The IX: Soccer Mondays with Annie M. Peterson, November 16, 2020
Louisville rocks the WoSo world, but what are the chances of Heath and Press really joining Racing? Plus scads o' links and Christy Holly post-draft
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It started with a tweet from The Athletic’s Meg Linehan. So I’m blaming her. 🙂
Suddenly the NWSL expansion draft was not what anyone expected.
Bold move by Louisville, taking the rights Tobin Heath AND Christen Press. That means my expectation that they’d forgo national team players and use the allocation money for Catarina Macario in the college draft was completely off-base. Sigh.
It’s unclear if Heath and Press will ever join the team. I’m guessing we never see them in a lovely lavender Louisville uniform. Likewise, it’s unclear whether Australians Caitlin Foord or Alanna Kennedy, also currently playing overseas, will ever play for Racing.
Basically, I have a lot more questions now than I did going into the draft.
Louisville coach Christy Holly said afterward he didn’t expect Heath and Press would be left unprotected (see more of his comments below). I was frankly more surprised that Louisville actually selected them.
What seems apparent is that those picks are now essentially bargaining chips for other moves. There’s already speculation that by the time Heath and Press are available to return to the NWSL (post Olympics), that Angel City FC would be interested.
Also, the trade window opened on Friday. And perhaps making a play for Macario is still in the cards, if she decides to play in the NWSL?
I guess it makes sense if you believe Louisville is somehow playing 4-D chess with the picks. My sense, and I’ve talked to one source within the league that speculates the same, is that Louisville was set on making a splash and grabbing some attention. They certainly did that.
They’ll work out the details later.
At least for Utah, it made sense to collect the $75,000 it received for Press while the team moves to new ownership.
“The decision to leave Press unprotected allowed us to focus on players we were certain would and could show up to contribute in the 2021 season, and provides us some flexibility with Allocation Money during our current transition,” Royals GM Stephanie Lee said.
Here’s Linehan’s story on the whole thing for The Athletic.
Also, Jeff Kassouf did a nice analysis for The Equalizer here.
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I’d like to point out a story I did on FIFPro’s report on COVID-19’s impact on women’s soccer globally. There’s a link to the study in the story. It’s really interesting, all of which I was unable to share in my article. But one think I really liked was that FIFPro didn’t just focus on the negatives, they also looked at what leagues are doing to lessen the impact on women.
Alex Vejar looks at Louisville’s selection of Press for the Salt Lake Tribune.
Along the same lines, Ryan McDonald write about how the Press era in Utah ultimately failed, for the Deseret News.
Stephanie Yang with a really nice piece on Lynn Williams for All for XI.
One of my other faves this week: Seth Vertelney wrote about Crystal Dunn for Goal.com.
Avi Creditor’s take on the expansion draft for Sports Illustrated.
Sandra Herrera on Utah’s dismissal of Craig Harrington for CBS Sports.
Julie Poe caught up with Pride coach Marc Skinner after a difficult year.
Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times writes about the Reign’s losses in the expansion draft.
Goal.com gives you what you need to know about Angel City FC.
Beau Dure asks if the balance of power in women’s soccer is shifting, from The Guardian.
Jenn Hatfield examines power couple Rapinoe and Bird for FiveThirtyEight.
Eugene Rupinski has an amazing guide if you want to learn about women’s soccer in South America, for All for XI.
Loved this story from Katie Whyatt for The Athletic on playing soccer with your period.
Florida State beat North Carolina for the ACC title.
Five at The IX: Christy Holly, Louisville FC head coach
Christy Holly spoke to the media after the expansion draft. Here is some of what he had to say!
Question: Can you talk us through the decision to claim both the rights to Heath and Press?
Holly: It was only last week that we got the surprise to see that they left these players unprotected to us. Christen Press and Tobin Heath, the history that they have in this league, the quality that they bring to the field as players is something that we just couldn’t look beyond. You know, they had the options to protect them. We value them very highly and we think that they can do such phenomenal things within this league. So for us it became a little bit of a no brainer. We were shocked that they were there and available, and how valuable and how much experience and success that they have had within their own respective careers is something that we thought would be a tremendous addition.
