Here’s the reality: Alex Morgan is way more powerful and popular than her husband, Servando Carrasco.
Alex Morgan is a World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist with multiple club championships and a recognizable face from endorsements, book deals, and television appearances.
Servando Carrasco is a journeyman Major League Soccer player who has been bounced between four teams in four years.
That’s just the reality of their situation.
Here’s another reality: women are, on the whole, expected to be subservient to their husbands’ career needs. Just think about the gendered stereotypes that permeate our notions of the workplace. Isn’t it weird when a wife outranks her husband? Or a wife makes more money than her husband? Or when a wife prioritizes her career needs over her husband’s? But it’s never weird when a man has advanced over his wife at work, or moves the whole family for his job, or makes more than her (indeed, it’s apparently a source of anxiety to many men if they make less than their wives).
So as the National Women’s Soccer League announced not only its expansion team, the Orlando Pride, but also that marquee player Alex Morgan would be traded from the Portland Thorns to the Pride, articles began rolling in about Morgan finally being reunited with her husband, who is currently a player for Orlando City SC. Just google the trade and you’ll see virtually every single article mentions that yes, Carrasco plays for Orlando, and maybe Morgan wielded her considerable influence to push for a trade to the Sunshine State.
It’s not just the Orlando trade, either. Every single time Carrasco has moved teams, the questions about whether Morgan would move to be with him followed. Would Morgan go to the Houston Dash while Carrasco was with the Dynamo? What about FCKC while he was at Sporting? It started when Carrasco was in Seattle, with the Sounders, and now it’s finally ended with Orlando. But why not also ask Carrasco if he would try to work a trade to be close to Morgan while she spent the last three seasons in Portland?
Factually, yes, Morgan has way more ability to decide where she plays. The confluence of her power and Orlando needing to fill their roster has created a solution for the problem of being separated from her spouse. So on a personal level, maybe that’s what Morgan and her husband decided. She can basically go where she wants, so she’ll do the moving.
But when we discuss Morgan’s trade, we need to be careful about adding to the prevailing assumptions about who should do what in a marriage based on certain gender roles. Nix the assumption that of course a wife would follow her husband and go from there. Stop asking Morgan if she wants to be with her husband, or if you do, at least ask Carrasco the question, too, with similar frequency. You can ask the question while at the same time being cognizant of why you’re asking. Is it because of the assumption that a wife’s career can be shifted or derailed for her husband’s, or is it because, realistically, Morgan has the power to make it happen?
Contextualizing, this move is important to avoid falling into the assumption trap. Morgan isn’t the only one who constantly gets asked about following her husband. Look at Sydney Leroux, who has been trying to make a trade to Kansas City happen for a while so that she can be with her husband, Sporting’s Dom Dwyer. Who don’t more people ask if Dwyer will try to finagle a trade to Leroux’s part of the country? He has more room to maneuver than Carrasco, based on his performance for Sporting. Why wouldn’t you also expect him to try to be near Leroux while she was in Seattle?
Or when trades come up, why isn’t there more speculation these spouses will try to go where their wives are, instead of speculation based mostly on the abilities and needs of teams in the market? Why isn’t that same courtesy of basing decisions on professional considerations afforded female players like Morgan and Leroux?
It’s because that’s been the social norm in America for decades. Husbands are the main breadwinners, so wives follow husbands. Nothing weird about that.
There’s a lot of context to the Morgan situation to suggest this is just the most practical solution for them at the moment, regardless of who is “supposed” to follow whom. We just have to be careful to understand that context and not make any gendered assumptions when we discuss married players.