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This week, we look at new player signings in the NWSL—including players acquired through trades around the 2022 Expansion and College Drafts last month (see last week’s drafts coverage: The Week in Women’s Football: NWSL draft; Liga MX Femenil action & new UWS franchises – Tribal Football), as well as some new head coaching appointments and marketing news for the two new expansion franchises in California, a unique and laudable new program from the NWSL Players Association and a vital change of venue for OL Reign in Washington State. We also look at some player news from Canada with players moving abroad.
Dash signs young Argentinian international Gramaglia
The Houston Dash signed Argentinian international forward Paulina Gramaglia (18) from UAI Urquiza of Argentina on loan for the 2022 season, with an option to purchase her contract on a permanent basis.
Gramaglia appeared in seven games for UAI Urquiza in Argentina’s top division in 2021 and scored nine goals. Gramaglia recently made her senior debut for the Argentinean Women’s National Team during the November 2021 FIFA window. Gramaglia came on in the 75th minute of Argentina’s friendly versus Ecuador, which finished in a 0-0 draw on November 27.
OL Reign moves back to Seattle
In a huge move for the stability of the OL Reign franchise in Western Washington, the NWSL club will play in Lumen Field in downtown Seattle—home of the MLSSeattle Sounders—which has a capacity of 68,000 fans. The Reign will abandon their Tacoma Washington home, where they have drawn well (certainly better than their days in Seattle at historic but worn-down Memorial Stadium—within the shadow of the iconic Space Needle, which was built in 1962 for the city’s World’s Fair—and which was the original home of the NASL Sounders in 1974 and 1975). The Reign draw a franchise best 5,213 crowd per game in 2019 and surpassed that last season with a per game average of 5,422 fans, an outstanding figure in a season that began in the midst of COVID spikes. The problem with Cheney Stadium in Tacoma was that it was a baseball stadium—depending on the configuration, some fans are quite far away from the action—and suburban Tacoma is an hour’s drive from downtown Seattle. There were plans to develop a 6,000 seat capacity soccer specific stadium in downtown Tacoma for the Reign and Tacoma Defiance (formerly a second division team in the USL Championship that is owned by the Sounders and that is joining a MLS-owned second division league next year and likely won’t draw what it did in the USL—at least in the first few years) by 2022 or 2023. The devastating financial aspects of COVID-19 to most sports organizations in North America combined with the fact that the Defiance reportedly has even explored moving 300 miles east to Spokane, which will construct a soccer-specific stadium downtown in the next year or two, led the Reign to look into taking the lead on a 10,000 seat complex in Tacoma, but the cost would have been approximately $150 Million and too rich for the club, particularly to play in a minor market. Tacoma will still be their training base and off-the-field home to some of the players.
For Reign games initially, Lumen Field will be configured for 10,000 fans, and the club will not stage MLS doubleheaders with the Sounders (they did as a one off last season and drew 27,000 fans for the first game with the Reign and the Portland Thorns), but will play on an adjacent day to the MLS club’s games in order to take advantage of the soccer field setup in the multi-purpose (artificial turf) stadium. There had been concerns that the club’s French controlling owners (OL Lyon) would move the franchise out of Washington State, with Miami a frequent mention. Now, with the team having a chance to grow in the center of this extremely soccer-mad city and region—while not being seen any more as a competition for the Sounders—the Reign should see increased attendances and put to bed the idea of moving elsewhere, particularly if Seattle ends up hosting men’s World Cup games in 2026, which is likely.
Reign CEO and original owner Bill Predmore said to The Equalizer, “I think from day one, where we play our home games has been a huge challenge for us. I will say, I have always envied the clubs that didn’t have to worry about that, that it occupied 0% of their time to make sure they had a great place for their team to play. Throughout our history, that has been a continual challenge.” It begs the point that this long-running stadium mess in the past was largely of Predmore’s own making for various reasons, not least of which was taking a confrontation stance with the Sounders early on and playing in the same venue in suburban Tukwilla in year 1, which also housed the W-League Seattle Sounders Women (which was not owned by the MLS side) and confused the fans greatly as to which team was the major league women’s side.