Question: Following up on Press and Heath and also with the Australian players from Orlando, where those players that knew that you were able to speak to before taking them in the draft? And do you have a sense about what their mentality and time frame might be? It seems like with all four you probably won’t see them at least until after the Olympics.
Holly: I got to speak to a few of them, which was good. And then with all, we went through their agents because each of them have big games coming up this weekend. And I was able to present to them what it is that we see, as a club, we can do, and what we can offer them and what we feel they can offer us, and what we can collectively do together. And from our end, we feel like that’s the most important thing: We do feel there’s an alignment in terms of their world-class abilities and our world-class ambitions. When we’ll get to see them, that’s still yet to be determined. The one I spoke specifically with was Caitlin Foord, and Caitlyn’s happy where she is right now and we’re very much aware of that. We’re not we’re not going to disrupt her time at Arsenal, her success is important to us. But we also feel that when the time is right to get Caitlin to America, we’ll have those conversations and be excited to see her on the field in Louisville.
Question: I was just wondering, looking at your Houston Dash picks, I was just curious to know if their performance at the Challenge Cup impacted your decision-making in this process?
Holly: I think, obviously the Challenge Cup, for everybody that got to play, it definitely was a contributing factor within the decision-making process. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with both players in the past, and I had a little bit of an insight in terms of what it is I feel that they could offer the club, both as players and as people, and that gave me a great deal of confidence in terms of the decision-making. So we’re excited to have both of them here. I spoke to both of them yesterday and they were very excited, too. So that reinforced what we were trying to do.
Question: Now that you’ve got your picks, I was wondering how your future moves with the trade window opening, the college draft coming up, if you would be willing to tell us what phase of planning you guys are in now, and what your your goals are at the moment?
Holly: I think there’s a long road ahead of us. We feel that we’ve laid a really good foundation. I think we’re sitting at 17 players now within the club. And we obviously have the number one pick, the fifth and our natural picks from that point forward. So as we sit down and look at the the layout of the team, both from a tactical standpoint but also a personality standpoint, we feel that there’s still some work to do, and it’s important for us to strike a balance. So we’re definitely in the middle of conversations with various different clubs, both internally in America and internationally in order to try and get the final pieces of what we feel would be a successful jigsaw for next year.
Question: Wanted to get your perspective on the process to select Jennifer Cudjoe of Sky Blue FC. What did you see out of her performance and how do you see your fitting into to your roster?
Holly: For me, obviously she’s come into the league a little bit of a relative unknown. I was fortunate, I spoke to the people that she tired out with at Boston in previous years. I think when you look at her game you see the ball-winning ability in the middle of the field. Her ability to break up the opposition’s attack. She’s actually, I feel, quite valuable in possession. She works well in tight spaces and can connect the back line with the attack. So from that standpoint, I think she’s got a lot to offer on the field. You also look at — we can’t look beyond the story, the hunger and the desire to really embrace this entire experience of being a professional soccer player and contribute to the overall goal of the team, and for us that’s priceless. We see her as a really important piece of what we’re trying to do.
Question: Having gone through the expansion draft, do you feel like you have a good selection of players who have bought into your pitch about coming to Louisville?
Holly: I think yesterday well, not just yesterday, in the days leading up to this, as we fine-tuned some of the decisions that we were making, I felt it was very important to me to speak to the players personally and some players I sat on the phone for two hours, because I wanted to hear their input, I wanted to hear their opinion. I wanted to ensure that they understand that this is not just about Racing Louisville. This is about them, too. And for some players as well, the younger players, it was important to speak with their families and let them know that what we’re doing here is not just about us. This is the collective ambition of the club, of the city. And it’s genuine. I think one of the supporters said last night, This is a family approach’ and we want to remain true to that.
Question: As you try to put together kind of a short-term and a long-term plan for building our team, building a franchise, is there a timeline by which you need to hear from Heath and Press or know what their plans are?
Holly: I think the most important thing here is communication. … Last week, we made it clear once we understood that they were unprotected, with speaking to their agents and also dealing with U.S. Soccer, and making sure that there’s alignment in terms of what is needed for the players. Ultimately, the most important thing here is that we do right by the club, and we do right by the players. We take no pride in doing something that is only advantageous to us. So, yeah, the timeline will be clarified through communication with the players, with their agents and also with U.S. Soccer.