NWSL Offseason Notebook: NWSL Draft, trades galore as teams ring in the new year
News and notes from around the league this offseason
Ifeoma Onumonu was recently traded from Reign FC to Sky Blue FC (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)
Ifeoma Onumonu was recently traded from Reign FC to Sky Blue FC (Photo credit: Brad Smith/isiphotos.com)

Along with the draft, the NWSL offseason has really kicked into high gear.

Here’s some of the latest notes from around the league:

League-Wide News

Chicago Red Stars

  • On the day of the draft, the Red Stars acquired forward Rachel Hill, a first-round selection in the 2021 NWSL College Draft, the 19th overall selection (Zoe Morse, University of Virginia) in the 2020 NWSL Draft and allocation money from Orlando in exchange for the 3rd and 26th overall selection in the draft.
  • Midfielder Nikki Stanton announced that she would not be returning to the club in 2020 in order to pursue a playing opportunity in Europe.
  • The Red Stars acquired forward Kealia Ohai from the Houston Dash in exchange for Katie Naughton and the 18th overall selection in the 2020 NWSL College Draft. Additionally, Chicago sent the sixth overall pick to the North Carolina Courage in exchange for the ninth and 18th picks in this year’s draft. Ohai, the Dash’s first ever draft selection and captain for the last three seasons, leaves as the team’s all-time leading goalscorer (28). 

Houston Dash

  • The Dash acquired defender Katie Naughton and the 18th overall selection (Bridgette Andrzejewski, University of North Carolina) in the 2020 NWSL College Draft in exchange for forward Kealia Ohai. Naughton, an anchor of the Red Stars recent defensive success, has made 88 appearances and 75 starts for the club since being drafted in 2016.
  • The Dash agreed to a new contact with forward Rachel Daly. Daly, who helped England to a semifinal appearance in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, scored a career-high 10 goals in her third season with the club and was named the team’s most valuable player.
  • The Dash signed free agent Canadian midfielder Maegan Kelly, following her successful stint with Italian side C. F. Florentia. The Kansas native spent part of the 2019 season as a national team replacement signing with Reign FC, prior to leaving for Italy in July.
  • The Dash signed free agent goalkeeper Lindsey Harris. Born in Houston, Harris returns home after three years abroad in Europe, which included leading Norweigan club Klepp to a UEFA Champions League berth and a second-place finish in Norway’s Toppserien.
  • The club announced that it had waived goalkeeper Devon Kerr on Jan. 7. Kerr joined the Dash as a non-roster invitee after an impressive collegiate career at Ohio State University.
  • The Dash additionally waived defenders Lindsey Agnew and Jazmin Jackmon. 

North Carolina Courage

  • The North Carolina Courage traded veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni to Sky Blue FC in exchange for the rights to FC Rosengard defender Hailie Mace and a conditional fourth round pick in the 2021 NWSL College Draft. Zerboni, who joined the league at its inception with the Western New York Flash, played in 65 regular-season games in her three seasons with the Courage, winning three consecutive NWSL Shields and back-to-back NWSL Championships during that span. Additionally, Mace officially signed a contract with the Courage on Jan. 22.

Orlando Pride

  • The Orlando Pride one of the biggest trades before the draft, acquiring USWNT defender Emily Sonnett, the rights to Australian forward Caitlin Foord, and the seventh (Courtney Peterson, University of Virginia) and 14th (Phoebe McClernon, University of Virginia) picks in the draft in exchange for the NWSL College Draft first overall selection.
  • On the day of the draft, the Pride sent forward Rachel Hill, a 2021 first-round draft pick, the 19th overall selection in the 2020 NWSL Draft, and allocation money to the Red Stars in exchange for the 3rd (Taylor Cornieck, University of Colorado, Boulder) and 26th (Abi Kim, University of California, Berkley) overall selections in the draft. 
  • The Pride announced that NWSL President Amanda Duffy will be joining the club as Executive Vice President in mid-February, heading all club operations – front office and technical. Before her successful stint with the NWSL, Duffy spearheaded Louisville City FC’s front office, serving as club president – the first female to hold that role in United Soccer League history.
  • The Pride additionally signed Orlando native Carrie Lawrence as a supplemental player ahead of the 2020 season, waiving forward Danica Evans in the process. Evans later signed for Sporting de Huelva in the Spanish Primera Division.
  • The Pride traded midfielder Dani Weatherholt to Reign FC in exchange for their natural second round selection in the 2021 NWSL Draft. Weatherholt, who has spent the past four seasons with the Pride since being drafted by them in 2016, captained the club in five consecutive matches in 2019.

