Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn venture into the unknowns of World Cup motherhood


AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Bedtime was near for Charlie Carrasco when Alex Morgan took a podium halfway around the world. It was Tuesday afternoon for Morgan here at the Women’s World Cup, two days before a big group stage game against the Netherlands. But for her three-year-old daughter in California, it was the end of another day without a mom. Notifications flashed on Morgan’s phone during a 15-minute press conference. At the end, before the journalists could gather for a more confidential media session, Morgan requested a brief moment of privacy.

“Charlie’s going to bed soon, so I’ll just bid her goodnight,” Morgan informed us.

She fled to a corner of the room but returned 30 seconds later. “Maybe I missed her, I don’t know,” she said.

Such are the inconveniences of a World Cup motherhood.

Back home in California, Morgan has settled into the soccer mom rhythm since the birth of Charlie in 2020. But the World Cup, as she said last month, is “uncharted territory”. She flew to New Zealand on July 9; She and the US women’s national team plan to stay until August 20th. She concluded that more than five weeks would have been a little too long a break for a three-year-old. When Morgan’s husband, parents and extended family flew to Auckland, Charlie stayed with a nanny.

But their bags are packed. Your flight is scheduled. “She’s coming in a few days,” Morgan said. And she’ll be coming to Auckland for an experience that Morgan, her fellow player moms and the US Football Association spent kilowatts of brain power to hone.

USWNT co-captain Alex Morgan answered questions at a news conference Tuesday. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/USSF/Getty Images)

At training camps in the USA, players, their children and carers stay in adjoining rooms in the team hotel. But at world championships they are separated. Players and US football staff are staying at a base camp hotel in downtown Auckland. Their friends and family are five blocks away at another hotel and mostly don’t have access to the team hotel or the players except at certain times.

However, US Soccer made an exception for players with young children. Morgan said that Charlie “can come to the hotel and have dinner with me, right?” [be] in my room and relax with me. She is allowed to come into our environment whenever she wants.”

Crystal Dunn’s son Marcel is already here in Auckland and Dunn said last week she could be with him “a couple of hours a day”. He too has access to the team hotel and specifically to Dunn’s room – which Nike has stocked with some toys and a “playset” for Marcel, Dunn said.

However, the players’ days are already packed with meetings, training and all sorts of grooming. When you add another kid to the World Cup equation, you ask yourself, “All of a sudden you’re like, ‘What free time?’ There’s no free time,” Dunn said.

So there are choices, mind-blowing choices. “You know, there can be days when I have to prioritize treatment over family,” Dunn explained. “I think that’s exactly the balance I need to find.

“Obviously,” she added, “I’m dealing with this for the first time.” But I think it’s okay. As a mother, I’ve learned to simply say, “I have to take care of myself.” And sometimes that means leaving my child in the hands of others.”

Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn must balance motherhood and training at the 2023 World Cup. (Photo by Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF).

Charlie has been out of Morgan’s hands for over two weeks now. Of course, they use FaceTime whenever possible. and Charlie asks to see “Foxy,” her favorite USWNT aunt, Emily Fox. But she also asks when she will see Mama in person. “Every day,” Morgan said here on Tuesday, “I miss her so much.”

Your arrival will bring joy, but it will also bring challenges of its own. “When she’s here, I know I’m playing two roles, as a mother and as a soccer player,” Morgan said. When asked if it was harder to focus when Charlie was here or 6,500 miles away, Morgan wasn’t sure. “It’s give and take,” Morgan said. “I don’t think there is a definite answer to that.”

And then, after a few minutes of asking questions, Charlie asked a question about Dutch centre-backs.

She talked about encounters, about tactics, about tugging defenders and disorganizing an organized Dutch unit.

She then headed off for a separate television interview, and Charlie was certainly in bed by that point.

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