NWSL Players Association News
The NWSL Players Association continues to do great work in only their second full year of operation, and have recently hired former NWSL and A-League Women player Sydney Miramontez as their second full-time employee to be the director of business operations. The league also launched the SupportThePlayers.NET emergency fund to aid women’s professional soccer players in crisis. The Support the Players National Emergency Trust will provide emergency financial assistance to NWSL players who cannot afford basic living expenses or the additional costs that become barriers to accessing critical mental health services. Any player who signed a contract to play professionally in WUSA (2001-03), WPS (2009-11) or NWSL (2013-2021) is eligible to join the NWSL Players Association, making them eligible to apply for funds.
San Diego Wave News
In on the field news, 2020 Olympic Gold Medal winning Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s rights last month were traded to the Wave from NJ/NY Gotham FC. In exchange, Gotham FC received $130,000 of funded allocation money and draft protection in the recent 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft. She played with the club primarily as a starter since her rookie season in 2017 and was a 2021 NWSL Best XI selection and 2020 NWSL Golden Glove Winner. She led the league in 2018 with 7.38 goals prevented per game. In 2019 she began the season with back-to-back NWSL Saves of the Week.
Wave FC head coach Casey Stoney said, “Kailen is one of the best goalkeepers in the women’s game because of her quality, experience and leadership. Kailen’s composure and quality on the ball and her exceptional ability to make big saves in critical moments of the game are key reasons for us wanting to sign her. I am very excited to work with Kailen and looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”
Another seasoned NWSL international player is joining the Wave in English international Jodie Taylor.
In exchange, the Orlando Pride received San Diego’s 2023 NWSL Draft natural Second Round pick, natural Third Round pick or Allocation Money, with the final package to be determined at a later date. Taylor (35) signed with the Pride midway through the 2021 NWSL campaign after her rights were acquired from North Carolina earlier in the year. The English international would go on to make 13 appearances for the Pride to finish out the year, scoring three goals and adding two assists. Taylor made her NWSL debut with the Washington Spirit in 2014 and has 31 goals in her NWSL career; she previously played for the Portland Thorns FC (2015) and OL Reign (2018-20). Taylor’s international club career has included stops with Arsenal of England’s Women’s Super League, Melbourne City FC (Australia) and Lyon (France), where she played on a UEFA Women’s Champions League-winning team in 2020 after joining the team in the summer on loan from OL Reign. Taylor scored 47 goals in her NCAA career at Oregon State from 2004-07. She is signed through the 2022 season with an option to exercise for the 2023 season.
In a conference call with the media after the drafts, Stoney was asked by this reporter why she acquired Taylor. “Obviously I knew her before when I was at Manchester United and its key sometimes that I have players that I know very well in the dressing room, know my standards, know the way I want to play, know my philosophy around culture and environment and Jodie knows that. She scored goals, she knows the league, she is an experienced player who can help the younger players in the squad as well, so she was a big signing for us. No matter where she goes, she has always been a proven goalscorer and they are hard to come by.”
Stoney also talked about the process of signing international players, “I don’t have an ego and so I don’t always think they will come for me. The weather is a help, the location is incredible. The fact that the league is so competitive is really appealing. Obviously there are challenges getting the Europeans here as we don’t have a Champions League Competition. The stuff that came out in the press last year around the league [player harassment and abuse by multiple coaches] is all over Europe. We have to build that reputation again now and make sure the league is very competitive and player welfare is at the heart of everything we do. There have definitely been players who have reached out. We are speaking to international players. Has it been challenging? Absolutely. There’s a reason there are not that many European internationals playing within the league because it is so far from home…To relocate so far away from home without European Football in terms of the Champions League, but there are always opportunities in the market to get the right types of players at the right time in their career and also the right characters in your dressing room.”