Portland Thorns FC

  • In a flurry of pre-draft trades, the Thorns acquired the first overall pick (Sophia Smith, Stanford) in the NWSL College Draft from the Orlando Pride in exchange for USWNT defender Emily Sonnett, the rights to Australian forward Caitlin Foord, and the seventh (Courtney Peterson, University of Virginia) and 14th (Phoebe McClernon, University of Virginia) picks in the draft. Additionally, the Thorns traded forward Midge Purce and a 2021 natural first round draft pick to Sky Blue FC in exchange for the rights to midfielder Raquel Rodriguez.
  • On the day of the draft, the Thorns acquired the rights to defender Christen Westphal from Reign FC in exchange for the 34th overall pick (Meg Brandt, University of Nebraska).
  • The Thorns additionally parted ways with Brazilian midfielder Andressinha, as the midfielder returns to her home country. Andressinha, acquired from Houston ahead of the 2018 season, appeared in 22 matches for the Thorns.
  • Australian forward Hayley Raso departed the club to sign for English side Everton. In four years with the Thorns, Raso registered 12 goals and seven assists, while winning the 2016 NWSL Shield and 2017 NWSL Championship with the Cascadia giants.

Reign FC

  • Reign FC announced the appointment of French coach Farid Benstiti as their head coach. Benstiti, the third coach in the club’s history, brings 20 years of coaching experience having delivered eight domestic league titles in France, Russia, and China, as well as taking both OL and PSG to the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final.
  • English forward Jodie Taylor re-signed with Reign FC on a one year deal which carries an additional one year option. Taylor, who’s game-tying or game-winning goals led to 12 of Reign FC’s 38 points in 2019, also featured for the Lionesses as England made the 2019 World Cup Semifinal in France.
  • Reign FC also acquired the rights to Adelaide United FC defender Julia Ashley from Sky Blue FC in exchange for forward Ifeoma Onumonu, as well as sending their natural second round selection in next year’s College Draft in exchange for Orlando Pride midfielder Dani Weatherholt.
  • The club announced that defender Schuyler Debree (Player Elective Leave), Morgan Proffitt (retirement), and Addison Steiner (waived) would not be returning to Reign FC.

Sky Blue FC

  • Sky Blue FC acquired veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni and a conditional pick in the 2021 NWSL draft from the North Carolina Courage in exchange for the rights to Hailie Mace.
  • Sky Blue acquired recent U.S. women’s national team debutant and Thorns breakout star Midge Purce on Jan. 8, dealing midfielder Raquel Rodriguez in return. Sky Blue also received Portland’s 2021 natural first round draft pick.
  • Midfielder and co-captain Sarah Killion agreed to a new contract with club ahead of the 2020 season. Killion, with the club since 2015, reached her 100th cap with the team during Sky Blue’s debut match at Red Bull Arena in August.
  • On draft day, Sky Blue announced that they had dealt the 4th, 13th, and 17th overall selections in the 2020 NWSL College Draft, in addition to a first round 2021 draft pick, for a player to be named later from the Washington spirit. The club later announced that that player was U.S. women’s national team World Cup Champion Mallory Pugh
  • Sky Blue also acquired forward Ifeoma Onumonu from Reign FC in exchange for the rights to defender Julia Ashley.
  • Finally, Sky Blue announced the re-signing of defender Estelle Johnson on a one-year deal. Johnson marked her first season in New Jersey by earning her 100th NWSL cap in July against the Houston Dash.

Utah Royals FC

  • Utah Royals FC acquired the Houston Dash’s natural second round picks in the 2020 and 2021 NWSL College Drafts in exchange for forward Katie Stengel and the 22nd overall draft pick (Chloe Castaneda, UCLA). Stengel has found the back of the net 12 times in 83 career NWSL matches with Washington, Boston, and Utah.
  • Utah announced the signing of veteran midfielder Chestley Strother, bolstering the club’s midfield ahead of the 2020 season. Strother, 25, is a veteran of the Swedish and Icelandic top flight women’s leagues, most recently featuring for Sundvall DFF in Sweden’s top flight.
  • Utah midfielder and 2013 NWSL Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak announced her retirement from professional soccer. A back-to-back league title winner with now defunct FC Kansas City, Tymrak made 125 appearances in the NWSL, scoring 19 goals.
  • The club announced the signing of defender Taylor Leach ahead of the 2020 NWSL season. Leach will find a familiar face in Utah, as she and Christen Press were teammates for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC of the Swedish first division during the 2018 season. She spent the past four seasons at the club, helping them reach the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in over five years.
  • Head coach Laura Harvey departed the club to take a position with U.S. Soccer as the head coach for the U-20 women’s national team. Harvey, second all-time in NWSL career wins, steered Utah Royals FC to a 19-17-12 record in her two seasons at the helm.

Washington Spirit

  • The Spirit signed experienced West Ham defender Brooke Hendrix. Hendrix brings a wealth of European experience, enjoying successful stints at Rangers, FC Staad of Switzerland, Fylkir FC of Iceland, and Brescia before her two years with the Hammers. Hendrix was crucial in Brescia’s near upset of Juventus for the league title in 2018, as well as leading West Ham to the FA Cup Final this past season.
  • The Spirit also signed midfielder Jaye Boissiere from French side Le Harve. Before her first professional season with Le Harve, Boissiere was a standout at Stanford, winning the 2017 College Cup Most Outstanding Offensive Player after her game-winning goal against UCLA in the final. Nominated for the MAC Hermann Trophy in 2018, she earned a U.S. U-23 national team call-up of March that year alongside new teammates Jordan DiBiasi and Tegan McGrady.
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