The 2019 FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup kicked off less than a week ago, and in the short time since, the U.S. Women’s National Team has done a number on the record books.
Most notably, the American women crushed their first game of the tournament on Tuesday, winning 13 to 0 against Thailand. It marked the biggest margin of victory for any World Cup game (both men’s and women’s). And during that history-making match, one U.S. player in particular—forward Alex Morgan—cemented her status as an unstoppable, goal-scoring force.
The 29-year-old co-captain netted an epic five goals during the course of the 90-minute game, tying the Women’s World Cup single-game scoring record set in 1991 by American Michelle Akers. That seriously impressive performance ranks her as the top player of the tournament so far—both in terms of goals scored (five) and number of assists (three).
“To tie Michelle Akers’ record is obviously incredible,” Morgan said post game, according to Yahoo! Sports. “I’m feeling in peak form right now. I feel great.”
As Team USA prepares for its next game in the high-stakes tournament, taking place in Paris this Sunday, June 16 against Chile, we’ve rounded up six interesting, inspiring, and perhaps unexpected facts about the squad’s star scorer.
1. She’s not sorry for that record-setting game.
Though the Americans’ performance on Tuesday was undeniably epic, not everyone agreed with their unrelenting style of play in the second half and enthusiastic celebration after each goal was scored. Critics called it unsportsmanlike in a game that was so glaringly one-sided. In post game interviews, Morgan disagreed.
“I think it’s disrespectful if we don’t show up and give our best and play our game for 90 minutes,” Morgan said, according to ESPN. “It’s disrespectful to the Thai team. And I believe they wanted us to play them straight up.” (Also, FWIW, goal differential—i.e. goals scored minus goals let in—does matter in the grand scheme of the tournament, as it serves as the first tiebreaker in a group stage.)
Morgan then defended the team’s excitement. “And for the celebrations, these are goals we have dreamt of our entire life. I mean, I’m going to celebrate Mal Pugh’s goal. I’m going to celebrate Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle [both athletes scored twice]. This is their first World Cup and I’m so proud of them. And I couldn’t have dreamt of scoring five goals in a World Cup. So it’s incredible for us all and I’m happy just ignoring those comments.”
In other words, she’s here for her teammates—not the haters.
2. She’s played a leading role in the women’s campaign for equal pay.
A little over three years ago, Morgan joined teammates Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Megan Rapinoe in filing a formal wage discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body. The complaint requested an investigation into the organization’s payment structure on the basis that the women’s team earns far less than the men’s team, despite consistently outperforming them.
In an essay penned soon after for Cosmopolitan.com, Morgan explained the impetus for her action. “We ultimately decided to file this motion for all the little girls around the world who deserve the same respect as well as the boys,” she wrote. “They deserve a voice, and if we as professional athletes don’t leverage the voices we have, we are letting them down. We will not let them down.”
Then, on International Women’s Day (March 8) 2019, Morgan and the 27 other players on the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation for allegations of gender discrimination, claiming the women are paid less and face inferior working conditions than the men. Morgan’s was the first name listed on the lawsuit.
In recognition of her efforts both on the soccer field and in the fight for equal pay, Time Magazine named Morgan ‘one of the most influential people of 2019.’
3. Morgan has a history of epic goal streaks.
This isn’t Morgan’s first rodeo—er, World Cup. She’s played in the prestigious tournament twice before, including in 2011, when, as a 22-year-old, she was the youngest on the American World Cup squad, according to U.S. Soccer. That year, she made her mark, scoring in the semi-final game against France and again in the final match versus Japan. Today, the Olympic gold medalist is “one of the most prolific goal scorers in U.S. soccer history,” per U.S. Soccer, scoring more than 100 goals for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
4. She wears jersey number 13 for a few reasons.
In what might be considered reverse superstition, the Southern California native is obsessed with the number 13. As her bio in the U.S. Women’s National Team media guide explains, apparently, she selected that number jersey because “everyone told her it was unlucky and she wanted to prove that it was her lucky number.” She also sees it as a tribute to retired American soccer star Kristine Lilly, who was her childhood role model.
5. Surprisingly, soccer wasn’t Morgan’s sole focus growing up.
Though Morgan, a multi-sport athlete in her younger years, didn’t start playing club soccer until the relatively late age of 14 (according to her website), she quickly became one of the best among the best, playing on the gold medal-winning team at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile. She also played collegiately at the University of California, Berkeley, where her 45 goals tied her for third all-time highest scorer in school history, per TeamUSA.org.
6. Oh, and she’s a best-selling author.
Add “New York Times bestselling author” to her already long list of accomplishments. To date, Morgan has published 10 (!) soccer-themed books in a middle-grade (for ages 8-12) series, The Kicks! In 2015, the content was adapted into an Amazon TV series.
According to her website, “Alex hopes her novels inspire young girls everywhere,” and “hopes that one day they might propel the next unknown to the top of the soccer world.”