Cal's Alex Morgan leaving NWSL for Europe, aims to be world’s best player


Cal's Alex Morgan leaving NWSL for Europe, aims to be world’s best player

With the lure of Champions League football proving too strong to resist, United States forward Alex Morgan is joining European champion Lyon in a move she hopes will help her become the world's best player.

Lyon announced on Tuesday that Morgan is arriving from Orlando Pride on a six-month deal, with an option for her to play a further season.

The 27-year-old Morgan wants to make the most of her career as she enters her peak years.

"I hope that this change will help push my game to another level," she said. "I want to be the best player in the United States . the best player in the world."

Morgan has made 120 appearances for the U.S. women's team and scored 73 goals, winning the Olympic gold medal in 2012 and the World Cup last year in Canada.

But she has never sampled European club football's intense rivalries, and this was a chance to good to miss, especially considering three-time European champion Lyon is among the best teams around.

"Training with these incredible athletes each day, and learning a unique style of play, is exactly what I need," Morgan said in a long letter on The Players Tribune website. "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."

Lyon is in second place in the league this season, three points behind unbeaten Paris Saint-Germain. A 1-0 defeat to PSG on Saturday was Lyon's first league loss in more than two years.

Morgan will form what looks on paper like a devastating attacking partnership with France striker Eugenie Le Sommer, who has 16 goals in 12 games this season and 186 overall since joining Lyon in 2010.

Morgan explained further on The Players Tribune that she made the decision during "a belated honeymoon that I recently took with my husband, Servando, in Europe." After "a few weeks of deliberation" Morgan said the decision to join Lyon became evident.

"Lyon is a team that's world-renowned for excellence, with a roster that includes many of the greatest players in the world. In fact, Lyon won all three possible titles last season: Champions League, French League and the Coupe de France," she wrote. "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."

Long-serving Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has overseen considerable success with both the men's and women's teams.

The men won seven straight French titles from 2002-2008 while the women have won the league 14 times.

"Alex Morgan's arrival demonstrates Lyon's will to invest in the highest level, starting with the women," Aulas wrote in a Tweet.

The women's squad has 26 players, all of them internationals, representing France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S.

Morgan starts playing next month and will return to play for the Pride after Lyon's season ends in June.

"I'm committed to Orlando. Just as I'm committed 100 percent to the National Team," she said. "Those things won't change, but right now I need to follow my heart."

Morgan and other players from the U.S. national team are allocated to the National Women's Soccer League teams by the U.S. Soccer Federation, which pays their salaries. The players' labor contract expires Dec. 31, leaving either side in position to call for a work stoppage.

Alleging wage discrimination, Morgan and four other U.S. national team players filed a complaint in April with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the USSF.

Her move to club football in Europe will have a short-term effect on the Pride.

"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," said Phil Rawlins, president of Orlando City SC, the MLS club affiliated with the Pride.

"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."

Morgan is used to playing at the highest level of the game.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, she scored a dramatic winner against Canada in the semifinals. A year earlier, she scored in the 2011 World Cup final, which the U.S. lost to Japan on penalty kicks.

A star in the NWSL, Morgan previously played for Western New York Flash and Portland Thorns. She was named U.S. female soccer athlete of the year in 2012.

Lyon's first league game following the winter break is away to Guingamp on Jan. 15, although she could make her debut in a French Cup game the week before at Evian.

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

The San Jose Earthquakes are hoping they've caught lighting in a bottle twice. 

Last season, Nick Lima emerged as one of the game's best young defenders. And on Day 1 of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, San Jose went to the fullback well with the selection of Paul Marie from Florida International University with the 12th pick in the first round. 

"Paul has the profile we were looking for from the very beginning heading into the combine and the draft," said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "We were looking for a fullback. We see in him an offensive-minded outside back that has technical qualities and the ability to read the game."

Experts pegged Marie, 22, as a late-first, early-second-round selection. But a pair of solid days during the MLS Combine boosted the Frenchman's stock -- especially on San Jose's board. According to Fioranelli, Marie was No. 4 on their draft board -- having him there at No. 12 must have felt like a steal for Fioranelli and staff. 

"We especially liked that he has character and in the interview that we had with him, he convinced us," Fioranelli said. "The entire coaching staff are really excited about having him part of the club."

San Jose not only lucked out that their fourth-best footballer was there at 12, but with American parents, he does not take up an international slot for San Jose -- the team is still three players over their allotment.

In an interview after his selection with Jason Davis of Sirius XM radio, Marie told San Jose fans what they can expect from the defender. 

"They can expect Paul Marie to give it all for San Jose," he said. 

The Quakes were in need of defensive depth going in to Day 1 of the SuperDraft. In Marie, they have a fullback who can stretch the pitch from the right side and be a backup to Lima. 

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Not too long ago, former UNLV standout Danny Musovski was the darling of the mock draft. 

And rightfully so -- with 47 career goals in 88 appearances with the Runnin' Rebels, Musovski possesses a knack and nose for the goal that no MLS team can have enough of and thus an early selection in the MLS SuperDraft was expected. 

So when you examine the San Jose Earthquakes' first day of the 2018 SuperDraft, their selection of Musovski can be viewed one of two ways: it's either the steal/ best value of Day 1 at No. 30 or you're skeptical of why the 22-year-old who many experts had going in the top 10 fell all the way down the Quakes in the second round. 

Judging by the way those who know Musovski talk about him, it sounds like Earthquakes fans can lean toward the former. 

"Danny is a striker that we actually saw as one of the biggest prospects considering that over four years he had scored around 50 goals," said San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "He is a player that we already knew because he was inside of our ecosystem. We are excited to have him at the club."

Fioranelli is talking about Musovski's time with San Jose Premier Developement League affiliate, Burlingame Dragons FC, in 2016 where the forward made a huge impact on a squad that made the PDL postseason fresh off his 12-goal year with UNLV. 

"Quakes got a steal by drafting Danny at No. 30," said his former Dragons FC head coach Eric Bucchere -- who spent last season as an assistant with San Jose affiliate Reno 1868 and founded Path2Pro Soccer thereafter. 

"He's an MLS-ready player with pace, a good soccer brain and knack for scoring goals," Bucchere said, adding that yes, perhaps Musovski's work during the combine wasn't steller, but those two days shouldn't overshadow the striker's upside. "Sometimes it's obvious why a player is good at scoring goals and sometimes you have to watch a player during the course of an entire season to really appreciate what makes him so good." 

There are some experts who point to Chris Wondolowski as a comporable skillset and physical build to Musovski -- a player who no-doubt can find the back of the net but won't blow you away with his athleticism. 

"The last point is that Danny showed more enthusiasm than any other player to join the organization, which was a determining factor for him to join us," Fioranelli said. 

Musovski was a four-year starter and two-time All-America selection for UNLV and the first Rebel to be selected in the Super Draft since Bradley Kamdem in 2016. During his senior season in 2017, he scored 15 goals (good for fourth in the nation) and added six assists in 16 appearances, earning Third Team All-America, First Team All-West Region, First Team All-Western Athletic Conference and Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Time, and training camp, will tell if Musovski will make an immediate impact with the main club. But he'll definitely have a spot with Reno 1868, the Quakes United Soccer League affiliate known for scoring goals in (record-setting) bunches.