Seattle Reign FC midfielder Jess Fishlock, an original with the club since its launch in 2013, will be joining the powerhouse club Lyon (Olympique Lyonnais) on loan this NWSL offseason. The club announced the move Monday morning; Fishlock left Seattle to join the French club on Sunday evening, where she hopes to help propel them to their fourth straight UEFA Champions League final.
While hearing her name tied to another club is unnerving, Reign FC fans shouldn’t worry. The 31-year-old midfielder’s contract and heart remains with Seattle, and she’s expected to rejoin the team sometime in May — depending on how far Lyon progresses in Champions League play. As she confirmed herself to Sounder at Heart over the weekend, there’s still plenty of unfinished business for this Seattle club.
“I absolutely have every intention to return to the Reign. I have thoroughly enjoyed the season. I can’t wait to be back and working under Vlatko and really push on to get to where we want to next season, which is ultimately to win this thing,” Fishlock told Sounder at Heart. She was also quick to praise Seattle Reign ownership for being so supportive and helping make this loan happen so quickly.
“Everything went super fast after the semifinal,” Fishlock said about the loan move. She spoke to Lyon briefly when they were in the U.S. for the International Champions Cup in July, but they had both missed the transfer window and talks subsided quickly. When the semifinal match against Portland didn’t go the way Fishlock and the club wanted, Lyon reached out again to see if they could make something work.
At Lyon, Fishlock joins one of the most decorated clubs in women’s soccer and will play with a roster of global superstars, including England’s Lucy Bronze and Izzy Christiansen, French players Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, and Eugenie Le Sommer, German playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan, Norway’s Ada Hegerberg, Japanese midfielder Saki Kumagai, Netherlands speedster Shanice van de Sanden, and Canadian defender Kadiesha Buchanan. Yeah, the team is loaded.
Fishlock follows in the footsteps of other NWSL players, including Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian, who had stints with Lyon. Megan Rapinoe also played there before joining the Reign mid-season in 2013. In 2017, Morgan played there for six months before returning to the Orlando Pride in June. During her time with Lyon, the team won The Treble — the league title, the French Cup, and a Champions League title. Brian struggled to overcome injuries and cut her time short in France to return to the NWSL to play for the Chicago Red Stars.
This isn’t the first time the Reign midfielder found another home during the long NWSL offseason. In fact, Fishlock has joined another team on loan during all six of Seattle Reign FC’s breaks. She was off to Glasgow City and then Melbourne Victory in 2013, winning a W-League title with the Victory.
After the 2014 season, where the Reign made it to their first-ever NWSL Championship match, Fishlock joined Frankfurt in Germany. She remained with them through April, helping Frankfurt advance through Champions League play. The club didn’t lose once during her loan spell, and while she left early to re-join the Reign before the 2015 NWSL season, Frankfurt managed to win the Champions League trophy that year.
For the past three years, Fishlock has traveled to Australia to play with Melbourne City — on occasion taking on the extra role of assistant coach or even head coach. Alongside a number of Reign FC teammates, Fishlock and Melbourne City won back-to-back-to-back W-League titles. Last season, she scored in the championship match and was named player of the match.
So why Lyon and not the W-League again? For Fishlock, it’s a chance to continue to grow her game and focus on the technical side of the sport — a style more seen in Europe than in the U.S. or Australian leagues, which play a similar style of athletic, physical soccer.
“There is so much that you can get out of playing in Europe and in a Champions League. Wherever you go in the world, wherever you play, the style of play is different,” Fishlock said. “I’m looking forward to playing in a different place, to playing a different type of football. It’s good for me to keep changing things up a little, to get a refresh.”
While nobody would have begrudged Fishlock if she took it easy this offseason after a grueling year with Melbourne City, Seattle Reign, and Wales pushing for a World Cup spot, the pull of a decorated club like Lyon was too much to say no to.
“When the opportunity comes along to play for the best team in Europe, by far, you just kind of have to look and reevaluate, and say, ‘This has come along for a reason, so I’m going to try to make this work’,” Fishlock said before confirming that a break this offseason was an option she was heavily considering.
Despite a seasoned career that has given Fishlock plenty of accolades and awards, she continues to focus on how she can get better. “I don’t want to just keep doing the same thing. I don’t want to get stale. I want to keep pushing myself, keep challenging myself, and going to Lyon right now and playing with these types of players in definitely going to do that.”
With the word “retirement” being thrown around by Fishlock more than once this year in interviews, fans were rightfully nervous about what this offseason could mean for the Welsh midfielder who has won their hearts. Fortunately, she’s not ready to hang up the boots in Seattle just yet, and we are already hearing rumblings that the majority of the core of the squad that took Reign FC back to the playoffs in 2018 will return next year.
Fishlock, who was honored this season for surpassing 100 matches played with Reign FC — where she’s scored 26 goals and notched 17 assists — believes that connections to teams like Lyon and City Football Group can only be a good thing for the future of Reign FC.
“The fact that Seattle can be linked to such great clubs around the world like Lyon ... it’s such a great thing for Seattle,” Fishlock concluded before emphasizing once again how special this season was in Seattle and how excited she is to return to the Emerald City.
As the long, long NWSL offseason begins, Fishlock and Lyon kick off their Champions League matches this month. Here’s hoping she can return to Seattle with another trophy.