Five of the Biggest NWSL Off-Season Changes

NWSL

The National Women’s Soccer League will kick off its historic sixth season this weekend.

Last year, the fifth season marked the first time a women’s professional soccer team made it to five seasons in the United States. The league celebrated by signing a three-year deal with Lifetime TV which airs a “game of the week.”

Go90 and the NWSL partnered up as well, with other league matches being played through a live stream.

The league will enter their second season in the agreement.

In the sixth season, even bigger changes have swept the league. Here are five of the biggest changes heading into the sixth NWSL season.

Five of the NWSL’s Biggest Off-Season Changes

5. Back Down to Nine Clubs

The Boston Breakers are officially no more.

The club folded on Jan. 28, right after the NWSL College Draft. However, the team was allowed to select players and secured Savannah McCaskill, Joanna Boyle, Elizabeth Wenger and Ashton Miller with their picks.

Last minute efforts were attempted to save the Breakers, but it was too late. Boston will still run an academy, but their professional tenure is over.

Players weren’t without a home for too long. The league hosted a dispersal draft, in which the remaining nine clubs made selections.

Notable selections included Rose Lavelle to the Washington Spirit, Angela Salem to the Portland Thorns, McCaskill to Sky Blue FC and Megan Oyster to the Seattle Reign.

FC Kansas City also folded but will be replaced by the Utah Royals. Aside from a select number of trades, FCKC’s roster largely stuck with Utah. Becky Sauerbrunn was the first player to commit, and Kelley O’Hara joined the star-studded roster in a trade with Sky Blue.

The league is back down to nine clubs. This is the first season the Utah Royals will compete and there are no plans set in stone for any new expansion clubs.

However, Amanda Duffy, the managing director of operations for the NWSL, has expressed hope for a Los Angeles expansion team.

4. Seattle and Utah Swap Coaches; Houston Gets Vera

The Seattle Reign and Utah Royals had an unusual “trade” of sorts.

Vlatko Andonvoski, the first and only head coach in FC Kansas City history, found a new home in Seattle. Andonvoski made his way to Kansas City back in 2010 as an assistant coach for the Kansas City Comets, an indoor soccer club.

He joined FC Kansas ahead of their inaugural 2013 season. He led the club to back-to-back NWSL championships.

Both final matches were victories over Laura Harvey’s Seattle Reign.

Now, Harvey takes over as the Utah Royals head coach and Andonvoski takes over in Seattle. Harvey was teetering on taking a position within U.S. Soccer. However, once the Royals opportunity opened up she was hired on Nov. 27, 2017.

Andonvoski is familiar with Seattle after coaching against them multiple times. After barely missing the playoffs in 2017, the Reign got a head coach with a successful — and championship-winning — track record.

Utah and Seattle aren’t the only clubs with a new coach.

Since 1998, Vera Pauw has only coached national teams. After coaching Scotland, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa, Pauw was hired by the Houston Dash on Nov. 27, 2017 — the same day as Harvey.

Also, Sky Blue FC hired Denise Reddy as their head coach. Last season, Christy Holly parted ways with the club during the season. Sky Blue never named an official head coach or an interim head coach.

Now, Reddy, who was hired on Nov. 15, 2017, will fill her first NWSL head coach position.

3. The Big Three-Way Trade With Sky Blue, Houston & Chicago

On Jan. 20, Sky Blue FC, the Chicago Red S, ars and the Houston Dash made a blockbuster trade that shook up the whole league.

NWSL MVP Sam Kerr, along with Nikki Stanton, are now members of the Chicago Red Stars. Last year, Kerr scored 17 goals in her best NWSL season with Sky Blue.

Sky Blue didn’t wait long to fill the hole Kerr left. Instead of a forward, Sky Blue acquired Carli Lloyd, U.S. Women’s National Team captain and two-time FIFA Player of the Year. Janine Beckie and Jen Hoy also joined Sky Blue.

Down south, the trade hasn’t been smooth sailing for Houston.

The Dash acquired the rights of Christen Press, a U.S. WNT forward, but reports indicate that Press won’t stay in Houston. According to journalist Caitlin Murray of The Guardian, Press is searching for a new home in Sweden.

The Dash also received an international roster spot in the trade.

2. Washington and North Carolina Swap

The Washington Spirit are stacked with young players while the North Carolina Courage continue to add veterans.

After one season in England with Chelsea Ladies, Crystal Dunn is returning to the NWSL. The Washington Spirit traded her rights to the Courage, her hometown club. In return, Washington acquired 2017 Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch.

Hatch joins a young midfield and forward group that consists of Rose Lavelle (acquired in the Boston Breakers dispersal draft), Andi Sullivan (Washington’s No. 1 overall draft pick) and Mallory Pugh.

Meanwhile, Dunn joins veterans like Lynn Williams, McCall Zerboni and Jessica McDonald.

Also included in the swap was defender Taylor Smith, who now dons a Washington Spirit uniform. The Spirit finished in last place in 2017 due to defensive troubles. Now, Smith joins Caprice Dydasco, Whitney Church and Estelle Johnson.

1. New Number One Goalkeepers

Many clubs are experiencing goalkeeper changes.

The Washington Spirit lost Canadian international goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to the Calgary Foothills FC in the USL’s Premier Development League.

Yes, Labbé will be featuring for a men’s club program.

But, she’s not the only goalkeeper that swapped teams. Taking over Labbé’s place, Audrey Bledsoe, formerly of the Orlando Pride, signed with the Spirit.

Orlando has their keeper in Ashlyn Harris, a U.S. WNT regular, but head coach Tom Sermanni decided to add some competition by trading for former Seattle Reign goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer.

Taking over in Seattle will be either Michelle Betos or Lydia Williams. Another goalkeeper battle to watch for will be in Utah between Abby Smith, who was acquired in the Breakers dispersal draft, and Nicole Barnhart, a longtime veteran.

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