Four years ago, Alex Morgan was just ascending into her stardom, having helped the U.S. through its World Cup qualifying playoff ahead of her first major senior tournament. Come Germany 2011, she had wrestled the starting striker’s job away from Amy Rodriguez. The rest is history; at least, as much as history can be written about a 25-year-old.
Now, a qualifying cycle later, Morgan has entered the prime of her career, one that’s seen her international goal rate slow while her club game has been hounded by reoccurring ankle problems. Even amid these obstacles, the Portland Thorns striker has continued to collect accolades. In 2013, she was part of the team that won the inaugural NWSL title — her second championship at club level. And despite failing to duplicate her 28 goals for the U.S. in 2012, Morgan has scored 11 times in 19 appearances over the last two years.
But on-field performance is only part of the reason why she’s on this list. Over the last four years, Morgan has gone from America’s new sweetheart to a person who has taken advantage of her fame, be that via a litany of endorsements, ventures like her own children’s book, or through an online personality that dares to be more feisty than most communication mangers would advise. While some may see her off-field presence in terms of Sports Illustrated shoots or her relationship with Houston Dynamo midfielder Servando Carrasco, Morgan’s personality continues to show a refreshingly complex picture. She’s defied the patronizing expectations thrust on so many young female athletes, being less Lionel Messi, more Daniel Sturridge.
For some, that may be a disappointment, but whomever may bristle at Morgan daring to be personable, they’re in the minority. Though Abby Wambach is the de facto spokeswoman of the national team, Alex Morgan remains its face. She’s also its personality, it’s future, and — ankle be kind — will be a major part of its present once the World Cup arrives in 2015.
Until then, her 1.58 million Twitter followers will be waiting. Her over 650,000 followers on Instagram will be, too. The 1.41 million users along for the ride on Facebook will hope that the nagging injuries that have slowed her down over the last two years won’t make their way to Canada. Regardless, Alex Morgan will remain the biggest star in U.S. soccer.
The Fake numbers
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