English international Jodie Taylor (purple jersey) tries to avoid a tackle by Portland Thorns Kelli Hubly in NWSL action in 2021. Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images/TheManeland.com.
Since making her first international appearance for England’s national team in 2014, Taylor has netted 19 goals for her country in 51 games. She was a key member of England’s 2015 and 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup squads and scored once in three appearances at the 2019 tournament in France. Following England’s 2015 Women’s World Cup semifinal appearance and ultimate Bronze Medal finish, Taylor led England to the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 semifinals as she scored five goals in four matches to earn the tournament’s Golden Boot award as the top scorer.
Taylor said about her signing, “I am delighted to be joining San Diego Wave FC. This is an exciting move and opportunity for my future both on and off the pitch. It is extremely motivating to be joining a new franchise in an incredible city, spearheaded by such amazing women [Stoney and former two-time Women’s World Cup winning coach Jill Ellis as the team President], and I look forward to being a part of building a club from the beginning.”
San Diego also signed two U.S. internationals, including superstar forward Alex Morgan from the Orlando Pride, in exchange for Angharad James of Wales and $275,000 in allocation money. Morgan has been part of two Women’s World Cup winning sides (2015 and 2019) and one Olympic Games Gold Medal (2012). She will bring her 9.4 million Instagram and 3.8 million on Twitter followers with her to her native California and help quickly build the brand of the Wave. Stoney said about signing Morgan, “It’s a game changer. It’s about the little girls out there looking up to somebody. I’m a massive believer in, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Morgan said that she was excited about her cross-country move, “As a Southern California native, I am excited to be making a long-term commitment to Wave FC and the city of San Diego. I am coming home to partner with this ambitious new club and to push the league forward for generations of soccer players to come. I cannot wait to get started and I will do everything I can to help bring a championship to this great city.” Morgan had played with the Pride since the 2016 season after three years with the Portland Thorns, where she won a league title in 2013. In her six years in Orlando, Morgan, 32, made 69 appearances with 64 starts and recorded 5,682 minutes. Her 23 goals and 10 assists rank her second behind her former Pride teammate and Brazilian international Marta in both categories.
The Red Stars also traded Californians Katie Johnson (who plays internationally for Mexico) and Makenzy Doniak to the Wave as well as rights to 2021 Red Stars draft pick Kelsey Turnbow, who played for Santa Clara University in the Women’s College Cup Final Four last month, in exchange for roster protection from San Diego in the Expansion Draft plus allocation money.
In off the field news, the Wave has launched a new colorful logo crest ahead of their inaugural season in 2022. The crest, encased in a shield, is a symbol of strength, for the city and team to proudly stand behind. A powerful wave, cresting in the rich blues of the Pacific Ocean, sits front and center as the iconic mark of Wave FC. Under the proud banner of the city’s name, are the vivid colors of the horizon, celebrating the beauty, fun, and vibrant culture of the city and its people.
North Carolina Courage trades McDonald to Racing Louisville and Sam Mewis to Kansas City Current
In major trades around the December 2021 Expansion and College Drafts for 2022, the North Carolina Courage traded 2019 Women’s World Cup winning American forward Jessica McDonald to Racing Louisville for the sixth pick overall in the draft (with which they selected forward Diana Ordoñez, forward from the University of Virginia).
McDonald came to the North Carolina Courage following the sale of the Western New York Flash in 2017 to a Cary-based men’s professional side—she won a league title with Flash and then McDonald played an integral role in leading the Courage to two NWSL Championship titles, three NWSL Shields [regular season title], and an ICC Championship title. In 90 appearances with the North Carolina side over five seasons, the Scottsdale, Arizona native collected 26 goals and 20 assists, also picking up a Best XI selection, a Second XI selection, and an NWSL Championship MVP award. This year, McDonald recorded her 50th NWSL career goal, adding her 51st later in the season.
