The NWSL has all the current U.S. national team players under contract, many of the best Canadians and Australians and a smattering of other international players. But Portland's signing of French
midfielder Amandine Henry
, winner of the Silver Ball at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, at the height of her career ranks as one of the biggest moves in the league's short history.
She told the Tribune de Lyon
she also had offers from other clubs in
England and Germany but chose to move to the NWSL for a new challenge. She noted the better media coverage, fan support and parity within the league. Few teams -- Paris St. Germain, Montpellier and
Juvisy -- in the French women's league give Lyon a game.
“Amandine is a proven, world-class player with demonstrated success at both the club and international level in
France,” said Gavin Wilkinson
, GM/president of soccer for Thorns FC said in a statement. “Her accomplishments speak for themselves, and we are very pleased to add a player of her
caliber to an already talented Thorns club and to the NWSL.”
Henry made her debut for France in 2009 and has earned 48 caps, scoring six goals for Les Bleues, but only the last year
has taken on a key role for the talent-laden team.
“Her ability to control the game in the center of midfield helps everyone else do their job better," said Thorns FC head
coach Mark Parsons
. "Amandine is one of the very best in the world, and I am delighted she is joining us in Portland in her prime. She has exceptional passing range, is very intelligent on and
off the ball and can score special goals, as she proved in the World Cup last year. Amandine brings a winning mentality to a talented group and I believe she will play an important role in supporting
our team chemistry and culture, on the field and in the locker room.”
Henry helped lead Lyon to back-to-back UEFA Women’s Champions League titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12, nine
French league titles and four French Cup championships.
Henry signed with Lyon ahead of the 2007-08 season and, during her tenure there she has appeared in 198 matches across all
competitions, tallying 44 goals. In Champions League play, Henry has made 49 appearances as she has helped lead Lyon to the quarterfinal final round of the 2015-16 edition of the tournament.
reported that Henry signed a two-year contract
. She will arrive in Portland upon conclusion of her
contract with Lyon in June. Lyon is on course to win its 10th straight Ligue Feminine title -- it has a record of 15 wins and two ties in 17 games with a goal margin of 97-2 -- and another French Cup
and is in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Lyon teammate Camille Abily
played in WPS, as did Sonia Bompastor,
who has since retired. Thanks to the
support of its president Jean-Michel Aulas
, Lyon has been able to keep most of its best players because it signs its players to pro contracts, believed to be in the range of $50,000-$100,000
for its best players.