Lindsey Horan is now the USWNT establishment, 10 years after she went to Paris Saint-Germain via UNC

COMMERCE CITY, Colorado — A decade ago, Lindsey Horan was one of American football‘s rebels.

When, as an 18-year-old, she became the first high-profile American to spurn college and turn pro in Europe, it sent shock waves across the landscape. Not only that, college team Horan declined to sign with Paris Saint-Germain, North Carolina the game‘s superpower.

Today, Horan is as established as it gets. The now 28-year-old inherited the famous No. 10 jersey for the US women’s soccer team from Carli Lloyd last fall. Horan played her 110th international game on Saturday night as she played the first half of the Americans’ 3-0 win over Colombia on the other side of Denver from their hometown of Golden, Colo.

But Horan is still willing to cut against the tide at times. That’s one of the reasons why she returned to France in January. After six years with the Portland Thorns, the NWSL team she joined from PSG in 2016, she felt she still had something to do abroad.

This time, Horan signed with Lyon for a year and a half, not just with the biggest team in the country but with all of Europe. And in just a few months, she reached the pinnacle she had long dreamed of, winning French league and Champions League titles.

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With that, Horan also banished some bad memories from her first stay in France. Those years at PSG were marred by the sexist treatment from the team’s coaches, particularly when it came to body image.

Horan has long been a private figure in the public eye. But as her first campaign with Lyon drew to a close, she took to Instagram to share a few things.

“Returning to France has left me with many doubts, doubts and sleepless nights,” she wrote. “Question everything. I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to win trophies. I wanted to be part of something great. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it differently again. Could I rewrite my story?”

The captioned photo answers these questions: Horan kneels on a confetti-covered pitch at Lyon’s stadium, the winner’s podium behind her and two trophies under her arms.

“I’m looking at this photo, experiencing all these thoughts and smiling,” she wrote.

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On Friday, Horan met with US media via Zoom for the first time since winning those trophies. She was usually reticent on a few things, including a question about the Supreme Court hearing Roe v. Wade fell.

“I don’t like to talk about it often, but waking up and hearing this news wasn’t great, to say the least,” she said. “I’m still in a bit of a shock and I’m trying to absorb everything, but I feel like this is just a step backwards for our country. But that’s all I’m going to say for now.

When asked if she would like to add a few words to this Instagram post, she offered a few — and they were profound.

“I think back to my time at PSG a lot,” she said. “I was there for three and a half years and it was a big risk for me to go at 18 and be the first woman to go pro from high school. I had so many second guesses at this point: what was going to happen? Would I achieve my goals and dreams?”

These questions weren’t just a teenager’s mind. Being in Europe full-time meant avoiding US national team scouts at a time when then-manager Jill Ellis wanted all of her players to play in the NWSL ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

The payout didn’t come for a long time. And as mentioned above, the cost of staying in Paris far exceeded Horan’s fate with the national team. In the long term, however, it was worth it: a move to Portland, a 2019 World Cup title – coincidentally in France – and now a permanent role in Vlatko Andonovski’s US program.

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During Andonovski’s tenure, US soccer has become much more open to players building clubhouses in Europe. Rumors that Horan would make use of it flew months before she moved to Lyon. When she did, it wasn’t surprising. Her success wasn’t there either.

“I didn’t get what I wanted there [in Paris]. I didn’t have the impact I wanted,” she said. “I think for me coming back to Lyon was another risk that I just needed. i need a challenge I have to find ways to show now who Lindsey is after that first experience.”

Now the mission is accomplished.

“I felt like I was in France just a few years ago, but then you look back and it’s like, oh, I was there 10 years ago. It’s crazy,” Horan said. “But yeah, it’s really cool. It’s really cool to see how my career has evolved. And you know that those risks and sacrifices paid off.”

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