The Courage also sent American international midfielder Sam Mewis to the Kansas City Current in exchange for American youth international defender Kiki Pickett and the Current’s natural first-round pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft. The Courage also obtained the discovery rights of Malia Berkely from the Current in exchange for the Courage’s natural first round pick in the draft.
Mewis is one of the most decorated players in NWSL history, winning three titles with the Western New York Flash in 2016 and Courage in 2018 and 2019 and three Shields [regular season title] with the Courage (2017-19). She scored the first goal when Manchester City defeated Everton, 3-1, to win the 2020 English FA Cup. In total, the Hanson, Massachusetts native has appeared in 69 matches for North Carolina, tallying fifteen goals and collecting nine assists over four regular seasons and the abbreviated 2020 season
Drafted fourth overall in the 2021 NWSL Draft, Kiki Pickett appeared in sixteen matches for the Kansas City Current this season and earned a nomination for NWSL Rookie of the Year. The defender posted 30 clearances, two blocks, and 30 interceptions, maintaining a 65.5% passing accuracy rate and collecting ten key passes. The 22-year-old is a Stanford alum, winning two NCAA Championship titles and three Pac-12 Championship titles while with the Cardinal, and was also named the Pac-12 Defender of the Year.
Berkely, a Hermann Trophy finalist, left Florida State University in January to sign with Bordeaux in France on an 18 month contract. At FSU, Berkely started in all of her 84 matches, recording four goals and fourteen assists while leading the Seminoles to three ACC Championship titles (2016, 2018 and 2020) and a National Championship in 2018. Berkely anchored one of the nation’s top defenses throughout her time at FSU leading the Seminoles to 49 shutouts in 84 games. Bordeaux is currently mid-table in the 12 team league, tied for sixth with Stade de Reims on 14 points from a 4-2-5 (W-D-L) record; Berkely has 1 goal in 9 matches. Other CONCACAF imports with Reims are the Canadian defender and 2020 Olympic Games Gold Medalist Vanessa Gilles—in her fourth season with the club—and who has 2 goals in 10 games, fellow Canadian defender Paige Culver (who played at Kent State University in Ohio) who transferred in this season from Soyaux in France and spent the 2019/20 season in Italy with Bari and Costa Rican international forward Daphne Herrera, who scored 8 goal in 16 games last season with Stade de Reims. Herrera has also played in Colombia with Santa Fe and in 2016 with FC Indiana in the WPSL.
Julia Ashley moves from Racing Louisville to Houston Dash
The Houston Dash acquired defender Julia Ashley from Racing Louisville in exchange for the number 26 pick in the 2022 draft, which Racing used to select goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer from the University of Madison—Wisconsin. Ashley appeared in 15 matches and earned six starts for Racing Louisville FC in her first season with the expansion club. The defender was drafted by NJ/NY Gotham FC (then Sky Blue FC) as the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft but went to play with Melbourne City in Australia and then in Sweden with Linkopings. The Verona, New Jersey native also spent time with OL Reign after returning from abroad.
Gotham FC acquires two American national team Women’s World Cup winners.
NJ/NY Gotham FC made a blockbuster trade late in 2021 to acquire a pair of two-time WWC winners for the US in defender Ali Kreiger and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris from the Orlando Pride; in return Orlando received a 2022 NWSL Draft First Round selection, a 2023 NWSL Draft natural Third Round pick and $50,000 in allocation money.
Prior to joining Gotham FC, Krieger played for the Washington Freedom of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), FFC Frankfurt of Germany’s Fraun-Bundesliga, Tyresö FF of Sweden’s Damallsvenskan, and in the NWSL for the Washington Spirit and the Pride. In 2008, she won the UEFA Women’s Championship League with FFC Frankfurt and, at the time, was the only player on the USWNT playing overseas.
