Racing Louisville selected U.S. national team players Tobin Heath and Christen Press on Thursday in the National Women’s Soccer League expansion draft.
Both players are currently playing with Manchester United, but Heath’s rights were retained by the Portland Thorns, while Press’ rights were retained by the Utah Royals.
Heath and Press were on the national team that won the Women’s World Cup last year in France. They were among 14 total NWSL players taken by Racing in the expansion draft.
“We feel very good about tonight. There was a lot of decision-making that went into it, a lot of homework and research, and conversations with coaches within the league, with past players, with national team members. So we thought we had a real good insight into what each person brought,” Louisville coach Christy Holly said. “The hope is that the balance that we struck positionally, but also through experience and hunger, is something that will hopefully pay off for us on the field next year.”
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Heath, 32, had been with the Thorns since the league’s start in 2013, appearing in 70 games with 12 goals. Press, 31, played two seasons with the Royals, scoring 10 goals in 25 matches.
Louisville, which joins the NWSL next season to bring the league to 10 teams, used its final two picks to select Heath and Press.
Racing selected a pair of defenders, Addisyn Merrick and Julia Ashley, with the opening two picks. Merrick was a rookie this past year with the North Carolina Courage. Ashley, who was selected from OL Reign, was a rookie this season but was injured and didn’t play in the league’s Challenge Cup tournament this summer or the fall series.
Each of the NWSL’s current teams was able to protect 11 players, including allocated federation players. In addition to Heath and Press, some of the other U.S. national team players that were left unprotected were the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, Portland’s Becky Sauerbrunn and Sky Blue’s Carli Lloyd.
Allocated players are national team players that are distributed across the league.
Louisville was limited to just two total federation players. Racing could select two non-allocated players or one allocated player from among the unprotected players from any given team.
Louisville had already traded for forwards Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill, giving full roster protection to the Chicago Red Stars. Racing also brought in Cheyna Matthews as a roster for next season begins to take shape.