NWSL Off-Season: The story so far

by Blaise Ogutu, Impetus’ North American Football Correspondent (10/1/23)

The NWSL offseason is rarely a quiet time with every team trying to figure out what’s best in the coming season. The 2023 Draft is also fast approaching and it offers a chance to top collegiate talent to make the transition to the professional leagues. With that said, here is how things have panned out since the final whistle in Washington DC last season.

Kansas City Current splash big

Above: Debinha in action. Photo: Jaylynn Nash/USA Today Sports.

On Monday, the Kansas City Current made one of the biggest statement signings in the game announcing the signing of free agent Debora Cristiane de Oliviera popularly known as Debinha. The talented midfielder was touted to be heading to Europe after six years in the NWSL with the North Carolina Courage.

She has signed a contract through to 2024 with an optional additional year.

Debinha will be joining a loaded midfield with Current having also signed veterans Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo on free agency from the Chicago Red Stars.

Last season’s runners-up have also extended contracts of key players such as Hailie Mace, Kate Del Fava, and Alexis Loera all of whom were instrumental last season, a season that saw the team massively improve from 2021.

Chicago Red Stars in a worrisome state

Above: Ecstatic Red Stars. Photo: Matt J. Wood/Twitter

The Red Stars are a stark contrast to Kansas and have been heavily decimated with players either opting not to renew contracts or leaving as free agents. The current position the club finds itself in comes as a result of the multiple reports of league-wide investigations. The club board chose to remove chairman and majority owner Arnim Whisler due to his handling (or lack thereof) of players’ complaints of abuse and misconduct from former head coach Rory Dames who was at the centre of the investigations.

It is hard to imagine Chicago without the formidable trio of Dibernardo, Gautrat, and Danielle Colaprico. They have been at the centre of Chicago’s mainstay as a top club in the NWSL and now the club has to go through a rebuild. They have also lost defender Zoe Morse to Brighton and Hove Albion in England as well as Sarah Luebbert to Mexican side Club America.

Gotham FC Rebuild ongoing

Above: Gotham FC Team poses for photographs. Photo: GothamFC/Twitter

Last season, NJ/NY Gotham FC finished at the bottom of the table therefore it is no surprise that they have been busy during the break. They were involved in a four-way trade that saw them land Yazmeen Ryan from the Portland Thorns.

Ryan was instrumental during Thorns’ title-winning seasons with two goals and five assists. Gotham’s goalscoring record last year was poor and with the 23-year-old joining their ranks, they will be hoping things change.

The Harrison-based team also brought in Kristen Edmonds from the Current as a free agent as well as Ryan’s former Portland teammate and goalkeeper Abby Smith. Adding to their backline is an experienced Kelley O’Hara who signed in November.

Key contract extensions have also taken place at the club with forwards Ifeoma Onumonu and Taylor Smith committing to the project as well as defender Mandy Freeman.

Draft Day

Above: NWSL Ball. Photo: Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images.

The NWSL Draft is set to take place on Thursday 12 January in Philadelphia as new faces hope to get into the league. Some top talents have been highlighted but as things stand, it seems like Los Angeles native Alyssa Thompson will be the overall top pick. 

Another top prospect under huge speculation was Michelle Cooper from Duke University with many waiting to see if the talented sophomore would declare availability for the draft or choose to play overseas.

Many more prospects will be getting their shot at the top level and they will know their fate from the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday.  

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