A 25-year-old talent of Rose Lavelle’s calibre should not be sitting on the bench. And yet, week in and week out, this World Cup-winning Ballon d’Or nominee continues to not see significant minutes for Manchester City.
It’s disappointing to find her like we did last Wednesday, sitting in the substitute section, swimming in a way-too-big-for-her cold weather jacket, unable to do anything as her team went down two goals to Chelsea in City’s most important game of the season. Since making the move to the Manchester club last August, Lavelle has started just three out of the 14 games she’s played, having typically been used as a substitute somewhere between the 62nd and 70th-minute mark.
While it’s a shame to see her be used so sparingly, it’s not wrong per se. Rose Lavelle should be starting, but she shouldn’t be starting for Manchester City right now.
The situation Lavelle finds herself in started to unfold late last summer. Lavelle and national team teammate/fellow midfielder, Sam Mewis, had both made the decision to move to City ahead of the start of the 2020-2021 FA Women’s Super League. While Mewis made her competitive debut on August 29th, Lavelle, who was nursing an injury and navigating COVID protocols, didn’t see her first competitive minutes until a full month later on September 30th.
Meanwhile, coach Gareth Taylor saw he had a wonderful problem on his hands. He had some of the world’s best players on his team. Now, he had to figure out how to best employ them. It was in the beginning of the season, while Lavelle was working her way back to full fitness, that Taylor’s tinkering began. During September and into the month of October, City’s best midfield permutation slowly revealed itself – Caroline Weir, Keira Walsh and Sam Mewis.
They became the go-to trio. The three’s command of the midfield has continued to impress since the fall. Their dynamic attacking, strong defending, and complementary skills have been pivotal for Manchester City on its way to its winningest FAWSL season ever.
Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. There really hasn’t been a starting spot for Lavelle.
If you’re Lavelle, or say, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski looking ahead to an Olympics, the situation is frustrating.
Though Gareth Taylor has made comments about the World Cup Bronze Ball winner being in his long-term plans, it is unlikely, based on the lacklustre stint this season has been for her, that the midfielder will want to exercise the option she has to stay come decision time this summer.
After the Olympics, Lavelle will be looking — scratch that, needing — to find a place where she can put in 60-90 minute shifts as the dominating presence we know she can be in the middle of the park. That place should be OL Reign.
Just hours after those scenes of Lavelle on the bench during the huge Manchester City-Chelsea match up, OL Reign kicked off its 2021 NWSL season against the Portland Thorns. The Washington club’s performance was dismal. The offence kept searching and failing to find answers for how to unlock Portland’s backline. They needed a creative midfielder force to pick out passes and make dangerous runs into the attacking third.
They needed Rose Lavelle and they do have her in one sense. They have her rights. On the same day the news broke of Lavelle’s move to Manchester City back in August, we learned that Washington Spirit had traded her rights to OL Reign.
In just a few months, one of the world’s best women’s soccer players will be looking for a new club. Teams around Europe, looking to build their brand and trophy cabinets, have the opportunity, money and reason to present Lavelle with an enticing offer.
Considering how this past year has gone, Rose Lavelle should turn those down. Europe can be an option again somewhere down the line. She should return to the NWSL to play with the OL Reign. They have a spot for her. They need her.
And she needs them. A 25-year-old talent of Rose Lavelle’s calibre needs to be in a situation where can start games at a high level and continue to develop her confidence and rhythm.