The Orlando soccer community has been holding its breath over the last several days, with rumors and reports that Orlando Pride captain and U.S. Women’s National Team star Alex Morgan is in France this week to visit with Olympique Lyonnais.
The club has not been able to confirm reports of Morgan’s visit to France this week, but overseas reports not only had the forward visiting the club, but even meeting with the medical staff.
This confirms Alex Morgan had a medical with OL. https://t.co/ekIzo5WWgF— Sylvain Jamet (@S_Jamet) December 1, 2016
Normally, players don’t meet with medical staffs unless a deal is in the works, but that’s what we don’t know in this situation.
Morgan, who joined the Pride in a trade from the Portland Thorns last off-season, is under contract with the United States Soccer Federation throughout the end of the year, and would be eligible to leave the Pride and the NWSL when her contract runs out. Morgan is also one of the main players heavily speaking out against U.S. Soccer in the USWNT’s fight for fair compensation and treatment, somewhat furthering speculation that she could spurn the USSF and NWSL with the move to Europe.
Lyon owner Jean-Michel Aulas has been after Morgan for a while now, consistently attempting to court her through social media. Just this month, Aulas promised a big signing, saying, “I can assure you that there will be an American in Lyon next season.” Although Aulas said in an interview that his courting of Morgan via Twitter was just a giant troll job.
Translation of JM Aulas interview where he talks about tweeting at Alex Morgan. pic.twitter.com/4Rm5lihZLo— Caitlin Buckley (@caitlinbuckley2) December 2, 2016
Morgan wouldn’t be the first big American star to play for Lyon, either. Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, and Aly Wagner have all suited up for the French club in the past. Wages are another key talking point in the rumors, with salaries for women in Europe running much higher than those in the NWSL. With Lyon, Morgan could wind up making almost triple her salary with the USSF. Who’s to say she wouldn’t be interested in that significant raise?
In Orlando, Morgan was able to rejoin her husband Servando Carrasco, who currently plays for Orlando City and is in negotiations for a new contract with the club for 2017, according to the Orlando Sentinel, and also bought a house in Orlando with Carrasco this year.
Now that, of course, doesn’t mean Morgan wouldn’t again move elsewhere from her husband to change clubs.
For the Pride, any potential move would drastically affect the club heading into Year 2. Morgan is not only the face of the club, but arguably the team’s best player — not to mention the huge amount of assets that the Orlando gave to Portland just to acquire her last off-season. In exchange for Morgan and Kaylyn Kyle, who was also a part of the deal, the Pride traded to Portland the rights to their first Expansion Draft selection (star fullback Meghan Klingenberg), the first-round selection (No. 1 overall) in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, and one international roster spot for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Should Morgan end up leaving after just one year, that trade — as ridiculous as it already was — would look bad for the Pride.
Like, Kaká with Orlando City, Morgan was a huge marketing piece for the Pride coming into the first season, in addition to being a key piece for Head Coach Tom Sermanni to build his squad around. While the Pride had a relatively successful first season in terms of the attendance and season tickets, losing Morgan — arguably the most popular female soccer player in the United States, if not the world — would hurt the club’s ability to sell tickets heading into the new stadium in 2017.
Now, there’s also speculation that this move could be a short-term thing, as Morgan could wind up playing for Lyon on loan through the European season, which ends in May, as Lyon pushes for another trophy. In this event, Morgan would still miss the first month of the season, which still isn’t great for the Pride, but better than losing her altogether.