A tough year for women’s soccer in the United States saved one final twist of the tail for the dying days of 2016 with the news that Alex Morgan has agreed to a six-month deal to play for French giants Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon).
Morgan has made it clear that she intends to return to Orlando when Lyon’s season finishes in May or early June but the move means that the Pride will be without its top player and main box office attraction when the club opens the season in the new stadium it will share with Orlando SC.
Morgan took to the Players Tribune site to explain the reasoning behind her move saying that, “everyone on OL plays for their respective national teams, so the training there is just phenomenal. You have to bring your best every day if you want to earn a starting spot.”
“I’m in my prime right now. But my prime isn’t going to last forever.
I’m not looking to coast. Just going through the motions isn’t something I’ll ever be comfortable with.”
Morgan also told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl that she is looking to develop aspects of her game that she feels need improvement, saying, “I think my strengths are getting in behind the back line and getting that first-time shot or just a touch and a shot.”
“Evolving as a player, I want to be able to receive the ball in front of the back line and be able to turn and face up a defender and make those decisions as I’m running at defenders. I think this will be a great opportunity for me to evolve that part of my game. I think also just cleaning up my finishing inside that 12-yard area is always something I’m looking to improve on.”
“On the national level or Champions League or the French league, you’re not going to get that many opportunities, so I want to be totally prepared for that. And another part of my game which I feel like I’ve done better at throughout the years but still feel I can use a lot of improvement on is my aerial presence.”
All very admirable but it is worth asking, at 27 years of age and having already played in two World Cups and as many Olympics, how much growth can be reasonably be expected in Morgan’s game at this point?
Morgan has also struggled with injuries in recent seasons, failing to reach the dizzying heights of her breakthrough years of 2011 and 2012, when at 21 and 22 years old, Morgan was unstoppable in a World Cup and an Olympics.
When Morgan notched 28 goals and 21 assists in 2012 while sparking the U.S. to Gold in London, it seemed there was no ceiling for the California speedster.
Then came the injuries and Orlando might be quietly concerned that Morgan can come back from her European adventure capable of contributing to the Pride’s second season.
Of course, Morgan may be protecting herself in case a contract cannot be reached between U.S. Soccer and the national team players. Keep in mind that U.S. Soccer pays the salaries, both with the nats and the NWSL of Morgan and her U.S. WNT teammates.
And one final thing. What if Morgan elects to continue with Lyon? Her contract calls for a six-month stay with the Champions League winners but Morgan reportedly has an option for next season.
Morgan has said she will be back, the question may yet turn out to be, for how long?