Olympique Lyonnais and Jean-Michel Aulas have set the standard in many ways for top clubs in women’s soccer. They are coming off their worst season in quite some time and are looking to re-establish their dominance in France, Europe, and the world. They signed a relatively new coach, Sonia Bompastor, with five matches to go in the 2020/21 French league season and have made high-profile signings to strengthen the squad.
Lyon take the Women’s International Champions Cup very seriously and will try to send a statement to the rest of the world that last season was a fluke. Lyon were the runners up in the first edition of the WICC in 2018, losing to the North Carolina Courage 1-0. The French side got their revenge a year later beating the Courage by the reverse scoreline in the final and will attempt to retain that title in Portland.
Lyon’s Legendary Reign
Olympique Lyonnais’ legendary reign across French and European competition was thwarted by their rivals Paris Saint-Germain in the 2021 season. PSG knocked the reigning champions out of the UEFA Women’s Champions League with a 2-2 aggregate result in which the Parisian club advanced courtesy of the away goals rule.
PSG also put an end to Lyon’s stranglehold on the French title, winning the competition for the first time. Lyon had won the previous 14 French league titles and the last five editions of the UWCL.
Lyon was hindered by injuries throughout the season with superstar Ada Hegerberg out, as well as Griedge Mbock, Sara Gunnarsdottir, and Damaris Egurrola missing time. Despite the injury struggles and the uncharacteristic results that led to Lyon’s first trophyless season since the 2005/06 season, the French side won 20 of their 22 league matches. They lost their first meeting with PSG and drew the second. Lyon scored 78 goals while only conceding six throughout the league campaign.
Lyon was unable to retain their sixth consecutive crown as the best team in Europe, with the defeat coming at the feet of PSG. The European giants advanced past Juventus and Brondby before being eliminated in the quarterfinal.
After Lyon’s premature exit in the UWCL, coach Jean-Luc Vasseur stepped down. Lyon hired Sonia Bompastor, the first female coach in the club’s history. Bompastor registered 156 caps for the French national team in her playing days. She played two stints at Lyon in which she won six league titles, three Coupe de France titles, and two Champions Leagues. Bompastor also played in the U.S. for the Washington Freedom of the Women’s United Soccer Association.
Bompastor was announced as the new manager on April 28, 2021, and took charge of the team’s final five matches in the league season. She led Lyon to four wins and a goalless draw against PSG.
Club president Jean-Michel Aulas has made it very clear that he believes Bompastor is the right person to help restore Lyon’s dominance in France and in Europe. The president has strengthened the squad by bringing in the U.S.’s Catarina Macario and has made a slew of high-profile signings this offseason. Aulas has brought in the best goalkeeper in the world in Christiane Endler. Endler and Signe Bruun were signed from rivals PSG. Emelyne Laurent and Danielle van de Donk joined from Atletico de Madrid and Arsenal, respectively. Sakina Karchaoui, Saki Kumagai and Nikita Parris left the club and Sarah Bouhaddi, Eugenie Le Sommer and Dzsenifer Marozsan are currently on loan at OL Reign in the NWSL.
Players to Watch
Macario has been labeled as one of the most promising talents in the U.S. and in the world. She was born in Brazil and moved to San Diego in 2011 to pursue her dream of playing soccer. Macario committed to play college soccer at perennial powerhouse Stanford. She put up a ridiculous 17 goals and 16 assists in her freshman season and was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy for being the best collegiate player in her sophomore and junior seasons. Macario became just the sixth woman to win the MAC Hermann Trophy multiple times.
On January 8, 2021, Macario announced she would forgo her senior year eligibility. Four days later she signed with Lyon. Macario made her Lyon debut in a league match against Montpellier when she replaced Henry in the 37th minute.
Before Macario made her Lyon debut she was given her long-awaited debut for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Jan. 18 vs. Colombia. In the USWNT’s second friendly with Colombia, Macario was given her first start and promptly scored her first international goal.
Macario made her Olympic debut against New Zealand, coming on in the 84th minute for Lindsey Horan.
Macario is a versatile player. She has played at the left wing, as a midfielder, and as a striker that operates as an out-and-out nine or as more of a false nine. Macario really found her footing in Lyon. She scored her first goal in a win over Dijon which was assisted by Cascarino. She went on to score six goals in five matches including a goal against PSG in the UWCL quarterfinals, a wondergoal against Le Havre and a brace against Issy FF.
The Athletic’s Meg Linehan wrote a great piece about Macario’s Lyon form when the striker scored four goals in four matches. Linehan wrote in detail about Macario’s goals and assist and included a quote from Megan Rapinoe in which she said, “But [Macario’s] going to be fire, and I think we can all see that.”
Macario will likely play her first club minutes on U.S. soil in the WICC at Providence Park and I think we can all agree that that will be ‘fire.’
Cascarino is one of the brightest young talents for Lyon and Les Bleus. The 24-year-old attacker was born in Saint-Priest, France, outside of Lyon. She has excelled up the ranks for both club and country. Cascarino joined Lyon at the age of 12 in 2009. She made her first-team debut during the 2014-15 season.
For Les Bleus, Cascarino was a feature in the French youth teams, starting at the U-16 level and has since been capped 31 times for the full national team. She has had success in the youth teams internationally. Cascarino won the U-17 World Cup and the U-19 European Championship.
Cascarino has already scored 31 goals in 133 appearances for Lyon. She is an electrifying attacker who routinely turns defenders inside out. Cascarino is a right winger who likes to operate out wide, but also enjoys coming inside and linking with the overlapping right back.
