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OL Reign’s Lyon Connection Was A Real Thing Of Beauty This Weekend

This is what Reign fans were hoping for when Olympique Lyonnais became the NWSL club’s majority owner last year. This is what fans of all the other NWSL teams were afraid of when one of the league’s best-supported clubs joined together with the most dominant force in European women’s football.

OL Reign’s Lyon connection paid massive dividends in a 3-0 win over the Orlando Pride on Sunday. Two Lyon stars linked up for one of the prettiest goals you’ll see all year, an intricate piece of passing that highlighted the quality of Europe’s best footballers.

In June, the Reign added three Lyon players on loan: Eugénie Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Sarah Bouhaddi. These massively experienced veterans (100+ caps for each for Germany and France) were some of the best players in Europe, having played a part in some or all of Lyon’s five straight Women’s Champions League titles from 2016-20. Since they joined the squad, OL Reign has been arguably the best team in the league, surging up the standings from ninth (out of 10) to within three points of league-leading Portland. 

On Sunday, Le Sommer was brilliant, scoring twice in four minutes to effectively end the match early. The first was an absurd 35-yard curler; Marozsán provided what has to be considered the assist of the year for the second.

Eugénie Le Sommer Goals vs. Orlando Pride

While her first goal was down to individual brilliance, Le Sommer’s second featured sublime passing. From Kristen McNabb’s initial entry pass to Jess Fishlock to Marozsán’s first-time ball to Le Sommer, it was one of the prettiest team goals you’ll ever see. 

And that’s the quality OL Reign has on its side now, not to mention Bouhaddi’s impact on the defense. 

Here are the full highlights from Sunday’s match, including a league-leading ninth goal from reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer.

OL Reign vs. Orlando Pride Highlights

After a so-so 2021 Challenge Cup (2-1-1), the Reign started the season with six losses in nine games to sit in ninth place. Around that time, the Lyon contingent arrived. Since a 2-0 defeat to the Dash on July 2, Lyon is 8-1-1, having gone from out of the playoff picture to a favorite to clinch one of the first-round byes for finishing in the top two. 

Now the Reign are playing as well as anyone in the league. In addition to the Lyon loanees, coach Laura Harvey has had to work other new stars into the squad, including Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle and Alana Cook. Add in Megan Rapinoe, Sofia Huerta, Tziarra King, Quinn and Balcer, and it’s easy to see why this team is on such a hot streak. 

Le Sommer has been brilliant, with five goals and three assists in 13 appearances. Marozsán has three assists as well while helping solidify the midfield. Bouhaddi has five clean sheets in 15 starts. All were vital during the Olympics period, during which time many of the league’s top players were off in Japan. (Germany and France did not qualify for the Olympics.) Their loans end on Dec. 31, but they might just take home some hardware with them before they’re done.

By adding three of the world’s best players, the Reign have arguably become favorites to win it all this season. The NWSL title will still go through Portland and not just because the Thorns still top the table by three points with a game in hand — the final will be played at Providence Park. But we could be heading for a PNW rivalry showdown in that 9 a.m. championship game, assuming the Thorns’ bus stops going up in flames

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