It’s been a busy offseason for the 10 teams of the National Women’s Soccer League.
10 Things to Know Before the Upcoming NWSL Draft
Yes, that number is still at 10 despite the dismantling of FC Kansas City. The club, owned for only one year by Elam Baer, announced that it ceased operations on November 20, 2017. The main reason that number remains the same is due to the addition of the Utah Royals. Who are affiliated with Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
NWSL Coaching Carousel
The Royals then hired Laura Harvey to be their first head coach. Harvey previously served as the head coach of the Seattle Reign. The former FC Kansas City club and the Reign did a coach swap, as it was announced that Harvey would be replaced by Vlatko Andonovski.
Andonovski was the first, and only, head coach in FC Kansas City history. He led the team to back-to-back NWSL Championship titles in 2014 and 2015.
Harvey and Andonovski weren’t the only coaching changes this offseason, though.
Denise Reddy Takes Over at Sky Blue
Sky Blue FC announced that Denise Reddy would take over as head coach on November 15. Reddy was formerly an assistant coach to the Washington Spirit under Jim Gabarra.
“Words cannot describe how excited and honored I am to be the head coach of Sky Blue FC,” Reddy said back in November. “This is where my coaching career started, and it feels great to be back in Jersey and part of such a professional organization. I am looking forward to starting this journey with such top-class players and cannot wait to get on the pitch.”
As Reddy mentioned, her coaching career began with Sky Blue FC back when the Women’s Professional Soccer League was still around.
Houston Dash Also Make a Change
Further down south from New Jersey, the Houston Dynamo added a new head coach as well.
Vera Pauw, whose coaching resume includes being the head coach of national teams from Scotland, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa, was hired on November 28.
Coaches that remained with their clubs include Tom Sermanni of the Orlando Pride, Jim Gabarra of the Washington Spirit, Mark Parsons of the Portland Thorns, Rory Dames of the Chicago Red Stars, Matt Beard of the Boston Breakers and Paul Riley of the North Carolina Courage.
A rather busy off-season for coaches in NWSL.
Now, Let’s move on and talk about the players, and you’ll see how busy the offseason has been. Here are the biggest signings, trades and head-scratching moves you might have missed this offseason.
Ashley Hatch and Taylor Smith to the Washington Spirt; Crytal Dunn to North Carolina Courage
A complete head-scratcher for almost everyone in the NWSL community.
The North Carolina Courage traded defender Taylor Smith and forward Ashley Hatch to the Washington Spirit. In return, the Courage gained the rights to U.S. Women’s National Team player Crystal Dunn and an international spot.
Currently, Dunn is in England with Chelsea Ladies.
“Bringing Crystal back to [North Carolina] has always been a goal of the franchise, and it’s incredible to see it come to fruition,” Courage coach Paul Riley said.
Last year, Hatch won Rookie of the Year honors, beating out Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle. Hatch featured in 22 games, starting 13. She recorded seven goals and one assist after being drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s NWSL College Draft.
“Ashley had tremendous success in her rookie season and it is rare that any player achieves what she did in their first season in the NWSL,” Spirit Head Coach Jim Gabarra said. “Her natural ability to score goals is something all teams search for. Taylor and Ashley are not only top players, they are both quality people and we are elated to have them join our club.”
As for Smith, she’s been a member of the Courage since she started her career. Technically, in 2016, she was a member of the NWSL Championship-winning Western New York Flash.
Last year, Smith made 24 appearances, starting 18 matches. She gained attention not just around the league, but at the national team level joining Jill Ellis‘ U.S. WNT.
“Taylor has developed into one of the best right backs in the NWSL,” Gabarra said. “She has performed very well both with the national team and the Courage and has been part of winning teams her entire career. She will be a difference maker for us.”
Portland Thorns get Andressinha & Caitlin Foord; Allie Long off to Seattle
In two separate trades, the Portland Thorns gained some — and also lost some.
The first trade completed by the Thorns last week sent midfielder Allie Long packing to a rival club, the Seattle Reign. In return, the Reign dealt Australian international Caitlin Foord to the Thorns. Foord was acquired by the Reign via a separate trade with Sky Blue FC. Long has been with the Thorns since 2016.
In the 2017 season, Long appeared in 21 matches, starting 17 games. Long scored two goals and provided one assist in Portland’s NWSL Championship winning season.
“Strengthening our midfield with a world-class player like Allie Long is a big step forward for our squad,” Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Allie has been a massively impactful player for Portland over the past five years and we believe she can have a similar impact in our team.”
As for Andressinha, the 22-year-old Brazilian was a member of the Houston Dash since 2016. Like Long, Andressinha appeared in 21 matches, starting 17, where she scored two goals and recorded three assists.
“Andressinha is a smart and creative midfielder that brings the ability to control and dictate the tempo of a game,” Thorns FC head coach Mark Parsons said. “She can score special goals from distance and has the intelligence to create opportunities for others out of nothing. Her experience in the NWSL, and internationally as a key player for Brazil, make her a strong addition to the club.”
