By CAITLIN MURRAY
Megan Rapinoe is coming home.
Rapinoe has ended her contract with Olympique Lyon in France’s top league and will join Seattle Reign FC for the start of the 2014 season, the club announced Monday.
“I’ve decided to leave Lyon. I feel like I can’t really pinpoint one specific reason,” Rapinoe said during an interview recorded in France before the announcement. “I think it’s more of an overall happiness and wellness thing. And I’m so grateful for the time I’ve had here. I’ve been challenged in ways I’ve never been challenged before.”
Rapinoe will report to the Reign’s pre-season camp on March 10, months earlier than initially planned.
The U.S. Women’s National Team midfielder had joined the National Women’s Soccer League halfway through the season last year due to commitments with Lyon. In Rapinoe’s first game with the club, they broke a nine-game losing streak, proving her value as a winger.
“Megan is a brilliant player and a critical part of our squad,” said coach Laura Harvey in a statement Monday. “We’re very happy that she’ll be in Seattle for the entire 2014 season and beyond.”
Rapinoe’s decision to play in France’s Feminine Division 1 last year just as most of her USWNT teammates were flocking to the NWSL was a high-profile one. She was paid handsomely compared to her NWSL colleagues, earning more than $14,000 per month in France.
But the parity of the NWSL wasn’t anywhere to be found. To wit, Lyon finally ended an 87-game unbeaten streak in their league on Saturday, falling 0-1 to Paris Saint-Germain.
With the NWSL’s top teams finishing the regular season in a three-way tie last year, there’s no question that one player like Rapinoe can play a vital role for a team. Rapinoe had played 28 games for Lyon, tallying eight goals, and despite playing just 12 games with the Reign, she led the team in goals with five.
“I feel like there’s some really exciting things going on at home that I want to be a part of,” Rapinoe said. “The team shaping up in Seattle is awesome.”
Seattle has spent its off-season undergoing a massive makeover, bringing in rising USWNT star Sydney Leroux and Arsenal Ladies’ top scorer Kim Little, among others.
The USWNT has a batch of players who will report late to the NWSL as they finish up overseas commitments – Christen Press, Meghan Klingenberg and Whitney Engen are all expected to finish a Champion’s League run with Tyreso FF in Sweden while Tobin Heath will finish out PSG’s season.
U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati reportedly said last week that USWNT players were required to play in the NWSL as part of their contracts with the federation, which operates the league. The USWNT is gearing up for World Cup qualifiers later this year and coach Tom Sermanni has made it clear he prefers to have players stateside.
But the decision to come back early is, in some ways, as simple as missing the Pacific Northwest, Rapinoe said.
“It will just be nice to be home for a while and lay some roots,” she said.
What do you think of Rapinoe leaving France’s league for the NWSL? What does her decision mean for the USWNT and the NWSL? Would you like to see the USWNT’s other abroad players join the NWSL earlier?
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