The Lyon rumors are true, and Orlando Pride captain Alex Morgan is going to France. The Pride announced at 8 a.m. this morning that the USWNT and NWSL star will miss the start of the Pride’s 2017 campaign, as she’ll be playing abroad for French power Olympique Lyonnais through the conclusion of the team’s 2016-17 season.
“We are obviously disappointed that Alex will miss the beginning of the Pride season but understand her wishes to play in Europe and we look forward to her rejoining her teammates after Lyon’s season,” Orlando City SC Founder and President Phil Rawlins said in a club press release. “This in no way affects our plans or commitment to growing Orlando Pride and we will continue providing the team the best available players, training resources and staff to become a championship contender in the NWSL and a leader in women’s professional soccer.”
“My decision to play for Lyon was not an easy one, but it is an important step in my evolution as a player,” Morgan said in the club release. “I want to thank the Pride and our incredible fans and community for their continued support. I look forward to returning home this summer as a better player and leader to join my teammates at our new stadium as we compete for a NWSL championship.”
All USWNT players are annually allocated to NWSL by the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), which is currently negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the USWNT Players Association.
What does this mean for the Pride? Well, first of all, the team will be without its best attacking option at the start of the NWSL season. The club’s first game in 2016 came on April 17, so potentially Morgan could miss only a minimal number of games. However, missing all of pre-season camp may hinder the development of team chemistry, on-field cohesion, and/or timing.
Morgan’s absence through camp and perhaps a few games could also jeopardize her captaincy with the club. Certainly someone else will be tasked with leading the Pride through camp and into the NWSL season. Would it be fair to remove the armband from that player and return it to Morgan upon her return? Obviously, that’s an issue for Tom Sermanni and his players to decide.
The biggest concern Sermanni may have is whether the extra wear and tear on Morgan’s 27-year-old body will be a problem that the Pride will have to deal with. Morgan has been injury prone in recent years and a season in Lyon – as would a season anywhere – could put her at risk for the 2017 NWSL campaign.
On the other hand, by the time she returns from France, perhaps the Pride will have a few more strike partners to go along with their international star forward.
We might have the same situation next year as well: