Reeled In: Welsh Midfielder Jess Fishlock Joins OL Féminin On Loan

For a second there, Jess Fishlock may have thought she might get a chance to relax this offseason.  She’s been bouncing back and forth between the Seattle Reign in the NWSL and Melbourne City in Australia’s W-League for a few years, and no one could have blamed her if this time around she wanted a few months to relax and recover after the NWSL season wrapped up.

Then Lyon came calling.  Big club, meet tiny dragon.

It’s already been quite a week for the central midfielder.  Since the club announced her arrival on loan on Monday, Fishlock has made it to Lyon, picked up her #24 jersey, met the French press, rediscovered the perils of driving a stick shift, and, oh yeah, hit the field with her new teammates.  And with Coach Reynald Pedros announcing Wednesday that Fishlock could be ready for game action as soon as Sunday in Rodez, things are moving fast.

So where does the Seattle Reign star fit in with the European champs?

Fishlock jersey
New threads looking good. (Photo via OL)

Fishlock’s arrival bring some much needed depth to OL’s midfield.  Lyon has three of the world’s best midfielders in Dzsenifer Marozsan, Amandine Henry, and Saki Kumagai—in fact, all three made the ten-person shortlist for FIFA’s The Best award—but the summer took a toll on the club’s bench.

Camille Abily retired, Kheira Hamraoui left for FC Barcelona, and Morgan Brian cut her stint with club short to return to the Chicago Red Stars.  Factor in Marozsan’s extended absence in the wake of the pulmonary embolism that’s left her sidelined, and the midfield ranks start to look a little thin, particularly for a club that has its eye on a long Champions League campaign.

For Coach Pedros, figuring out the midfield has been the key puzzle in the early part of the season.  He’s tried two main formations: the first a 4-4-2 that pairs Henry with either Kumagai or new arrival Izzy Christiansen in central midfield, with Amel Majri and either Delphine Cascarino or Shanice van de Sanden on the wings and Ada Hegerberg and Eugénie Le Sommer as dual strikers; the second a 4-3-3 with Henry, Kumagai, and Christiansen all on the field and Majri, Hegeberg, and Le Sommer up top in attack.

In terms of substitutes, academy product Eva Kouache has also been a primary beneficiary from the midfield turnover, appearing in two of Lyon’s four domestic league games this season. The youngster hasn’t made much of an impression yet, though she’s had limited minutes to work with.

SOCCER: MAY 06 NWSL - Seattle Reign FC at Portland Thorns FC
The dragon has arrived. (Photo via Getty Images)

Enter Jess Fishlock. Fishlock brings flexibility to this unsettled midfield situation.  In her introductory press conference, Coach Pedros highlighted Fishlock’s ability to play all three central midfield positions.  Having Fishlock available in the Fall will help ease Marozsan back into the lineup slowly, and in the Spring, she can provide some much needed respite for Henry  and Kumagai as the minutes start to add up.

Fishlock isn’t a huge offensive force—she recorded just two goals and one assist for Seattle in 19 NWSL games this season—but she’s capable of producing in big moments and has plenty of tenacity and strength on the ball to serve her in more defensive roles.

The 31-year-old also brings plenty of experience at both the international and club level.  Fishlock was Wales’ first ever player—male or female—to earn 100 caps, and she remains Wales’ record cap holder.  Unfortunately for Fishlock, Wales fell short of qualification for next summer’s Women’s World Cup, though she played a key part in the national team’s memorable 0-0 draw away against England in the Spring.

Fishlock Wales
The OL Ang’Elles will need to pick up a new flag! (Photo via Will Cheshire)

She’s also no stranger to integrating with new clubs around the world, having spent time with AZ Alkmaar, Bristol City, Glasgow City, FFC Frankfurt, Melbourne Victory, Melbourne City, and of course the Seattle Reign—teams in six different countries—during her decade-long professional career.  Fishlock will likely have heard good things about OL’s culture from Seattle teammate and former Fenotte Megan Rapinoe, and she’ll fit right in with Lyon’s well-traveled crew of international players, including van de Sanden, Hegerberg, and Lucy Bronze, among others.

Marozsan will be a familiar face in the locker room for Fishlock, as the two played together with FFC Frankfurt in 2014-2015.  Frankfurt also gave Fishlock a taste of Champions League action, though she returned to the NWSL prior to Frankfurt’s victory over PSG in the final.  Fishlock has agreed to remain with Lyon for the duration of OL’s Champions League run, and it’s no secret that the Welsh star has her eye on playing in the final this time around.

Fishlock’s hugely competitive spirit will fit right in with les Fenottes.  She’s tough as nails, once returning to game action—no joke—one month and two days after fracturing her tibia.  That’s insane.  She also loves a good rivalry and more often than not has been the pivotal player for Seattle in their games against the hated Portland Thorns…as Henry might recall.  Fishlock will soon get a taste of the Lyon-PSG war for French supremacy, and we’re excited to see what kind of fire she brings to the battle.

SOCCER: MAY 06 NWSL - Seattle Reign FC at Portland Thorns FC
Well, this is awkward. (Photo via Getty Images)

The midfielder’s leadership qualities are also well-established; she’s served not only as captain of Melbourne City, for example, but also as assistant coach.  Her presence in locker room offers another plus for OL as they look to reclaim the treble.

Reign fans need not worry about losing a fan favorite for long, though.  Fishlock plans to return to Seattle next year once Lyon’s Champions League campaign wraps up—hopefully with a medal.  Until then, Fishlock brings plenty of value on and off the field for the title holders at a position that needed a bench upgrade.  More good work from Jean-Michel Aulas and his crew as the transfer window came to a close.

Fsihlock bike
Time to get off the bike and on the field. (Photo via OLTV)

We’re eager to see Fishlock in action soon, but before then, she (and you!) can get an up close look at her new teammates in action on Thursday, as Lyon take on Norway’s Avaldsnes in the second leg of the Champions League Round of 32.  Need a refresher on Lyon’s 2-0 win in the first leg? You can find it here.

Follow Lyon Offside (@LyonOffside) and Arianna (@AScavs) on Twitter!


4 thoughts on “Reeled In: Welsh Midfielder Jess Fishlock Joins OL Féminin On Loan

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