OL Reign and the rest of the NWSL are just days away from the bulk of their players reporting to pre-season training camp and truly kicking off the 2021 season, which will see the league play a second edition of the NWSL Challenge Cup in April before a full return of the NWSL regular season, currently expected to kick off in mid-May.
The news of roster transactions has quieted down as of late for OL Reign, but fans have been waiting in anticipation about who from the mothership club, Olympique Lyonnais, will be coming to the US in the not-too-distant future. Back in December, amid having to respond to minority-share owner Tony Parker’s comments in an interview about a possible future relocation of OL Reign, the club stated that two players from OL would be joining the club for the 2021 season.
When Ride of the Valkyries recently spoke with OL Reign President Bill Predmore, he couldn’t yet announce which OL players might be coming, but he did clarify that any such loan wouldn’t occur until after the end of the 2020-21 Division 1 Feminine season and UEFA Women’s Champions League tournament, currently scheduled to finish in mid-May.
Predmore further noted that the team expects to have the necessary international slots available for these moves — one of the five international slots held by the team for 2021 is already open, and the team anticipates Quinn will be allocated by Canada Soccer for the coming season, freeing another. Two more international spots could soon be open, with Predmore revealing that midfielder Rosie White and fullback Celia Jimenez Delgado are each in the final stages of obtaining green cards.
Today at a press conference where OL unveiled their newest signing, USWNT forward/midfielder Catarina Macario, OL Groupe president Jean-Michel Aulas gave very strong hints about which OL players are likely to be coming to Tacoma later this year.
Jean-Michel Aulas : "Des joueuses (de l'@OLfeminin ) iront l'année prochaine (à @OLReign ) pour aller gagner le titre aux USA." Peut-être Bouhaddi, Marozsan ou Renard selon le président lyonnais. Pas les trois, mais sans doute deux d'entre elles.— Syanie Dalmat (@SyaneDalmat) January 25, 2021
Roughly translated, Aulas suggests that goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán, and/or defender Wendie Renard could come on loan to OL Reign this season. He clarified that it likely would not be all three, but probably two of them. He further said that OL expects to sign all three to new long-term deals, and each contract will have a clause giving the player an option to spend a year with the Reign.
Ride of the Valkyries has separately confirmed with a source close to OL that the two players most likely to be coming are Marozsán and Bouhaddi. The pair were all-but-confirmed to join Utah Royals FC in early 2020, but the moves were axed at the last minute due to the Covid-19 pandemic, much like everything else that resembled a normal sports season and operations.
While the duo would be brand new to both the club and league, they already have some familiar faces to help them get settled into their new environment— Megan Rapinoe spent parts of 2013 and 2014 with Bouhaddi in Lyon, and Jess Fishlock had a loan spell with German side 1. FFC Frankfurt after the 2014 NWSL season where she played next to Marozsán, in addition to her time with the pair at OL during their 2018-19 campaign. OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti also briefly coached Bouhaddi when the goalkeeper first signed with Lyon in 2009.
Will these additions make OL Reign title contenders?
It’s okay to say we don’t know right now and won’t know until they play. For all of the success they have achieved at Lyon, playing in the NWSL is still a big adjustment. Their individual talent should still be able to flourish in the US, but this is where having a team with more than a few league veterans as they build out the youth movement is invaluable. Marozsán and Bouhaddi would undoubtedly seek the advice of veterans like Fishlock, Rapinoe, Lauren Barnes, Allie Long, Kristen McNabb, and Steph Cox to get comfortable.
Their arrival will be the first instance of the connection between OL Reign and Lyon having players come to Cheney Stadium, and obviously its success will be measured by what the team achieves on the field for this season and beyond. At the end of the day, two marquee names in the women’s game are coming to the NWSL and it’s cause for excitement.