On Aug. 29, Alex Morgan posted on Instagram that she was driving to Orlando with her new daughter, Charlie, to resume training with the Pride ahead of the NWSL Fall Series. Barely two weeks later, she and Charlie were on a plane to London to join Tottenham Hotspur through December, with an option to stay for longer.
The change of course stunned women’s soccer circles in both the U.S. and England. On Friday, Morgan opened up about how surprised she was, too.
“It was quite unexpected,” Morgan said on a Zoom call that drew dozens of reporters from around the world. “I thought that after having my daughter, I wouldn’t really experience playing internationally on club level.”
It feels almost cliché now to say the pandemic changed things, but of course it did for Morgan as much as anyone else. And she was pretty blunt about it.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with our playing situation and uncertainty with the NWSL,” she said. “I knew that after pregnancy I needed to get as many games as possible leading into 2021 [and] playing at the Olympics. Hopefully they’ll move forward next year.”
A few minutes later, Morgan detailed the timeline of how it all happened.
When she arrived in Orlando, she learned she had to train individually for a week before being able to practice with her teammates. Then, as the NWSL’s Fall Series approached, more questions arose, specifically about the logistics of road games.
Morgan said there were doubts about "if we would have enough players to travel, or if players would feel comfortable enough traveling, if I would feel comfortable enough traveling, with Charlie or without Charlie.”
It didn’t help that the NWSL didn’t require that teams flying to games do so by charters. Orlando flew charter to its Sept. 19 game at North Carolina but flew commercial to its Sept. 26 game at Houston. Pride forward Kristen Edmonds opted out of the latter game and specifically cited “travel arrangements.”
Morgan also realized that “even if I would play two to four games, I would finish in mid-October and then possibly not play consistent football until February or March of next year.”
So she talked it out with her husband, Servando Carrasco, who plays for Inter Miami’s USL team in Fort Lauderdale.
“It wasn’t my intention to go to Orlando and then decide to play for another club in another country," Morgan said. “But I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to get back to full fitness, get back to playing consistent matches, get back to feeling like myself and even surpassing that.”
There was a problem: the transfer window was to close in four days. Was that enough time to get a deal done?
Well, it helps to have Alex Morgan’s star power and connections. When the word got out that she was considering a move, the line of suitors formed fast.
“By Tuesday, I had a contract drafted up by Spurs,” Morgan said.
Except she still wasn’t quite ready to sign it.
“I was 50-50, just wasn’t sure if I was ready to make the move with my daughter [and] pull my family apart from each other,” she said. “I believe it was probably Wednesday night, Thursday morning, before [the deadline] Thursday at midnight when I decided to sign the contract and come to England. So I was in Orlando for about one to two weeks at that point, and decided to go back and pack my bags and come here."
Why Spurs specifically? The allure of a big-brand London club helped. So did a significant past experience Morgan had with the club: the U.S. women’s team’s pre-World Cup training camp at Tottenham’s practice facility last summer.
“Seeing the progress that the women’s team has made and the facilities that we share with the men, it was a no-brainer for me to become a part of this organization, and help grow it as well on the women’s side," Morgan said.
It also mattered that two of Morgan’s Pride teammates, Australian defender Alanna Kennedy and Canadian defender Shelina Zadorsky, joined Spurs earlier this summer on loan from the Pride. Morgan consulted them about a potential move.
There have been more big assists since Morgan got to London, especially from Carrasco’s mother. She’s helping to care for Charlie while Alex is at practice.
“I’ve been quite impressed with how Charlie has been adapting,” Morgan said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time on FaceTime with Servando and [are] hopeful that he’ll come over soon. But I’m very lucky to have my mother-in-law here to help me.”
Morgan admitted she’s still a ways from full fitness, and she hasn’t played in a game since Aug. 21 of last year. But she’s almost ready now, and could play Sunday against Manchester City.
“No one wants to see me in a game more than myself,” she said. “If I play, I won’t be starting. … We still have one more day to look at me in training and see if I feel ready to go.”
Coincidentally, Morgan could debut across the field from fellow American stars Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. A week later, Spurs host Manchester United, led by Tobin Heath and Christen Press.
Seeing them all on foreign soil will be a remarkable sight for the players as much as their fans.
“All of them somehow landed in Manchester. I’m not sure how that happened and why I didn’t get the memo,” Morgan said. “I guess that’s the place to be. Maybe I should have told them London is the place to be. But I’m really happy for them and all their choices."
Morgan promised there will be one thing you won’t see.
“You won’t be seeing the tea celebration,” she said with a laugh, referring to her famous gesture after scoring the winning goal in the United States' World Cup semifinal defeat of England last summer.
Not least, she added, because she’s already seen it in practice. One of her teammates did it after scoring a penalty kick against Morgan’s side in a scrimmage.
“You guys can do a tea celebration,” she said to her new teammates, “but I’ll take a step back.”