She may be the only professional player in the USA’s U-20 side and a star attraction for Paris Saint-Germain, one of the giants of the women’s game, but that did not stop Lindsey Horan from blushing when her coach Michelle French singled her out for praise at a recent press conference. The Stars and Stripes had just emphatically beaten China PR to reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 and the No10 had again played a crucial part.

“Technically she’s extremely gifted and brings quality and sophistication to our attacking play. What’s more she creates a lot of chances for her team-mates. Best of all, though, having her in our side means we don’t have to worry about trying to stop her,” the coach added with a broad smile.

Lindsey shifts uncomfortably, her cheeks still red from hearing the words. Yet anyone who has seen USA during their first three outings at Canada 2014 would have to agree with her coach. When things were far from rosy for the North Americans early in the group phase, the team looked to their star player for help, and she duly delivered. Indeed, the team’s very presence in the last eight is due in no small measure to Horan, who has scored three of her side’s four goals thus far.

A forward of undoubted quality, she also has a very strong personality. Perhaps it was this strength of character that emboldened her to take the road less travelled when she was just 18. While most of her colleagues accepted scholarships to US universities on graduating high school, Lindsey opted to pack her bags for France. Why waste time if you know that football is the life for you?

“When PSG signed me I went off to Europe on my own. Obviously it was tough, especially the first few months, what with a new language, a new country and all that. Bit by bit, though, I began to enjoy the experience and make new friends, and then things started to go really well for me,” she explained to FIFA.com, her early blushes now replaced with an infectious smile as she recounted her French adventure.

With the U-20 team I try to adopt the role of leader as my time playing professional football has given me experience the others don’t have.

Lindsey Horan

Aside from the difficult start, things could hardly have gone any better for the blond striker. In two seasons with the Parisian club, she has racked up 35 goals in 45 appearances. “It’s going great. I really enjoy playing professional, being surrounded by some of the best players in the world and getting to know people from other countries,” she said enthusiastically.

Unquestionably her European experience has left a deep impression on her. Off the pitch, she handles her media duties with ease, while on it she looks to be a cut above the rest. It is something the 20-year-old is acutely aware of, but would never gloat about. “With the U-20 team I try to adopt the role of leader as my time playing professional football has given me experience the others don’t have. That said, I have to admit that I learn new things from my USA team-mates every day.”  

Although she has already had a taste of life with the US senior team, her eyes light up when she talks about this U-20 World Cup in Canada, her first foray on the world stage. The team have been heavily reliant on her thus far, and that situation is unlikely to change against Korea DPR in Saturday’s quarter-final.

Yet Lindsey seems wholly unperturbed by the prospect and happy to shoulder the responsibility and outline the recipe for success. “We have to recover physically and then train well. We also need to watch videos of our opponents, keep working hard and go into the fixture with the same mentality as the previous game. If we do that, things will be a lot easier,” she concluded, before heading for the team bus.

When the tournament wraps up on 24 August, this American in Paris will once again embark for Europe, only this time she hopes it will be as U-20 world champion.