Kelly O’Hara, Taylor Lytle to Utah; Shea Groom, Christine Gibbons to Sky Blue FC
Becky Sauerbrunn isn’t the only U.S. Women’s National Team member of the Utah Royals.
Kelley O’Hara, who’s amassed over 100 appearances for the national team, joined the Royals after a trade with Sky Blue FC sent her and Taylor Lytle to Utah.
O’Hara has been a member of Sky Blue since 2016. In 2017, O’Hara appeared in 18 games, starting 17. O’Hara primarily featured on defense but managed to score four goals and provide three assists.
“[O’Hara’s] talent, work ethic and winning mentality is something I think will be infectious throughout the team,” Royals Head Coach Laura Harvey said. “Kelley is in the prime of her career and I feel coming to Utah is a great move for both her and the Royals.”
Lytle, a midfielder, has been a member of Sky Blue FC since 2016. In 21 matches for Sky Blue FC in 2017, Lytle provided five assists.
“In [Lytle], we have a player who has been a stalwart for Sky Blue over five seasons; whenever I would coach against her, she would always cause my team problems, so I’m now very glad that we are on the same team,” Harvey said. “She is a player I have admired for a while now.”
Meanwhile, the Royals sent Shea Groom and Christine Gibbons to Sky Blue FC.
Groom had a productive season for FC Kansas City in 2017. Groom started 21 matches out of 22 appearances. She managed to score five goals and also provided six assists.
Gibbons spent her rookie season with Kansas City last year and made 24 appearances. She scored one goal and tacked on three assists.
Gibbons has been spending the offseason on loan with the Melbourne Victory in Australia.
“Groom has an incredible attacking presence and can be a difference maker, especially in the final third. Gibbons has the ability to make a major impact at multiple positions on the field,” Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy said.
Utah signs Icelandic international
Gunnhildur Jonsdottir has a new home in Utah.
After calling Norway home for the last five years, “Gunny” signed with the Utah Royals on Jan. 3.
Jonsdottir made 155 appearances for clubs in Iceland and Norway since her career started in 2008. For the Icelandic Women’s National Team, she has made 48 appearances, scoring seven goals.
“My goal is to come in and give everything I can to this club and my teammates, and hopefully help us win a championship,” Jonsdottir said. “I have followed the NWSL and I know it is a difficult league to win, but I am an Icelandic and we always have big dreams and know that anything is possible. I believe this will be something special and I can’t wait to get started.”
Jodie Taylor hops over the pond
After one season with Arsenal FC, Jodie Taylor is making her return to the NWSL.
Taylor, an international for England, signed with the Seattle Reign on Nov. 21. She has made 30 appearances for England, scoring 15 goals.
With Arsenal, Taylor made 17 appearances and scored a staggering 10 goals.
This isn’t Taylor’s first time in the NWSL; Taylor previously featured for the Washington Spirit in 2014 and the Portland Thorns in 2015.
“Jodie is a world-class player who will add experience and quality to our attack,” Reign Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Throughout her career Taylor has been a consistent goal scorer for club and country, and she has demonstrated she can be a threat that demands a reaction from the competition. We’re excited to add her to the squad.”
Spirit get No. 3 overall pick; Lindsay Agnew to Houston
The Washington Spirit doesn’t just have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s 2018 NWSL College Draft, but they now hold the No. 3 pick too.
The club traded Canadian forward Lindsay Agnew to the Houston Dash. Agnew, in her rookie season, made eight appearances for the Spirit, starting two matches.
She did not score a goal but provided an assist.
In addition to Agnew, the Dash received the No. 6 overall pick in the draft, also held by the Spirit.
“We want to thank Lindsay for all she did for the Spirit,” Gabarra said. “We are happy for her with this new opportunity in Houston and wish her good luck.”
Two NWSL players go to Lyon
The NWSL has also lost two big-name players.
Morgan Brian, of the Chicago Red Stars, and Amandine Henry, of the Portland Thorns, left their NWSL clubs to sign with Olympique Lyon in France. For Henry, who hails from France and has featured 69 times for the France Women’s National Team, the signing with Lyon isn’t unfamiliar; Henry featured for Lyon from 2007-16 before signing with the Thorns. In her first stint with Lyon, Henry made 122 appearances and scored 28 goals.
For Brian, this is her first time going overseas, following in the footsteps of Alex Morgan, her teammate on the U.S. WNT.
The Red Stars, who traded for Brian, only had two games with Brian, holds her rights should she return back to the NWSL.
“We knew when we traded for Morgan that she had a strong desire to go overseas and play for Lyon,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “We wish her the best of luck with Lyon, and will always welcome her back as we retain her rights. Our goal stays the same ahead of the 2018 season and we look forward to moving forward in a positive direction.”
Those are the big moves you should be informed about before the 2018 NWSL College Draft. The draft will take place on Thursday, Jan. 18, in Philadelphia. The event will begin at 10 a.m. ET. and will be held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
To see the full list of players that can be selected, click here.
If you’d like to view the draft order, go to NWSL’s official website.
You can listen to Rachael, Erik Watkins and Sean Garmer each week right here on W2Mnet.com or I-Tunes, Youtube and more on the Soccer 2 the MAX Podcast.
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