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Alex Morgan vs. Carli Lloyd: the European battle
by Paul Kennedy, April 19th, 2017 11:26PM
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TAGS:  alex morgan, carli lloyd, france, manchester city


As Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, longtime teammates on the U.S. national team, get set to square off in the semifinals of UEFA Women's Champions League, it should be remembered that no American has ever won the title since the tournament was adopted its current format for the 2009-10 season.

That could change as Morgan plays for Lyon, the defending champion, and Lloyd represents Manchester City, one of the most ambitious women's programs in Europe.

UEFA Women's Champions League Runners-up:
2012: Megan Rapinoe (Lyon)
2013: Gina Lewandowski (FFC Frankfurt)
2014: Christen Press (Tyreso)
2014: Whitney Engen (Tyreso)
2014: Meghan Klingenberg (Tyreso)
Note: Ali Krieger and Gina Lewandowski won the old UEFA Women's Cup with Germany's FFC Frankfurt in 2008.

First seasons.
MORGAN (Lyon). After being pursued on Twitter by Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas for much of 2016, Morgan finally agreed to join Lyon in January for the remainder of the 2016-17 season. An illness slowed her down, and it wasn't until March 18 that Morgan scored her first two league goals for OL.

She had four goals and two assists as Lyon beat third division Henin-Beaumont, 10-0, in the French Cup semifinals on Saturday to give her seven goals in two domestic cup matches. She started both legs of the Champions league quarterfinals against Wolfsburg.

LLOYD (Man. City). Lloyd signed with Manchester City in February and had a month before she played her first competitive game. City has won all five games since she arrived -- three in the English Women's Cup and the two Champions League quarterfinal matches against Denmark's Fortuna Hjorring.

Manchester City won both legs, 1-0, and Lloyd had the gamewinner in the first match in Denmark. On Monday, Lloyd started in City's 1-0 win over Liverpool before 3,459 fans at Academy Stadium to set up a date with Birmingham City in the final on May 13 at Wembley Stadium.

UEFA Women's Champions League Semifinals:
Saturday, April 22: Man. City-Lyon at Academy Stadium (9 am ET, ESPN3)
Saturday, April 29: Lyon-Man. City at Parc OL (2:45 pm ET, ESPN3)
Other semifinal: Paris SG vs. Barcelona.
MORGAN (Lyon). With a overall budget of more than $5 million and an average annual salary of almost $100,000 for its players, Lyon is the biggest club in European women's soccer. And OL has dominated French women's soccer for the last decade, winning 10 straight league titles, five straight cup titles and three Champions League titles.

Lyon's 1-0 loss to Paris St. Germain in December was its first league defeat in 62 games, dating back to January 2014. It has won its other 17 league games of the 2016-17 season by a margin of 87-5 and is poised to complete another triple.

Lyon won its third UEFA Women's Champions League title with a shootout win over Wolfsburg in the 2016 final. It won its first four games in the 2016-17 Champions League by a margin of 27-2 and split with Wolfsburg in the quarterfinals (2-0 win on the road followed by a 1-0 loss at home).

LLOYD (Man. City). Manchester City is a relative newcomer to the European women's scene, joining the top flight of English women's soccer in 2014, but it has quickly joined the elite as City Football Group makes the women's program a priority.

City won the FA Women’s Super League for the first time in 2016, two years after it entered the top flight of English women's soccer. The 10-team Women's Super League is switching to a fall-spring season so it must play a shortened spring season that begins in at the end of April and ends in June when Lloyd will return to the NWSL's Houston Dash.

City is competing in the UEFA Champions League for the first time. It beat Russia's Zvezda Perm and Denmark's Brondby and Fortuna Hjorring en route to the semifinals.

MORGAN (Lyon). Lyon features a core of the French national team -- captain Wendie Renard, Camille Abily and Eugenie Le Sommer are among 15 OL players called up in 2016 -- plus seven foreign players in addition to Morgan. Norwegian Ada Hegerberg was named the 2016 UEFA Women's Player of the Year, while Dzsenifer Marozsan is German national team captain.

Lyon also signed German international Josephine Henning and Canadian Hermann Trophy winner Kadeisha Buchanan during the January transfer window.

OL recently pulled off a coup when it re-signed Renard, free agent, to a new contract. With France set to host the 2019 Women's World Cup, there's an incentive for French players to stay at home for the next two seasons.

LLOYD (Man. City). Lloyd was Manchester City's first big signing but probably won't be the last as the City Football Group makes the women's program a priority.

