Alex Morgan and Krystal Dunn venture into the suspense of motherhood at the World Cup

Auckland, New Zealand. Charlie Carrasco was approaching bedtime when Alex Morgan made his way to the podium halfway across the world. It was Tuesday afternoon for Morgan here at the Women’s World Cup, two days before the big group stage game against the Netherlands. But for her 3-year-old daughter in California, it was the end of another day without her mom. Morgan’s phone flashed notifications during the 15-minute press conference. When it ended, before the journalists could gather for a more intimate meeting with the press, Morgan asked for a little privacy.

“Charlie is going to bed, so I’ll just say goodnight to her,” Morgan told us.

She ran to the corner of the room, but returned 30 seconds later. “I might have missed it, I don’t know,” she said.

Such are the inconveniences of motherhood at the World Cup.

Back home in California, Morgan has entered the rhythm of a soccer mom since giving birth to Charlie in 2020. But the World Cup, she said last month, is “uncharted territory.” She flew to New Zealand on 9 July; she and the US women’s team plan to stay until August 20. She decided that five-plus weeks would be too long a disruption to a three-year-old’s routine, so when Morgan’s husband, parents, and extended family flew to Oakland, Charlie stayed with the nanny.

But her suitcases are packed. Her flight is scheduled. “She’ll be here in a couple of days,” Morgan said. And she’s coming to Oakland for an experience that Morgan, her fellow player moms, and the US Football Federation have spent kilowatts of brainpower optimizing.

At training camps in the US, players, their children, and guardians stay in adjacent rooms at the team’s hotel. But at the World Championships they are separated. US Soccer players and staff are housed in a base camp hotel in downtown Oakland. Their friends and family live in another hotel five blocks away and have little to no access to the team hotel or players except at certain times.

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

Crystal Dunn’s son, Marcel, is already here in Oakland, and Dunn said last week she could spend “a few hours a day” with him. He, too, has access to the team hotel, specifically Dunn’s room, which Nike has equipped with some toys and a “playset” for Marseille, Dunn said.

The days of the players, however, are already filled with meetings, training and all kinds of pampering. Add a kid to the World Cup equation, and “suddenly you ask how much free time? No free time,” Dunn said.

So there is a choice, a mind-blowing choice. “You know, there may be days when I have to choose treatment over family,” Dunn explained. “I think this is just the right balance that I need to find.

“Obviously,” she added, “this is the first time I’ve encountered this. But I think it’s ok. As a mom, I learned to just say, “I need to take care of myself.” And sometimes that means my child is in the wrong hands.”

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

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

And then, after a few minutes of questions from Charlie, she asked about the Dutch centre-backs.

She talked about matches, about tactics, about dragging defenders and disorganizing an organized Dutch unit.

She then went to a separate TV interview, and Charlie must have been put to bed by now.

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