Alex Morgan’s time at the Rio Olympics didn’t quite go as planned. The U.S. women’s soccer team -- who won gold in the last three Olympic Games -- was knocked out of medal contention in the quarter-finals, suffering a stunning upset to Sweden.
But the 27-year-old striker is looking forward, setting her sights on the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where the USWNT will be defending their championship title, as well as the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. She took some time in Rio to speak with ET about moving on from the disappointing loss and inspiring girls in sports around the world:
ET: That was such a heartbreaking loss. How do you personally, and as a team leader, start to pick up and move on from that disappointment and how has your partnership with the Always #LikeAGirl campaign helped you through it?
Alex Morgan: Usually it takes some time and some distraction, but eventually just facing it head-on is the best thing to do. That’s why I love the #LikeAGirl campaign with Always because it encourages girls to keep playing – even in the face of obstacles or losses like I experienced here in Rio. I hope girls see my journey and know that they can do amazing things and feel empowered to continue playing #LikeAGirl.
The U.S. women were playing against their former coach, Pia Sundhage. Do you think that added an extra mental wrinkle to the game, or is the Swedish team just that good?
I respect Pia on a very high level as a coach, but I think we were indifferent about that. It was more about playing our game and our style, and unfortunately, Sweden played a great tactical game and won.
We know you are already looking ahead to the World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. What is the statement you hope to make about the women’s national team in the years leading up to those competitions?
I know we’ll bounce back from it. I think it would be great to defend our World Cup title and that’s our next major competition, so it’s just about bouncing back and proving that we are the best in the world.
You’ve been very vocal about the pay gap between the men’s and women’s teams, and while this was a disappointing Olympic exit, the U.S. men’s team didn’t even qualify for Rio. Are you ready to keep fighting for equal pay in the face of what might be even stronger backlash?
Definitely. Men’s sports versus women’s sports doesn’t matter – It should just be “sports,” because all types of people are good at different things and can be just as fierce competitors.