Eight City players were on the England team that traveled to the United States in March for the SheBelieves Cup: goalkeeper Karen Bardsley, defenders Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Demi Stokes, midfielders Isobel Christiansen and Jill Scott and forwards Toni Duggan and Nikita Parris.

Swede Kosovare Asllani joined City from PSG and Irish star Megan Campbell signed after finishing up at Florida State a year ago.

MORGAN (Lyon). Gerard Precheur spent many years at the French federations, building up the women's national team program considered one of the most progressive in Europe. When Aulas was looking for a new coach in the summer of 2014, French international Elodie Thomis recommended Precheur whom Aulas had never met.

Precheur led it to two league-cup doubles and one Champions League title in his first two seasons. But he has already announced plans to quit at the end of the season because of differences with Aulas.

LLOYD (Man. City). Nick Cushing was only 28 when he took over as Man. City women's manager in time for its move to the FA Women’s Super League. It finished fifth in the WSL in its first season in 2014 but took took the next year after the Women's World Cup, where England finished third. It was second behind Chelsea in 2015 and won the WSL in 2016.

Cushing admits Lyon has the edge in talent and experience, but he says his players have risen to the occasion all season.

  1. Mo youknow
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 7:40 a.m.
    These women should be playing here in North America and growing the professional game here rather than going to Europe for their BS reasons.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 7:59 a.m.
    It's about the €€€ you cannot fault them for that. The one week the male players who don't even play more than 2 games for the season makes more that the top female players.. This is just part of sport evolution.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 8:02 a.m.
    Redoing sentences iPhone predictive is effed up-- It's about the €€€ you cannot fault them for that. In one week the male players who don't even play more than 2 games for the season makes more that the top female players.. This is just part of sport evolution.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 7:55 a.m.
    It will be very disappointed if this league overtakes the US women's league. Regardless Carli is queen when it comes to playoffs and finals.
  1. Quarterback TD
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 9:20 a.m.
    Life is like a double edge sword so you can cut it both way.. the men has not done anything and USSF gives them everything for doing absolutely jack.. The women gave us 3 World Cups and numerous gold olympics medals.. they have done more for USSF than USSF has done for them. Personally i think if they don't take this route women's soccer may be in jeopardy because USSF is doin a disgraceful job.
  1. Mo youknow
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 8:47 a.m.
    I know it's about the money Quarterback, but I do fault them for that. The US has done so much more for the woman's game than any other nation on earth and rather than giving back these women are doing things that actually undermine the strength of women's professional soccer in North America. They're taking their cleats and playing abroad for more money, but when they played here they negotiated with the USSF that no one in the NWSL could make more than USWNT players. So they prevented the NWSL from doing what European teams are doing by signing them - paying for big international players/names. Considering that, and their complaining out womens pay when they played a role in suppressing it, I find it difficult to respect their choices.
  1. Fire Paul Gardner Now
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 9:54 a.m.
    Mo, these women are professional athletes with a limited timeframe during which they can earn money playing soccer. I don't know the exact amount of money Alex and Carli are earning but I don't think it's fair to expect them to give up the additional money out of some feeling of loyalty to the NWSL. Or maybe it's not about the money and they just want to try playing and living somewhere new for a while. Reminds me of when people whined about Michael Bradley coming to Toronto because he owed it to American soccer to try and continue making it in Europe even though his salary was going from about $1m a year with Roma to $6m with TFC. Like any of those folks would turn down a job offer that paid them six times more!
  1. :: SilverRey ::
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 10:09 a.m.
    Up until this point I would totally agree that the US has supported and pushed the women's game to where it is right now. But I think NWSL is going to suffer the same way that MLS does - there is simply more money in the game in Europe. Both Lloyd and Morgan have said that their working conditions have improved immensely since moving overseas. Lloyd has also said, though, that she wants to improve NWSL in the long term, so I don't think they are all giving up on the domestic league.
  1. Mo youknow
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 8:49 a.m.
    meant to say "complaining about womens pay"
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 10:36 a.m.
    They will be back to NWSL this summer. Beside the money benefit, these players also benefit from playing high level soccer instead of sitting home in the long off-season here. Like what Donovan and Beckerman did in their playing time.
  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 10:36 a.m.
    Beckham! Sorry
  1. Allan Lindh
    commented on: April 20, 2017 at 1:51 p.m.
    These women, and Crystal Dunn, signing for big money in Europe may have played a part in USSoccer agreeing to a better deal in the new contract. Faced with a real threat, USSoccer "did the right thing."

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