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For Lindsey Horan, a different path to USWNT

Lindsey Horan has looked comfortable in a midfield role for the USWNT over the past week. Could she make the 2016 Rio Olympics roster? (Photo Courtesy of Arianna Grainey Photography)

Lindsey Horan has looked comfortable in a midfield role for the USWNT over the past week. Could she make the 2016 Rio Olympics roster? (Photo Courtesy of Arianna Grainey Photography)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Lindsey Horan became a trailblazer in the women’s game by bypassing a full scholarship at powerhouse University of North Carolina at that to pursue a professional career in Europe in 2012, a common event now on the men’s side but quite surprising at the time and still a rare occurrence in American women’s soccer.

Horan went to Paris Saint-Germain and in three-plus years with the French powerhouse has seen success, scoring almost a goal a game in league matches during her time in the French capital. After time with the U.S. at the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2014, where the Americans fell to Korea DPR on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals, she has been with the U.S. senior team for the final four victory tour matches of the year and arguably was the player of the match against Trinidad and Tobago in San Antonio on Dec. 10, with a goal – her first for the full national team – and two assists.

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U.S. coach Jill Ellis has moved her from her traditional forward spot at youth levels and with PSG to a midfield role (seen by some as a possible replacement for the retiring Lauren Holiday). Horan spoke with The Equalizer about this change and her decision to bypass college and play professionally overseas.

“Each time I come in I’m feeling more and more comfortable, just with the experience playing with these players again,” Horan said. “Jill put me into a new role in center mid and it’s a new experience but I’m learning so much from the people around me. Leaders like Abby [Wambach] and Carli [Lloyd] are taking me under their wing and giving me advice and I took the opportunity to play this new role and it’s an experience for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Horan is widely reported to be moving to the NWSL to play for Portland Thorns FC. She could not confirm the move other than to say there have been “a lot of discussions,” and she was focused on her time with the national team. Though she wouldn’t expound on her future club career, she did say that turning professional is a viable option for teenage players thinking about following in her footsteps.

“Obviously for me it was a different path and I would never say to any other young player that they shouldn’t do it,” she said. “It’s an amazing opportunity but it’s something that you have to speak about with your family and your coaching staff. But that route is an incredible route and it has done so much for me and I don’t regret it at all. I would suggest it for any youth player that would be ready for it. It is a huge step and you have to be prepared for it.”

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Horan did say that it wasn’t an easy transition. Did she know French before she joined PSG? “God No!” she said, laughing. She said that she learned a whole new culture and different style of play in Europe, but it all required adjusting.

“When you’re that young, it’s a crazy change….I thought it was a great opportunity,” she said. “I wanted to play pro since I was 15. UNC is an amazing college; nothing against them. It’s what I wanted to do. The route I chose advanced my game with the players there.”

Horan has another few months to make her presence felt for one of 18 Olympic roster spots (the Americans, three-time defending gold medalists, must still qualify in February). She has started the United States’ last three matches, but only has five caps to her name.

Whether or not she is in Rio in 2016, she is making a statement as a future player to watch at the national team level.

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