A two-time goalkeeper of the year in the WPS and NWSL, Harris was a member of the USWNT World Cup Winning side in 2015 and 2019. She has recorded seven shutouts over her international career and has been the starting goalkeeper for the Orlando Pride since joining the team in its nascent 2016 season in the NWSL. That same year she was named NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year, recording 62 saves in 15 games. Harris set a new NWSL all-time career save record this season with her 469th save during a 1-0 win against Gotham FC at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey in August.
Earlier in her career, Harris played for the Saint Louis Athletica, Washington Freedom and Western New York Flash in the WPS and then the Washington Spirit in the NWSL, before a short stint with Tyreso in Sweden and then joined the Orlando Pride in their expansion year. Harris was also a four-year starter during her time at the University of North Carolina.
Angel City FC News
The other 2022 Expansion Franchise, Angel City FC acquired U.S. international midfielder/defender Julie Ertz and Sarah Gordon from the Chicago Red Stars.
Ertz played 100 regular-season games in her first six NWSL seasons. She was injured in the opening game of the 2021 season and didn’t play for the Red Stars after that but did play in the Tokyo Olympics with the Americans and won a Bronze Medal. She has won two WWC Championships with the U.S., in 2015 and 2019. Defender Sarah Gorden played every minute of the 2021 season for Chicago, which returned to the playoffs for a record sixth straight season, before losing to Washington, 2-1 in overtime, in the 2021 championship game.
In off the field news, the club signed Cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com as a sponsor, a company which wants to expand its brand recognition in the United States, including the awareness of and access to crypto, blockchain and Web 3.0 among the Los Angeles market, soccer fans and the athletes themselves. The exchange said it plans to continue looking for “unique and impactful ways” to invest in L.A., with the partnership aimed at encouraging “financial education, independence and financial empowerment” for women.
Angel City Football Club co-founder and President Julie Uhrman said, “Given the speed with which Web 3.0 and cryptocurrency is changing our world, we want to ensure that women are being brought along on the journey as investors and creators. We are excited to work with [Crypto.com] to educate our community and players on crypto and allow our players to use the power of NFTs to connect with and create a deeper relationship with their fans.” As it grows, Crypto.com has been partnering with high-profile individuals and companies to promote cryptocurrencies and blockchain. In July, the company signed a $175-million sponsorship agreement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Actor Matt Damon also appeared in ads released around the world beginning in October. This new type of sponsorship will be interesting as betting is growing exponentially in the United States and the link with women’s football is nascent and interesting to watch.
Kris Ward in Washington and Sean Nahas in North Carolina have their interim head coach titles removed ahead of 2022.
In coaching news around the league, two interim coaches were retained on a permanent basis late last year. Sean Nahas is continuing on as head coach of North Carolina Courage while the 2021 Champions D.C. Spirit kept Kris Ward on. In D.C., Ward was named acting head coach after Richie Burke was first re-assigned and then fired as head coach following an investigation into charges of emotional abuse made by former Spirit players. The Spirit went unbeaten on the field with Ward in charge. It was 5-0-3 in the regular season and won all three playoff games under Ward. Its two losses were forfeits issued following breach of the NWSL’s COVID-19 protocols. Ward first joined the Spirit technical staff in August 2020 as its tactical analysis and player performance development coach. Spirit president and former D.C. United player and coach (and former U.S. national team player) Ben Olson said, “Kris guided this team through a turbulent season that ultimately led to our club’s first championship win. When you look at his record, it’s clear that he’s earned this. But more than that, he has helped to foster a positive environment for the players. We are very excited to keep him with us and look forward to the 2022 season.”
