mascara," says Morgan, who wore body paint and nothing else in last winter's Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She wore a bit more — if just barely so — during New York's Fashion Week, taking a turn on the runway in a bright Michael Kuluva creation.

If some athletes have been forced to choose between being Messi or Madonna, Morgan insists you can be both.

"I could be a model for one night. But I'm also a professional soccer player and I like to be taken seriously on the field," she says. "People know there's more than one side to me. You can have beauty and brains and athletic ability. You can switch up the cleats for heels once in a while. You can do both."

That's probably one of the points Morgan will make in the three books she's agreed to write for Simon & Schuster. The partly autobiographical series, titled "The Kicks," will be aimed at adolescent girls.

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