Philadelphia — Sky Blue FC already had the 4th and 5th picks coming into Thursday’s NWSL College Draft, and made their selections early in the morning. But then NWSL Managing Director of Operations Amanda Duffy announced that Sky Blue would also be on the clock for the No. 6 pick … which had been the property of the Houston Dash.
Something was brewing — and that something was a pair of enormous trades. At the time it was first revealed, the trade was only listed as picks and “players to be named later” — but the full scope of the trade was made official on Friday morning.
First, the Red Stars traded forward Christen Press, the seventh pick in this year’s draft and a 2018 international roster spot to the Houston Dash in exchange for forward Carli Lloyd, forward Janine Beckie and the sixth and 24th picks in this year’s draft.
Then, the Red Stars traded Lloyd, Beckie, forward Jen Hoy and the sixth and 13th picks in this year’s draft to Sky Blue FC in exchange for forward Sam Kerr, midfielder Nikki Stanton and the 15th pick in this year’s draft.
“[Kerr] is a player that any team in the league would jump to get,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said in a Red Stars statement after the trade was made official. “She is a young and eager forward that has proven to be one of the best in the world. Then we get [Stanton], who for us can be a solid 6 or 8 and really push our current mix of players. We couldn’t be happier to have both Sam and Nikki in Chicago.”
At the end of the day, a blockbuster, mega set of trades that shakes up the core rosters of three teams and brings even more intrigue to the upcoming NWSL season. With only a month until preseason begins, many rosters are looking quite different.
Three of the players involved in Friday’s trade are among the NWSL’s all-time top scorers.
Kerr is, of course, coming off one of the most outstanding seasons in NWSL history. She won the MVP and Golden Boot awards after scoring a record 17 goals last season. She’s the league’s all-time leading goal scorer, with 43 goals in five NWSL seasons with Sky Blue and the Western New York Flash.
“Let’s get it [Chicago Red Stars],” Kerr wrote on Instagram shortly after the trade was announced.
Lloyd, a former Rutgers star, returns to New Jersey and Yurcak Field. She has 27 career goals in five NWSL seasons with the Houston Dash and Western New York Flash. She previously played for Sky Blue FC of Women’s Professional Soccer in 2010.
“A big Thank You to the Dash fans! You have welcomed me with open arms and have been the best fans to play in front of! Lastly, I would like to thank my teammates. I have cherished my time with each and every one of you,” Lloyd wrote in a long statement posted on Twitter on Friday. “While this has been a bittersweet moment at this juncture of my career, I am ready to come home to NJ, be with my husband and live in our home together. I’m super excited to be able to play for Sky Blue and to return back to my Alma Mater.”
Press scored 11 goals in 2017, fourth best in the NWSL. She has 35 career scores in 60 regular season games over four NWSL seasons, all with the Chicago Red Stars. Press is tied for second in the regular season goal-scoring category, behind only Kerr. Press joined the Red Stars and the NWSL in 2014.
“For three and a half years Christen did everything we asked her to do,” Dames said. “We can’t thank you enough for her time here, but we had run our course together and mutually agreed it was time. Her time that she gave to this club and this city is invaluable and we wish her the best of luck in Houston.”
Beckie, a first round pick of the Dash in 2016, had spent two seasons in Houston, tallying five goals and three assists.
“To the Houston Dash, thank you for giving me two years of growth and memories, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have represented this city. Change comes with the territory in this profession. It’s time for a new challenge and a new journey,” Beckie wrote in a post shared on social media Thursday night. “To the east coast I go! Thank you [Sky Blue FC] for the chance at a new start, I am very excited to get started! Much love, H-Town.”
Hoy was selected in the fourth round by the Red Stars in the 2013 inaugural NWSL College Draft. Over five seasons, all in Chicago, she scored 15 goals and 10 assists.
“Jen was someone that has been with us since the beginning,” Dames said. “Her commitment to this team and organization has been top class and I can’t thank Jen enough for everything.”
In four seasons in the midfield for Sky Blue FC, Stanton appeared in 41 games with one assist.
The Dash and Sky Blue FC had already been involved in major player trades this offseason. Just last week, Houston sent midfielder Andressinha to Portland in exchange for Savannah Jordan. Two days before the draft, the Dash traded down from the third pick to the sixth (the one they eventually moved in the trade that brought them Press), acquiring Lindsay Agnew in the process. On December 29, Sky Blue dealt Kelley O’Hara, Taylor Lytle and a draft pick to Utah in exchange for Shea Groom, Christina Gibbons and the No. 4 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.
The Red Stars jumped into the busy NWSL offseason with their pair of trades this week and ended up acquiring the reigning league MVP in Kerr.
In 2017, the Chicago Red Stars finished fourth and made the playoffs, but fell in the semifinal on a late goal to the Courage. It was their third-straight semifinal loss. Sky Blue FC finished in sixth place, six points out of a playoff spot. The Dash finished in eighth place.
Preseason in the NWSL begins in exactly one month on February. The league will kick off its first games the weekend of March 24-25.
This story has been updated with additional player reaction.