PARIS — Lindsey Horan has returned to what she calls her second home, the city where she launched her professional career almost seven years ago after taking the bold step of forgoing college soccer.
The Seine and Metro, the language and baguettes — it all has been coming back to Horan as she reacquaints herself with the City of Light ahead of the U.S. national team’s second Women’s World Cup match Sunday against Chile at Parc des Princes.
Given Horan’s familiarity, teammates have been seeking her advice for restaurants and such. As she was seven years ago, they are now the awkward ones.
“My parents and I followed behind her and her parents to dinner like 10 feet away because I had no idea where to go,” midfielder Samantha Mewis said. “We were like little ducklings falling in line.”
On Sunday, Horan will play in a stadium stamped with logos she once bore, those of Paris Saint-Germain, one of the most famous brands in international sports. The PSG women’s team does not play at the 45,000-seat arena in the southwest corner of the city, a venue graced by men’s superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. But her ties to Paris and all it offers run deep.
Asked about teammates turning to her as a local expert, Horan said: “Following me around is probably the best way you could put that. The first day here people were just asking me where to go around our hotel, and I had no idea. There was just one spot I knew.
“I was trying to teach [Mewis] and a few other girls how to use the train, and it was so funny because I went in an opposite direction, and I just kind of hoped they get there.”
Horan, a central cog in the U.S. team’s robust attack, launched her pro career in Paris in 2012, becoming the first high-profile American to forgo the college circuit and sign abroad. Five years later, current teammate Mallory Pugh took a similar route and joined the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League.
As women’s pro soccer has matured in the United States and Europe, players have gained greater incentive to bypass NCAA soccer and accelerate their development (not to mention, earn a decent living).
Horan, 25, spent 3½ years with PSG, scoring 54 goals in 76 matches across all competitions before joining the NWSL’s Portland Thorns before the 2016 season. Last year, she was voted the league’s MVP.
On the national team, Horan has been a consistent starter for three years. With the top-ranked United States pursuing consecutive world titles and a fourth championship overall, Horan is the conduit for an attack that smashed Thailand in the Group F opener, 13-0, and should defeat Chile by multiple goals before finishing the first round against formidable Sweden on Thursday in Le Havre.
In the Thailand rout, Horan scored her ninth international goal by pounding a free ball from close range into the roof of the net for a 3-0 halftime lead in Reims.
After the match, a video surfaced on Twitter of her parents, Linda and Mark, celebrating their daughter’s goal. It has been viewed about 134,000 times. On it, her father turns to the camera and shouts, “She scored. Our little girl just scored! Wooo!”
With Sunday’s match falling on Father’s Day, the subject of parents was raised during Saturday’s news conference at Parc des Princes.
Later, Horan watched it. “It was the most enjoyable feeling, seeing them celebrating me and how happy they were,” she said. “It’s very special to have them in the stands the other day, and to see that, it made me cry. They are now famous all over the Internet.”
Her parents had supported her decision to turn pro after high school in Golden, Colo., instead of attending the University of North Carolina, college soccer’s incubator for national team players.
PSG paid for schooling, and the family set aside money from the contract for future education. The transition to living in Paris at 18, though, was not easy.
She told ESPN recently: “I’m young, I’m shy, I’m very nervous about the culture and language, and socially just kept myself inside.”
The arrival of U.S. teammate Tobin Heath at PSG for two stints in 2013 and 2014 brought comfort. During that same period, American Megan Rapinoe joined rival Olympique Lyonnais.
As the French women’s league has grown, numerous U.S. players have sought opportunities, including national team veterans Alex Morgan and Morgan Brian (both at Lyonnais). In the recently completed league campaign, eight Americans unaffiliated with the national team were employed by first-division clubs, including Alana Cook, 22, at PSG.
“To be here with my teammates in Paris, it’s just the most surreal thing,” Horan said. “To score a goal in front of my family and so many U.S. fans in the World Cup was just absolutely incredible.
“Being on the world stage and being at a World Cup in this city — it’s just absolutely insane. I can’t really describe the feeling. I’m so honored to be here and be back in this city.”
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