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NWSL: North Carolina signs Spetsmark, Royals sign Boquete

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Cary, North Carolina — With the FIFA Women’s World Cup being this year, all nine NWSL teams are scrambling to find players to fill in missing roster roles.

Technically, no team officially knows how many players will be gone. However, some can ballpark the numbers. The North Carolina Courage are one team in the NWSL that will miss a chunk of players.

NWSL: North Carolina signs Spetsmark, Royals sign Boquete

Right now, the team has five players at January camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. Debinha could very well join the Brazilian team and Abby Erceg is essentially an automatic pick for New Zealand.

Another team that qualified for the World Cup is Sweden. Despite being a Swedish international, Julia Spetsmark has only made four appearances for her nation. She’s not an automatic first-selection to the team. However, she could surprise and make the roster should Sweden lack depth.

Because of the possibility of not making the World Cup roster, the Courage elected to sign her on Monday. The 29-year-old recently featured for Manchester City in England, but struggled to find playing time. She made a meager three appearances in the F.A. WSL.

A large crop of Spetsmark’s experience comes in her native country. She joined QBIK in 2011, making 45 appearances and scoring 23 goals. The midfielder remained with the team until 2013, where she signed with Sunnanå SK, another Swedish club. She stayed with the team for one season, making 21 appearances and scoring three goals.

Before joining Manchester City, Spetsmark logged 84 appearances and scored 12 goals with KIF Örebro DFF. After her stint at Manchester City, she went back to Sweden and signed with Djurgården, located in Stockholm. She made 11 appearances and scored six goals.

North Carolina Courage head coach Paul Riley said that Spetsmark “fits our profile for an attacking player.”

“[Julia’s] skillful, pacey, excellent 1-on-1 ability, crafty and relentless both sides of the ball,” Riley said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for Julia and we believe this will be key in her establishing herself as an invaluable piece on the Swedish National team. Excited to add her to all the other key attacking pieces we have.”

Spetsmark will join a midfield with names like Samantha Mewis, McCall Zerboni, Denise O’Sullivan and Heather O’Reilly.

Royals sign Spanish midfielder Verónica Boquete

The Spaniard is back in the NWSL.

After four years away from the NWSL, the Utah Royals FC have brought Spanish midfielder Verónica “Vero” Boquete back to the league. In 2014, Boquete featured for the Portland Thorns FC, making 15 appearances and scoring four goals.

She was also part of the former women’s soccer league in the United States: the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS). Boquete featured for the Philadelphia Independence, scoring five goals in 13 matches. She also has experience with the former Buffalo Flash and WPS Chicago Red Stars team.

Boquete’s experience throughout the world is immense. She featured for clubs like Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Tyresö FF in Sweden. Most recently, Boquete featured for Beijing BG Phoenix F.C. in China.

Internationally, Boquete made 56 appearances for the Spanish Women’s National Team, scoring 38 goals. She served as the team’s captain in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. During that World Cup, Spain drew with Costa Rica, but fell to South Korea and Brazil. They finished last in their group.

In regard to signing with Utah, Boquete said she wanted a “new challenge in an ambitious club.”

“There is nothing better than Utah Royals FC and the NWSL,” Boquete said. “I am happy to be back in the U.S. and I am grateful for the trust of Utah Royals FC. I can’t wait to start the season and fight for our goals. Great club, team, fantastic fans, and a world class coach. I am looking forward to meeting my teammates and to work with Laura [Harvey].”

Meanwhile, for Royals head coach Laura Harvey, she beamed about her new acquisition.

“We are really happy to bring Vero to Utah,” Harvey said. “She is a proven talent that knows what it takes to play in the NWSL. Her commitment to wanting the best is unbelievable and once we started speaking about the possibility of bringing her to the club, that level of professionalism shined through. Vero is a player I have admired for a number of years and I am glad we can finally work together.”

“She is a proven goal-scorer, play-maker, and can play anywhere in the midfield or the frontline.”

Seattle Reign re-sign players, acquire Darian Jenkins from Courage

While some clubs are picking up players one at a time, the Seattle Reign FC are re-signing multitudes of players and acquiring new ones.

