The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.
To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.
Club: Portland Thorns FC
National team experience: Horan has played 68 games with the national team and has eight goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she was out with a quad injury.
What to expect from Lindsey Horan in 2019 (Guest written by my friend, Gillian Stewart!!): Any time Horan appears on the pitch, Ezra goes “Look Gillian! It’s your girl!” – and it’s true. I love watching Horan play, because while she rarely takes center stage, she shows up at the edge of every play, ready to dive in and get shit done. In the spirit of full disclosure, my love of Lindsey Horan originated during the 2016 SheBelieves Cup because her facial expressions reminded me of someone I had a crush on at the time, which is relatively arbitrary way to choose a favorite player. However, my hormones appear not to have led me astray (at least in this case): Horan is a BAMF.
Horan plays central or attacking midfield for the Portland Thorns, and like any great midfielder, she can do pretty much anything pretty dang well. Her 2018 NWSL season stats are incredible – she shows up on the leaderboard in every single non-goalie category. She led the league in total touches, total duels, duels won…and yellow cards. Unsurprisingly, she was the league MVP. On the national team, she stands out for her forward passing, her physicality, and her ability to win head-to-head (called aerial duels in technical parlance, which I really enjoy). She may not be as fast as Pugh or have the goal scoring prowess of Morgan or Lloyd or the vision of Pinoe or the fancy feet of Heath – but she’s there to pick up the slack wherever it may be. And to win fights. Any player should think twice before going toe-to-toe (or head-to-head) with Horan – she’s fast enough to get to the ball first, skilled enough to win possession, fearless enough to charge full speed, and smart enough to know which duels she can win.
My favorite video of her is from the Thorns’ last regular-season game of 2018. Seattle had scored early, and Portland were trying to equalize. Christine Sinclair, captain of the Canadian team and one of the world’s greats, receives a beautiful cross to the center of the box, winds up…and gets tackled and goes down. Horan runs in from out of frame to fire the ball into the net with the force and accuracy of a Marvel character zooming in to save the day. Did she need to hit it that hard? Probably not. Is it deeply satisfying to watch an amazing player land a perfect shot? Absolutely.
Non-gendered personal interest item: Horan was the first American woman to skip college and go pro. At 18, she turned down a scholarship at UNC to take a six-figure deal with Paris Saint-Germain, where she spent three and a half seasons as a striker, racking up 46 goals in 58 appearances. Returning to France after three seasons in the NWSL for her first world cup experience has a lovely symmetry, and I’m pretty sure she’s finally learned to speak French. She does use “football” and “soccer” interchangeably when speaking, which I also find deeply charming.