Opinion: With USA forward Alex Morgan set to join Lyon on loan, what does this mean for her?

European champions Olympique Lyonnais announced the signing of USA forward Alex Morgan on Tuesday, in a move she believes will help her to become the best player in the world.

But, this certainly wasn’t a shock trade and the first anyone had heard about the possible transfer. As early as March Lyon chairman Jean-Michel Aulas expressed his desire to sign the 27-year-old - even going as far to post a series of bizarre tweets on social media – which fuelled intense speculation around Alex Morgan’s future with Orlando Pride and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Yesterday, it was announced that Aulas’ chase for the signature of one of the world’s most high-profile women’s footballers had paid off.

Morgan put pen to paper signing a half season contract with the Division One Feminine heavyweights, where she will spend the first half of 2017 before returning to the NWSL to compete for the Orlando Pride.

What will this mean for Alex Morgan and Lyon?

It was a matter of fact that Alex Morgan was not fulfilling her potential in the NWSL. With the pressure of carrying the Orlando Pride on and off the field, partnered with the on-going CBA negotiations with US Soccer and Jill Ellis’ revamp of the US Women’s National Team. A half season away from America might be a welcomed break for Alex Morgan.

And, this is certainly a major risk for the striker, but with the opportunity to take her game to the next level and less pressure to shoulder the burden of promoting women’s soccer in America, it is a chance she should grasp with both hands.

At Olympique Lyonnais, Morgan will have to consistently be at best her in training and in every match she plays, as in France she will no longer be the flagship player she was in the NWSL.

Whilst playing for both Portland Thorns and the Orlando Pride, the 27-year-old – who came third in the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year awards – was the star player. The franchise was built around the former California Golden Bear, she was the face of the team and a way to endorse sales and attendances.

At Lyon, the US striker will be just another star player amongst esteemed company. There will be no guarantee that she will walk into Gérard Prêcheur’s team unlike her time spent in the NWSL and the USWNT.

Lyon have 12 league games remaining in the D1F and a champions league quarter final match-up with Wolsfburg in March and Morgan will have to fight for her spot alongside two top players in Eugenie Le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg for the starting spot.

The quality of the European Player of The Year and the French striker to contend with in the same position with be a tough feat for the USWNT star. Prêcheur will demand quality from the start from Morgan but this will hopefully bring out the best in her to ultimately become the world’s best striker.

Whilst, the financial implications will obviously be a drawing point, the decision to leave her home and transfer to Lyon, one of the most professional women’s team in the world, relies solely on the game.

In a statement by Morgan on ‘The Players Tribune’ she expressed her reasoning for the move, “I hope that this change will help push my game to another level. I hope that training with these incredible athletes each day, and learning a unique style of play, is exactly what I need, and that it will help me find that next gear. Importantly, I will also be immersed in a soccer culture that I believe is precisely what I need at this point in my career. It has always been a dream of mine to “live” soccer and to compete in the Champions League.”

So how does it affect the other parties involved in the trade?

Orlando Pride lose their captain

There is no doubt that Orlando Pride will be the most perplexed by the transfer. The California native is their captain, a focal point of the team and the main source of goals for the NWSL’s newest expansion side.

Last year, in Orlando’s inaugural season there was clear indication that the Florida side struggled for goals. Morgan was forced in to producing rare moments of magic after becoming isolated up front with little to no service.

This was clear when you review the figures; the striker has only netted four goals in 15 appearances for the club, which was not enough to push her side up the table and most importantly a sorry tally for a striker of Morgan’s calibre.

However, whilst Morgan will relish the opportunity of competing with the world’s best, Orlando are left with the urgent need to find a replacement for their star striker. Manager, Tom Sermanni will be forced to look for a substitute for the player the Pride fought so hard to obtain last season.

With, Morgan returning prior to the conclusion of the D1F season, Orlando will look elsewhere for a striking force for the six-eight weeks without their captain. Sermanni will undoubtedly look to Kristen Edmonds - who was an unlikely star in their first season in the NWSL - to become the focal attacking threat. The 29-year-old Rutgers graduate had a storming 2016, providing six goals for the Pride and earning her first USWNT call-up to Jill Ellis’ November training camp in the process.

With Sarah Hagen only providing two goals in the last campaign and the unlikely return of Matilda’s captain Lisa De Vanna, Sermanni will certainly have look further than his current roster for a replacement for the start of the season.

After a mixed first year in the NWSL, finishing the season out in ninth place in the standings, the Pride would have been looking to build and improve in 2017 after laying the foundations in the last campaign. Unfortunately, losing the centrepiece of the team could complicate things a little.

Although, the Florida natives have recently made two important signings to strengthen their side by way of Ali Krieger and Camila Martins Pereira. 

They have bolstered their backline by adding experienced USWNT defender Krieger via a trade with the Washington Spirit. This was a much needed addition for the pride after conceding 30 goals last season, twinned with the inclusion of Kaylyn Kyle, who was played out of position at centre-half.

Brazilian defender Camila has joined the pride via discovery from Brazilian side Tiradentes, pending receipt of her visa. The 22-year-old appeared for Houston Dash during their 2015 season.

All in all there are positives to take from the Alex Morgan trade. When the striker returns to Orlando in May - they will welcome a player who will hopefully be in top form after competing with the world’s best in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

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