On Dec. 17, the Seattle Reign acquired forward Darian Jenkins from the North Carolina Courage. Jenkins was the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft. She made 14 appearances for the Courage in 2018, but has yet to score her first professional goal. Her college career was at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she made 76 appearances and scored 29 goals.

In exchange for Jenkins, the Courage acquired Seattle’s ninth overall pick in the NWSL College Draft this year, which will be held Thursday in Chicago. Meanwhile, North Carolina already has the fifth overall pick, as well.

“I’m beyond excited to be joining Reign FC,” Jenkins said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the team, coaching staff, and community to continue building on the success the team had last year. Thank you, Reign FC and Upper V Management for making this happen. I’m looking forward to getting out to Seattle.”

Vlatko Andonovski admitted that he’s had his eye on Jenkins for “a long time.”

“She was a dynamic goal scorer in college and has great potential to be an impactful player in the NWSL,” Andonovski said. “She will add a new dimension to our attack and will add needed depth to our squad, especially during our games during over the World Cup.”

Jenkins will join fellow forwards Megan Rapinoe, Beverly Yanez, Kiersten Dallstream, Jaycie Johnson, Nahomi Kawasumi, Jodie Taylor and Jasmyne Spencer.

Reign re-sign McNabb, Andrews, Spencer and add Jiménez

Kristen McNabb isn’t going anywhere.

McNabb has spent her entire career in the NWSL with the Seattle Reign and will compete in her third season with the club. The team announced her re-signing on Dec. 18. McNabb has made 38 appearances over two seasons for the Reign. McNabb has scored one goal for the Reign throughout her career, against the Houston Dash in 2017.

“I’m so excited to be returning to Seattle for a third year,” McNabb said. “I love the organization, the city, and the fans and I’m excited to build on the success of last season.”

Meanwhile, Andonovski said that bringing McNabb back was a high priority.

“Kristen is a very solid competitor,” Andonovski said. “She works hard in training, she’s consistent, and I look forward to seeing the impact she has on our defense next season.”

However, two players that joined the Reign just last season are coming back for a second season. Morgan Andrews, a midfielder, was picked up in the NWSL Dispersal Draft, after the collapse of the Boston Breakers. Andrews spent her rookie season in Boston, making 18 appearances.

For Seattle in 2018, Andrews made 16 appearances, starting seven matches. Andrews has yet to score her first league goal, but primarily features as a defensive midfielder.

“I am incredibly humbled and honored to be back with my team,” Andrews said. “I consider Seattle and the Reign organization to be another home for me, and I look forward to making an impact next season for the team and for our fans.”

“She’s an aggressive player who can slot in anywhere in the midfield and do very well,” Andonovski said of Andrews. “We’re excited to have her back in Seattle for next season.”

Jasmyne Spencer is also returning, signing on to compete in 2019. The 28-year-old forward has featured in the NWSL and overseas in Sweden throughout her career. Before joining the Reign, she joined the Orlando Pride for two seasons. Currently, she is in Australia featured for Melbourne City FC, where she has scored three goals in three matches.

Last season for Seattle, Spencer scored two goals in 23 matches. Spencer started nine of those matches.

“Jasmyne came in and had an immediate impact on our club last year,” Andonovski said. “Her speed is a valuable weapon for us and her energy and toughness on the pitch make her a great player to coach.”

To wrap up Seattle’s off-season moves so far, the club signed a Spaniard of their own. On Dec. 12, the team announced the signing of Celia Jiménez Delgado.

Jiménez most recently featured for FC Rosengård in Sweden, making six starts and scoring one goal. She has experience in the United States. After being selected by the Reign in the fourth round of the NWSL College Draft last year, Jiménez joined the Seattle Sounders Women of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

She helped guide the team to a WPSL Championship title.

“She’s an intelligent player and I know she’ll have an impact on our team in 2019,” Andonovski said.

Meanwhile, Jiménez called joining the Reign a “dream come true.”

“I am excited to become the best player I can be to help my team reach their 2019 season goals,” Jiménez said.

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