USWNT-er Alex Morgan announced earlier today that she will be plying her craft in France for the next six months.
The Orlando Pride are allowing their star forward to go out on a half-season loan to Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, by far the strongest women’s club team in France and one of the best in Europe. She’ll be in Lyon through the end of the season, which could run as late as early June depending on how Lyon do in the Women’s Champions League. The loan means she’ll miss the first two months or so of the NWSL season.
The move comes after a very public courtship by Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas that seemed at times less like conducting football business and more like Twitter stalking. Despire Aulas’ boundary transgressions, Morgan was impressed with Lyon’s facilities and the competitive culture at the club. She comes into the side as a crucial finalizing piece of a blistering Galacticos-esque setup that boasts some of the strongest internationals in the game, including Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsán, Sweden’s Caroline Seger, Japan’s Saki Kumagai, and a sizable chunk of the French national team.
In making this decision, Morgan is looking to turn the page on a difficult 2016 marked by injuries and a dismal performance at the Rio Olympics. She chose Lyon, who won the treble last season, for because they are “a team that’s world-renowned for excellence” and will push her game to a new level. “They are committed to growing women’s soccer and provide the women with first-class facilities and an unparalleled training environment on par with the men’s team,” Morgan said in her announcement.
Morgan reiterated the competitive culture at Lyon in comments to Sports Illustrated and the appeal that holds at the current stage of her career.
”Every training is competitive. Going into a competitive environment like that where I need to show my best self every single day is going to definitely challenge me and make me prove my best every single day. I like that challenge. I also want to prove that I’m one of the best if not the best in the world at my position, and I think there’s no better way than to go in and play with the best.”
Morgan reiterated that she loves the Pride and that her family has started putting down roots in Orlando. She’s looking forward to returning in June, but that she can’t pass up an opportunity like this.
“Those things won’t change, but right now I need to follow my heart. To get to this level, you have to have a great deal of inner drive. And sometimes that drive just takes over. When it does, you need to go with it, or risk losing the very thing that helped to make you great.”
Morgan insisted her National Team availability won’t change. She did mention that the dispute over equal pay, and the backlash to her and other WNT-ers push for equality, had an influence on her decision to play abroad. The current CBA, which affects USWNT player contracts for club and country, expires on December 31st and Morgan isn’t sure how negotiations will pan out.
”We’re having a lot of team discussions. Obviously with the end of the year coming close now, we’re on conference calls regularly with the team in discussions of that. We want the deal done as soon as possible, but we also want the right deal, so we’re willing to wait for that. I’m not sure a strike or a lockout is in the future. I think both parties are really working together to get this deal done and get it done in a way that we’re both happy. I also had to look at the fact that in the next three months we would maybe be playing two to three weeks total with the national team, and then we’d have to find training on our own elsewhere wherever we’re stationed. So for me, with that uncertainty of the CBA come 2017 and … having to find my own training during the months of January and February, I thought this was the right decision.”
Morgan’s clearly doing what she feels is best for her, and that she’s found the right balance between pursuing her career ambitions and supporting her family. That should be the main takeaway here. Instead, men on the internet will smugly claim that harassing women online gets results. Don’t be that guy.