As you may have heard by now, I’ve decided to head to France and join the Olympique Lyonnais football club for the conclusion of their 2016–17 season.
This was not an easy decision for me. But after a few weeks of deliberation, I finally made this decision during a belated honeymoon that I recently took with my husband, Servando, in Europe.
I will be leaving Servando and my family (and our dog, Blue) behind, and I know from years of experience that phone calls and FaceTime are not a fun way to stay connected. I also know that our U.S. Women’s National Team is in a critical place at the moment, as we fight for what’s fair in a new CBA, and that it will be more difficult for me to help lead from abroad. I know, too, that The Pride and our incredible fans will be opening a state-of-the-art new stadium without me, and that I will miss the early part of the season. All of those things made it very difficult for me to make this decision.
So why Lyon … and why now?
First, 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. 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.
They recently opened a new stadium that holds 60,000 people, and the training facility is right next door — perfect grass fields, covered fields for when it rains, beautiful locker rooms, everything you need, really, to create an environment for success. And, of course, again, the players on the team are among the best footballers in the world. 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.
As for the timing of my move, I’ve agreed to play in France starting next month and to return home to Orlando and play for the Pride after Lyon’s season ends in June. In addition, I plan to be available for all U.S. National Team games.
My motivation is pretty simple. 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.
This move will not be easy, though. Orlando has been so good to my family and me. Servando and I have set down roots here. It’s our home. So I’ve struggled with knowing that I’ll need to be gone for a bit, because of how much I love my team, this city, the entire community.
It’s so wonderful playing in a town that you feel connected to, and for a club that really invests in its women’s side. I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I’m committed to Orlando. Just as I’m committed 100% to the National Team.
Those things won’t change, but right now I need to follow my heart.
To get to this level, you have to have a great deal of inner drive. And sometimes that drive just takes over. When it does, you need to go with it, or risk losing the very thing that helped to make you great.
Alex Menendez/AP Images
I’m 27 years old.
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.
I have big goals.
I want to be the best player in the United States … the best player in the world.
So, as much as I love living and training and playing in Orlando, I’ve decided to take a huge risk and bet on myself.
I want my fans to know how much I love and appreciate them, and that this move, at the end of the day, means I’m going to come back better than ever. It means I’m going to come back knowing that I took a risk in life in order to become the very best soccer player I can be.
So I just want to ask for your continued support and encouragement. It truly means the world to me, and it always helps motivate me to get better. I promise you, it’s something that I will never take for granted.
I’ll see you this summer. Wish me luck!