NWSL transfer window: Each team’s biggest move of the summer

Quick Hits
  • The NWSL regular season has been full of on-field drama…but what’s been going on off the field in the transfer and trade markets?
  • Now that the NWSL’s latest transfer window is over, we’re looking at each team’s biggest moves of the summer
nwsl transfers
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From San Diego Wave and the Kansas City Current becoming unlikely playoff contenders to Tobin Heath returning to the league after signing a contract with former rival OL Reign, the 2022 NWSL season has been filled with plenty of on-field drama. The summer transfer window is always a time for teams to tweak their rosters but we’ve seen more than tweaking this year; we’ve seen some blockbuster acquisitions that have long-lasting implications. 

Now that the transfer window is over and the roster freeze is upon us, let’s take a deeper look into how each NWSL team operated in the summer window. We’ll also look at how these moves will impact the playoff race.

Angel City FC

Angel City have plenty of ambition and despite starting the year with three wins from their first four games, they found themselves heading into the summer window with goal scoring problems. It makes sense then, that two of their summer signings would take shape in forwards Claire Emslie, whose rights were acquired via the Expansion Draft, and Sydney Leroux, who arrived in LA from Orlando for $75,000 in allocation money. 

These two forwards are no strangers to scoring in difficult situations and could boost an exciting attack that has seen players like Endo and Cari Roccaro truly shine in the absence of USWNT star Christen Press. 

Chicago Red Stars

The Red Stars have faltered a bit this summer, finding themselves on the fringes of the playoff picture and in a heavy offensive slump. That said, their 4-0 win over Racing Louisville on Saturday is a good sign for this team. 

Chicago have re-integrated forward Sarah Luebbert into the team this summer after her loan with Club América came to its conclusion but did not make any other changes to their roster. That’s not the whole story for Chicago, though. Star USWNT winger Mal Pugh has taken another step forward and is building on her stellar 2021 season, including a two goal, two assist night against Louisville.

Will Pugh’s skill be enough to cover for a relatively inactive summer transfer window and get Chicago to the postseason? Time will tell.

Houston Dash

The Houston Dash made some big moves in the trade market this summer. They acquired Ebony Salmon from Racing Louisville for $150,000 in allocation money (potentially rising to $190,000) and snagged the under-utilized Valérie Gauvin from the North Carolina Courage for $25,000 in allocation money and a conditional draft pick. 

Those trades were absolutely a necessity as prolific NWSL scorer Rachel Daly moved from Houston to Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee. Life will be different without Daly, but Houston have found a way to cope by triggering intra-league moves. The Dash have strengthened their attack while also bringing in defending NWSL Defender of the Year Caprice Dyasco from Gotham.

After all of their summer business, Houston find themselves entrenched in a playoff spot and look like a dangerous team.

Kansas City Current

The Kansas City Current have surprised everyone this year. Despite season-ending injuries to Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis, the Current are third in the league thanks to strong performances from their defenders and breakout seasons from Lo’eau LaBonta and newly acquired forward Cece Kizer.

 

On June 9, the Current traded for Kizer and defender Addisyn Merrick from Racing Louisville for a fee that could rise to $175,000 in allocation money

The Current didn’t have an extremely busy window but every move they made has strong implications for their first team lineup. Signing French international Claire Lavogez from Lyon made it possible – if not necessary – to send second year player Victoria Pickett to Gotham for $200,000 in allocation money. 

Kansas City will also hope that they’ve made it easier to re-sign Mewis and Williams this offseason through their newly acquired allocation money and by opening up a roster spot.

NJ/NY Gotham FC

Gotham are in an intriguing position in the NWSL right now: they’re sitting at the bottom of the table but are doing a decent job of building for the future.

Losing Dydasco, 29, for a potential $130,000 of allocation money, while turning around and paying $200,000 in allocation money for Victoria Pickett, 26, is Gotham getting a little bit younger. It’s a clear signal for the future as Pickett can form a strong midfield bond with Kristie Mewis while the front office searches for their next manager.

North Carolina Courage

With multiple games in hand on much of the rest of the league, the Courage are occupying a spot in the table (ninth) far below their ability level. An inability to defend has seen them drop too many points despite averaging 2.13 goals per game since the start of the summer window. The Courage have been busy though, signing 23-year-old Japanese midfielder Fuka Nagano and English forward Millie Farrow while sending Valérie Gavin to Kansas City. 

With limited time left in the regular season, can North Carolina find a stable defensive structure to complement fullback Carson Pickett, attackers Diana Ordoñez, Kerolin, and Debinha, and their new signings?

OL Reign

The OL Reign’s roster is immensely talented, but they have yet to really separate themselves from their NWSL rivals.

However, the Reign were hard at work during the transfer window. They brought Tobin Heath back from Arsenal (and paid Racing Louisville $50,000 in allocation money for her rights), while sending Ally Watt to Orlando for $125,000 and the rights to Wang Shuang to Racing Louisville for $30,000. It’s easy to see that Heath hasn’t found her stride in the Reign lineup. But if she can find her footing, the Reign will be even more challenging for opposing defenses to deal with.

Orlando Pride

It looks like the Orlando Pride are in something of a transition period this summer. They sent Leroux to Angel City and added Ally Watt and midfielder Haley Hanson to their squad. Orlando went from years of Leroux and Alex Morgan up top to a completely new look that leaves them without much depth in their attack. None of their players have scored more than twice this season, so they’ll need Watt, 25, to start scoring in bunches like she did during her time with Melbourne City when she scored three times in five games in 2020. 

Orlando is sitting below the playoff line, but the sooner they integrate Hanson and Watt into the team, the better. 

Portland Thorns

Portland, who are currently fourth in the standings, were fairly quiet during the summer window. Their only real move came in a trade for depth defender Tegan McGrady. Getting McGrady, 24, from San Diego in return for sending Madison Pagarch won’t have much of an impact on Portland’s title hopes this season. However, it will be an interesting move to follow over the next few seasons as she is mentored by Portland legend Meghan Klingenberg.

With a league-leading +17 goal difference, the Thorns didn’t need many reinforcements.

Racing Louisville

Racing Louisville were busy in the summer window, but their activity hasn’t translated into progress on the field. They’re sitting in 10th and don’t look like a team with strong 2022 playoff aspirations. 

Louisville traded Kizer and Merrick to Kansas City and Salmon to Houston, while earning some allocation money through trading the rights of Tobin Heath to OL Reign. They’ve struggled immensely in the attack this year, so moving Kizer and Salmon this season could be seen as Loiuisville throwing in the towel on their season. 

It isn’t all depressing, though. Louisville fans can look to the additions of Thembi Kgatlana from Atletico Madrid and Chinese international Wang Shuang as strong foundational moves. Still, they need to keep retooling this offseason.

San Diego Wave

The San Diego Wave are on top of the NWSL table right now, which is an incredibly impressive accomplishment for an expansion team. Much of their success has stemmed from a strong season from Alex Morgan up top, Taylor Kornieck in midfield, and rookie center back Naomi Girma. 

San Diego were quiet during the summer window, only trading McGrady to Portland for Pagarch, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given how well the team has played this season.

Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit chose not to make any moves during the summer window. There’s still plenty going on with the Spirit, though. 

They fired head coach Kris Ward last week and the defending champions find themselves with just one win through 17 games. They’re currently 13 points out of a playoff spot. There’s a ton of talent in Washington’s squad, but with only five games remaining in the regular season, it doesn’t look like the Spirit have time to mount any sort of late-season run.