The North Carolina Courage announced on December 1 that Sean Nahas had officially been named head coach. Nahas has been with the Courage first team since 2017, working as an Assistant Coach before transitioning into the Interim Head Coach position in late September of this year following the termination of Paul Riley for charges of sexual and emotional abuse of professional players in the past. Nahas said, “To be asked to be the next Courage head coach, here in my hometown, and to work with these amazing women has made me both humbled and honored. I am excited for what the future holds and I thank Steve [Malik—the team own], Curt [Johnson—President and GM] and all the players for trusting in me to help get our program back where we want to be.” Throughout his tenure with the Courage, Nahas has helped lead the team to two NWSL Championship titles, three NWSL Shields, and an ICC Championship title. Late in the 2021 season, he led the Courage through the remainder of the regular season and into the NWSL quarterfinals. Nahas also has experience with the United States Youth National Team, including his role as Assistant Coach for the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team in the 2016 World Cup in Papua New Guinea. Nahas also served as the ECNL Girls Academy Director and Director of Player Development for the Capital Area Soccer League, now North Carolina FC Youth. The Hofstra University alum brings a wealth of coaching knowledge, with a USSF A license, and additional experience coaching in the W-League and with the Carolina RailHawks men side and has been coaching in the area for years.
Canada Soccer News
Jess Fleming wins Canada Soccer Player of year award; Jade Rose wins the Youth Award
Olympic champion and midfielder Jessie Fleming from Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team has been named the 2021 Canada Soccer Player of the Year. Fleming won the national award for the first time after leading Canada in matches, starts and minutes played while also co-leading Canada in goals scored. She also helped Chelsea FC win the FA Women’s Super League in May 2021, the FA Cup in December 2021, the FA League Cup in March 2021, and reach the Final of 2020-21 UEFA Champions League.
Fleming scored four goals for Canada in 2021, including penalty goals in the 1:0 victory over USA and the 1:1 equalizer against Sweden in the Olympic Final before Canada won 3-2 on kicks to capture the world title. The win over USA in the Olympic Semi-Final was Canada’s first victory against their CONCACAF rivals in 20 years. Across the year for Canada, Fleming played in 17 matches, made 16 starts, featured in 1,481 minutes, and also helped Canada set a Women’s National Team record with a 12-match unbeaten streak from April through October.
This marks the 29th edition of the Canada Soccer Player Awards. Amongst women’s footballers, Jessie Fleming finished first in voting ahead of runner up Stephanie Labbé (Paris St. Germain in France) and top-five finishers Ashley Lawrence(Paris St. Germain in France), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns in the NWSL) and Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyon in France). The winners in 2020 and 2019 respectively were France- Buchanan and Lawrence. Sinclair won in 2018, her 13th title after winning 11 consecutive times form 2004 through 2014
Centre back Jade Rose was named the CSA Youth Player of the Year for Women and made her international “A” debut in February at the SheBelieves Cup in a 1:0 win over Argentina and featured in her second international match just three days later against Brazil. After spending the first half of the season with Canada Soccer’s Super REX Ontario, she enrolled at Harvard University in the Fall where she earned First Team All-Ivy and First Team All-East Region honors. She ranked second on her team in minutes played and helped the Crimson post six clean sheets in her 15 matches. She also scored two goals in her first season.
Julia Grosso joins Juventus of Italy after finishing at the University of Texas
In other Canadian news, Julia Grosso (21), who calmly made the winning penalty kick at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games Finals, finished her collegiately career at the University of Texas and has signed with UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarterfinalists Juventus of Italy in December, where she will play for ex-Arsenal head coach Joe Montemurro. She has won 31 full international caps for Canada and said on social media, “Beyond grateful and excited for this opportunity to play with Juventus. Can’t wait to get started!” Grosso is expected to see action in January 2022 matches. England’s Manchester City and Everton, France’s Paris Saint-Germain and Spain’s Real Madrid also showed interest in the young Canadian. Grosso had six goals and four assists in 18 games for the Texas Longhorns last season when she was named a third-team all-American by the United Soccer Coaches.
Vancouver midfielder Julia Grosso, who has won 31 caps for Canada, will wear No. 15 for the Juventus women’s squad after signing a contract for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Photo Courtesy: Canada Soccer. Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women’s football. Get yours copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey
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