The news much speculated on and wished for in the NWSL is now official — German international midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán and French international goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi are finally coming to the league. OL Reign announced today that the midfielder and goalkeeper will be joining the club in early June, on loan for the remainder of the 2021 NWSL season.
When OL Groupe acquired the Reign in December 2019, it seemed inevitable that talent from Olympique Lyonnais would come to the Pacific Northwest. Today’s announcement marks the first time that such a move has occurred, and it took a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make it happen.
“I must first thank Jean-Michel, Vincent [Ponsot], Tony [Parker], and Jean Luc [Vasseur] for their commitment, flexibility, and tireless efforts to make this loan happen. Sarah and Dzsenifer are incredible talents who will make an immediate impact on our team,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore in a club release. “It has been a long process to see this day come to fruition, but one that was well worth the wait. Over the past months we made several trades, loans, and other roster moves to free up the needed cap space and roster spots, while working to acquire the international slots, allocation money, and the other assets required to make these signings possible. We are pleased this process is now complete and are excited to see the players on the pitch when they arrive in June.”
As much of a big adventure and change coming to the US will be for both, there will be some reunions among the OL Reign roster when they do arrive this summer. Bouhaddi has been with Lyon since 2009 and played for head coach Farid Benstiti in his final year managing the club. Bouhaddi also played with Megan Rapinoe in 2013, before Rapinoe returned to the US in the NWSL’s inaugural season of play. Marozsán, meanwhile, played twice alongside Jess Fishlock — first at 1. FFC Frankfurt, when Fishlock did a loan spell at the German club after the 2014 NWSL season, and more recently when Fishlock went on loan to Lyon after the 2018 NWSL season.
“They will both add a huge amount of quality and experience to our squad and to the league as a whole, and they will also bring a different type of culture and a winning mentality that I think our group can thrive off. They are used to winning. They will want to win. They know how to win. That in a locker room is priceless. I am especially looking forward to the link up with Maro, who I have played with twice before. She is truly incredible,” said Fishlock in the club’s announcement.
More recently, Sofia Huerta, Bethany Balcer, and Celia Jiménez Delgado spent this past NWSL off-season training in Lyon, so it’s safe to say there’s a good amount of familiar faces for Marozsán and Bouhaddi to go to as part of settling into a new locker room and environment off the field.
When the duo arrive in June, OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti will cherish working with Bouhaddi once again.
“I have a long history with Sarah and am very much looking forward to working with her again. She is an incredible goalkeeper—a modern goalkeeper. Smart, great with the ball at her feet, and such a strong leader on the field. She will add so much to the team,” Benstiti said in the club’s announcement.
Similarly, coaching Marozsán will be a dream come true for Benstiti.
“And Dzsenifer, what can I say? She is an incredible talent that I have long admired. When I was in Paris, I wanted her to join so badly, but she instead went to Lyon. But perhaps it was fate—I have always wanted the chance to work with her, and now I finally will have the opportunity. She is a player who changes games with her presence. Like all players—and coaches—coming to the NWSL she will need time to adapt, but once she does, I know she will be incredible. You will see. Incredible.”
Get to know Dzsenifer Marozsán
So who is Dzsenifer Marozsán? Short answer: one of the best players in the world.
The Guardian’s 2020 edition of the top 100 women’s footballers in the world ranked Marozsán fifth, and with good reason, as the German international has been the tip of the spear in Lyon’s midfield attack for the past five years. If all goes well with adjusting to the rock-and-roll physicality of the NWSL, her service in OL Reign’s midfield could be key to unlocking the potential of their forward line, and Marozsán also has no hesitation in firing the ball from distance when needed.
Being hailed as one of the world’s best players year after year is no easy task, nor is maintaining your starting spot on a team as loaded as Lyon, but in Marozsán’s case to do so after nearly having to retire makes it all the more remarkable. In 2018, Marozsan suffered a pulmonary embolism which nearly ended her career. Fortunately, that wasn’t the result and she has been able to resume playing at a world class level, which will be on display soon in Tacoma.
“I am always eager to improve myself, and in my opinion, I can learn a lot of the US style of the game and the mentality. I also want to win everything we can in this season,” Marozsán said in the club’s announcement.
Get to know Sarah Bouhaddi
You could build a suit of armor out of all of the hardware Bouhaddi has won as one of the game’s best goalkeepers. The reigning The Best FIFA Goalkeeper will be the presumptive starter when she arrives in June, and while at times it’s an adventure having Bouhaddi in goal for your team, she is more than ready for the chaotic energy of the NWSL. In fact, Bouhaddi had a cup of coffee going up against an NWSL offense when she played in a 2019 International Champions Cup match against the North Carolina Courage.
“Coming to OL Reign is a great opportunity that Olympique Lyonnais offers me. I thank them for the chance, and I also take this opportunity to thank OL Reign for welcoming me. Since I was a little child, I have watched the US national team. They are way ahead of what is happening in Europe. The American league and the fans have made me dream about playing in the US, but I didn’t come just to have a dream—I came to learn, to discover a new experience, and above all, to win as many matches as possible and win the championship,” Bouhaddi said in the club’s announcement.
Lyon’s UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign came to an end yesterday, losing to rivals Paris Saint-Germain on away goals. France’s domestic league, Division 1 Féminine, is scheduled to end on June 5, while the remaining schedule of their cup competition, Coupe de France Féminine, has yet to be finalized on an end date. The pair are expected to arrive in Tacoma soon after those competitions end, and neither France nor Germany are participants in the Olympic soccer tournament so they will not miss time for that event.
The duo will likely be featured across the remainder of Lyon’s competitions, and with today’s announcement, OL Reign fans will have a vested interest in watching their performances knowing that in just a few months, two of the game’s most accomplished impact players will be playing at Cheney Stadium.