Alex Morgan's medal

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Forward Alex Morgan helped defeat Japan at the Olympics this summer.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 10 Interview issue. Subscribe today!

LIZZIE HALDANE: How will new national team coach Tom Sermanni differ from Pia Sundhage?
ALEX MORGAN: Tom Sermanni has had success with the Australian national team [guiding the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the past two World Cups], and he has coached in the U.S. [Women's United Soccer Association], but I think he's in a difficult position, coming to a team that has been doing really well and replacing a coach who was so respected. Pia was great for us. I'm so thankful to have had her as my coach because she gave me my first cap and helped me grow as a player. But I'm really looking forward to playing for Tom and seeing the differences between him and Pia. I just hope he comes into this knowing there are a lot of strong personalities on this team. I hope he's willing to manage those personalities, as well as willing to bring some younger players up into the mix so that they can get comfortable at this level.

HALDANE: How important is gender when it comes to coaching a women's team?
MORGAN: I don't think gender matters. I've had both female and male coaches and have had different but good experiences with both.

HALDANE: Are there any up-and-coming players you're looking forward to playing with?
MORGAN: Two college players, Kristie Mewis [a midfielder for the U.S. Under-23 national team] and Christine Nairn [a midfielder for the U23 squad], have played with the team the past couple of years. I've also been hearing about Morgan Brian from the University of Virginia [who led the U.S. to a title in the FIFA U20 women's World Cup]. I've been watching a lot of college games lately and keeping an eye on our youth national teams. I'm trying to look out for the younger players because it's necessary that Tom includes those players and helps them get comfortable at this level. It's a huge jump from college or a youth team to the full national team.

HALDANE: Besides winning the gold medal in London, what was your favorite part of the Olympics?
MORGAN: Taking a tour at Old Trafford was probably my favorite nonathletic Olympic moment. We got to take a private walk through the museum and all around the stadium. After that, I'd probably say going to the men's basketball gold medal game. But a third would be walking into the closing ceremonies. We didn't get to attend the opening ceremonies [the U.S. opened play in Scotland], so it was such an amazing experience when we all walked into the stadium as Team USA.

HALDANE: How accurate was the Sex in the Olympic Village story?
MORGAN: I read the story, but we only spent 48 hours there, so it's hard to tell. But I'd have to say that the Olympic Village is overrated based on what athletes and people have told us. Some events finished earlier, so those athletes had a lot more free time to party. But at least for us it wasn't as crazy as people hyped it up to be. I will say that after we won the gold medal match, we had fun.

HALDANE: How has your life changed since you became a celebrity?
MORGAN: My life has become really busy. I've been given opportunities to meet people, to do things and to go to great events that maybe a year and a half ago I wouldn't have been able to. But I wouldn't say I'm a celebrity. What I really appreciate is the people who come up and say, "Thank you for representing our country." They thank us for getting the job done on the field and just walk away without expecting anything back. It's really cool when people appreciate the hard work we've put in our entire lives.

HALDANE: Does U.S. women's pro soccer have a future in the U.S.?
MORGAN: Women's soccer definitely has a future in the States. Because the WUSA and WPS [Women's Professional Soccer league] didn't survive, there are obviously things that need to change. There needs to be more flexibility for the national team players--the amount of days we're in residency, allowing us to play out of the country or elsewhere here in the U.S.--so we're playing consistently with a team rather than having a lot of breaks. As a professional soccer player, I need to get touches on the ball every day, and obviously it's a lot easier to do that with a team than to motivate yourself to do it by yourself. I hope there is a league next year that does well and draws large crowds. But it's not just going to start at the top; it's going to have to build on itself like every other league has.

It's great that U.S. Soccer has stepped up and shown its commitment to and support of the league. But I don't think that national team players should be the entire core of the league. It should be a relegation-type league where you have a W-League [second division] and a professional league. If you do well in the W-League, you get bumped up to the pro league, but if you don't do well, you get bumped down. It makes it more competitive. I also think the quality of coaches makes a difference -- and that comes with job stability. If coaches feel they'll have a stable job within this new league, then more of them will want to join it. But a lot of coaches have very stable jobs and a good income with their college programs and don't necessarily want to leave their families and their college cities for a league that's just starting up and not as stable. The first two years are not going to be easy, but if it becomes more stable, then it will be easier to continue this league.

HALDANE: Where do you keep your gold medal?
MORGAN: I store it on my nightstand so that nobody steals it.

HALDANE: What has been your biggest indulgence?
MORGAN: I recently bought myself diamond earrings--a carat each.

HALDANE: What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
MORGAN: A cold beer ... probably a pale ale.

HALDANE: What's the biggest risk you've ever taken?
MORGAN: Probably committing to [Berkeley] because Cal was not a powerhouse for women's soccer. It was not in the top five or even the top 10, and knowing that I wanted to play professional soccer after college made going to Cal a big risk at first. But I got what I wanted out of my college experience, and I'm very happy about my decision.

HALDANE: What's your biggest regret?
MORGAN: I don't really have many regrets. I did miss a lot of the events in the days leading up to my sister's wedding because I was at a U17 camp. There were moments like that growing up when I felt like I focused too much on soccer. But that's probably the reason I am where I am today.

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