The French attacker’s skill set allows her to thrive in both of these areas. Cascarino can blow by defenders with her pace whether she is on the ball or making intelligent runs in behind. Out wide, she uses her incredible one versus one ability to take on defenders and play dangerous crosses and cut-backs at which she is very adept and precise.
Cascarino is also able to identify space in the midfield and receive between the lines. This allows her to play quick interchanges with the attacking midfielder, the other two forwards or the right back. She is also able to drive at the defense and play a teammate through on goal, cut in and shoot, or cross from a different angle.
22. Delphine Cascarino (23, Olympique Lyon)— Yash (@Odriozolite) March 10, 2021
-Elite dribbler with wide array of skills & incredible pace, making her a menace to deal with
-Stretches the field brilliantly
-Amazing vision, can spot & play amazing through-balls.
-Has a good shot & can still improve in this regard. pic.twitter.com/1v3u9N1Avy
She is able to use her dribbling ability, crossing, pace, and spatial intelligence to break down the low blocks which Lyon often face. Cascarino is even more devastating in transition, which was evident in her Player of the Match performance in Lyon’s 3-1 win over Wolfsburg in the 2020 UWCL final.
Cascarino was unplayable on the day, often being double marked only for her to fly past both Wolfsburg defenders. She beat her defender and crossed to Le Sommer, whose shot was saved. Le Sommer followed her shot and tapped it in to make it 1-0. Cascarino evaded two defenders while she seemed to be pinned by the corner flag. She crossed into the box and the ball eventually found its way to Saki Kumagai. The Japanese midfielder fired from distance and made it 2-0.
Cascarino haunted the Wolfsburg defense throughout the match and her brilliance with the ball was evident to the women’s soccer world as she announced herself on the biggest stage. Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas made it a priority to extend Cascarino’s contract to 2024 as he surely hopes Cascarino and Hegerberg will wreak havoc on defenses while reestablishing Lyon’s dominance across Europe.
Henry is one of the best to ever patrol the defensive midfield position and she is surely one of the most beloved Thorns despite only playing two seasons with the club. Henry, at the time, was the biggest international star to ply her trade in the NWSL.
Henry is a very decorated player. She has won the French league 12 times, the Coupe de France eight times, the UWCL six times, and the Silver Ball at the 2015 World Cup. Henry brought similar success to Portland.
The French legend signed with the Portland Thorns in March of 2016. Henry joined the squad in June. She started nine matches and assisted in her debut as the Thorns went on to a 41-point season in which they won the NWSL Shield.
Henry went on loan to PSG before returning to Portland. She scored her first NWSL goal against the Boston Breakers. The Thorns finished in second place during the regular season and met the Orlando Pride in the playoffs. Henry scored the first goal in a 4-1 semifinal win against Orlando. Portland went on to win their second NWSL Championship, beating the North Carolina Courage 1-0 in the final. She returned to Lyon after the 2017 NWSL season and has been there since.
Henry joined Lyon at age 18 in 2007 and has captained France since 2017, although she has had recent issues with the French national team coach Corinne Diacre. The French midfielder is a legend of the game for club and for country and will receive a warm welcome when she returns to the Rose City.
Carpenter will be returning to Portland after winning the 2020 UWCL with Lyon and, more recently, helping Australia to their best-ever finish in a major tournament. Carpenter was a key piece of the Matildas’ success in the Olympics. She played every minute for Australia before being sent off for the denial of a goalscoring opportunity in the 120th minute of the semifinal, which meant she was unable to play in the bronze medal match. In the semifinal, Carpenter made her 50th appearance for the Matildas at only 21-years-old.
Carpenter plays as a modern right back who is solid in defense and uses her pace to bomb forward and get involved in the attack. She plays right back for Lyon but during the Olympics, Carpenter played as a right-sided center back in a back three.
The Australian defender has played for the W-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers, Canberra United and Melbourne City, as well as Portland Thorns FC. Carpenter played for the Thorns throughout the 2018 and 2019 NWSL seasons. In 2018, she made 14 starts in 17 appearances. She became the youngest player at the time to appear in an NWSL match on May 9, 2018, vs. Houston, at 18 years and 11 days old. Carpenter similarly became the youngest NWSL goalscorer at the time after scoring a game-winner against Washington on May 19, 2018.
During the 2019 NWSL season, Carpenter made 14 starts and 16 appearances. She registered her first NWSL assist against Houston on June 29, 2019. A little less than a year later, Carpenter signed a contract until 2023 with Lyon. She has since won the 2019/20 French league title and UWCL title. Carpenter has played 12 official matches for Lyon, 10 of which came in league play in which she scored one goal.
Lyon’s WICC Roster
Féérine Belhadj, Wendie Renard, Selma Bacha, Perle Morroni, Amandine Henry, Amel Majri, Damaris Egurrola, Ellie Carpenter, Catarina Macario, Christiane Endler, Daniëlle van de Donk, Alice Sombath, Emelyne Laurent, Delphine Cascarino, Sally Julini, Janice Cayman, Signe Bruun, Vicki Becho, Melvine Malard, Alyssia Paljevic, Laurine Baga, Candice Charbonnier, Kysha Sylla, Chloé Tapia.
The losers of the two matches will play at 4:30 p.m. and the championship will be contested at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21.
If you are looking for more information about Olympique Lyonnais I found Abdullah Abdullah’s “Olympique Lyonnais Féminin: Queens of Europe” helpful in writing this article. It provides an in depth look at how the club became the powerhouse it is today while also giving depth tactical insights on some of the team’s players.