Contributor: NWSL, Seattle Sounders FC, USWNT

By Abigail Gerken @abigailgerken

The National Women’s Soccer League has not gone quietly into the offseason. Following a handful of high profile transatlantic moves, a number of domestic trades have been made, as well. Let’s try to make sense of it all.

Savannah McCaskill and Yuki Nagasoto to Racing Loiusville

 This trade was a shock to many fans around the league. Savannah McCaskill and Yuki Nagasato were both key players this season and found a home in Chicago. McCaskill is a force in the center attacking midfield, her long balls and playmaking were a key part of Chicago’s offense the past few seasons. Nagasato is a veteran with 136 caps for Japan, including a World Cup win in 2011. Both of these players could be a detrimental loss to Chicago’s offense.   Let’s break down the details of this trade.

  • Chicago traded McCaskill and Nagasato for complete protection from the expansion draft. This is a first of its kind in NWSL – We have never seen players traded for complete protection.
  • Not only did Louisville get these two valuable players, they also received an extra international slot and Chicago’s first round 2021 draft pick. 

The question is why would Chicago willingly trade away two players they would otherwise protect from the draft? My first reaction is that Louisville wanted to take a Chicago player that they could not protect. One interesting rule from the expansion draft is that you can only protect two US allocated players, the rest must be left unprotected. The MLS has a similar rule with international players – at least one international player must be left unprotected from each team. However, the NWSL has US allocated players, meaning that the US Soccer Federation pays their salary, helping raise the minimum salary for non-international players as the league continues to grow.  

Here is the list of updated US Allocated players: 

  • Chicago Red Stars: Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher, Tierna Davidson, Casey Short, Morgan Gautrat 
  • Houston Dash: None
  • North Carolina Courage: Abby Dahlkemper
  • Orlando Pride: Alex Morgan, Ali Kreiger, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnet
  • Sky Blue: Carli Lloyd, Mallory Pugh
  • Portland Thorns: Crystal Dunn, Adrianna Franch, Lindsey Horan, Becky Saurbrunn, Tobin Heath
  • Utah Royals: Christen Press, Kelly O’Hara
  • Washington Spirit: None

Chicago has 5 US allocated players. Only being able to protect two of these players, when you have three of the USWNT starting 11, is an obvious dilemma. My prediction is that Julie Ertz will be protected. Being that she is one of the best midfielders in the world and a core piece of the USWNT, it would be silly to leave her vulnerable. That being said, in my opinion, you would have to leave either Tierna Davidson or Alyssa Naehe unprotected, both national team starters and anchors of the backline. Unfortunately, this would leave Casey Short and Morgan Gautrat  available for the draft. 

I believe that the reason Chicago made this trade was to protect their assets that were otherwise exposed. It is tough to see two excellent players go, but keeping these five players made it worth it. It will be interesting to see if it sets a precedent for more expansion drafts to come for teams who have built their core around US allocated players like Chicago. I would love to hear your opinions on if this trade was good or not in the comments or on Twitter!

Another interesting adjustment to the chart of current US Allocated players is the absence of Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, but the inclusion of Alex Morgan, Christen Press, and Tobin Heath. Since Morgan, Press, and Heath’s respective former teams have their NWSL rights, if the team chooses to leave them unprotected, they are available for selection for Louisville.

Crystal Dunn to Portland: Another big transfer that made waves across the league was Crystal Dunn to Portland. This came way of a three way trade between the North Carolina Courage, OL Reign, and the Portland Thorns. This two-part trade started with Crystal Dunn being traded to the OL Reign for Casey Murphy and $140,000 in allocation money. Then, OL Reign traded Dunn to their rivals the Portland Thorns for an international slot, a 2022 first-round draft pick, and $250,000 in allocation money. 

These types of trades are not unusual for the Reign to be involved with, especially with the Thorns as we saw with the Megan Klingenberg trade in 2015, which also involved Orlando Pride.

This is a great move for the Thorns, as they get one of the most versatile and dangerous players in the league. She excels in any wide position, offense or defense, and brings a lot of experience. She has mentioned that she hopes to move to a more attacking position in the NWSL, as she normally plays as a left back for the USWNT. 

Rules surrounding the NWSL Expansion Draft 

The expansion draft for Racing Louisville FC is being held on November 12th. By November 5th all teams must finalize their protected players list. Each team may only protect 11 players on their roster, and two US allocated players. All other players will be listed as unprotected and available for selection for Louisville. 

 Louisville may take up to two players, or one US allocated player, from each team. Any team that loses an unprotected US allocated player,will receive an allocation grant of $75,000 from the NWSL. If Louisville drafts less than two US allocated players, they will receive an allocation grant of $75,000 for each spot not used from the NWSL player pool.

Featured image: Portland Thorns 

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