The National Women's Soccer League's newest expansion side, Angel City FC, created a lot of buzz on Monday. The Los Angeles-based club -- which is set to debut in the 2022 NWSL season -- announced their new head coach in Freya Coombe and their new star player in Christen Pres.
Racing Louisville FC announced a trade with Angel City FC for the player rights to Press in exchange for Angel City's natural first-round pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft, $75,000 in allocation money and roster protection from the club during the 2021 Expansion Draft.
Press' NWSL playing rights were originally acquired by Louisville during the 2020 Expansion Draft from the former Utah Royals FC. Press never played with Louisville, as the timing of the pandemic and Olympics saw Press spend time overseas playing with Manchester United ahead of the Tokyo Games with the U.S. Women's National Team.
Here's a deeper look at Angel City's big day.
Angel City's first player
Originally reported by the L.A. Times, Press' contract is for two years with a third-year option. If the third-year option is exercised, it will bring the value of the deal to approximately $550,000. She is a native of the Los Angeles area, and her new deal with Angel City FC is homecoming for the long time USWNT player.
"The dream of being a pro player in L.A. was always elusive for me," Press told the L.A. Times. "Every team that I've played for has always been like, 'You know, when L.A. gets a team, we promise we'll send you there.' And it always felt everyone's been able to say that because no one knew when it was happening."
Press's NWSL career has been an ongoing journey. She entered the league in 2014 with the Chicago Red Stars after time with Swedish side Tyreso FF. After three semifinal appearances with Chicago, the forward was part of three-team trade with Sky Blue FC and Chicago that sent her to the Houston Dash, though the striker returned to Sweden to play with Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC. After a three-month stint, Press returned to NWSL via Utah Royals FC, and her player rights went to Louisville in an expansion draft.
"For it to really be happening, to be able to bring professional soccer back to Los Angeles and to be a part of that team, is nothing but a dream come true," Press said. "A dream that didn't even feel possible for the majority of my career."
How Press will line up for the club is currently unknown, but she is the first piece to the Los Angeles puzzle. Her versatility along the top line is going to be an asset for the club, as Press has become a main feature in the attack for the U.S. women's national team.
She has been involved in 41 goals over the last 43 matches with the USWNT, and her history in the NWSL has shown she can play as a target forward, or if needed, as a as a ten in a lower more attacking-mid role. However her more recent outstanding play has been along the wings with the national team where she has featured on both flanks.
ACFC's coaching decision
On Monday, Angel City FC announced Coombe would be their first head coach. Coombe is currently the head coach of another NWSL team, NJ/NY Gotham FC. This is the first hire by newly appointed Angel City FC Sporting Director Eniola Aluko. Coombe is expected to join the team at the conclusion of the 2021 NWSL regular season.
"I think everyone has been watching the story of Angel City unfold and I have been very impressed with the direction of the club and the core values upon which it is built," Coombe said in a statement. "When the opportunity to connect with Eni and the team arose, I knew I had to explore it. Leaving NJ/NY Gotham was not an easy decision, but the chance to join ACFC as the head coach of a new team was something I could not pass up."
The club also announced Robert Udeberg as assistant head coach and performance director. Udeberg's responsibilities will be directing the club's strategy for sports science, nutrition, strength and conditioning, and the training environment. He will also see the management of the multi-disciplinary performance team at ACFC.
"I am delighted to welcome Freya and Rob to the team, said Aluko. "Freya's experience as a player, coupled with her deep tactical knowledge, commitment to culture, and her most recent experience as a head coach in the fiercely competitive NSWL, make her the great fit for the team we are building from scratch."
North Carolina Courage assistant coach Sean Nahas was linked to the Angel City head coaching job club last month.
What does Coombe bring?
Coombe has been largely been on the side of positive praise over the last 18 months with Gotham FC. Coombe moved from an interim head coaching position with the formerly named Sky Blue FC organization, to main the club coach ahead of the 2020 season. Amidst the pandemic, while building on tactics, the club reached the 2020 Challenge Cup semifinal. It was considered a vast improvement for a club that was in the process of a rebuild both on and off the pitch.
The team continued to evolve, earning a place in the 2021 Challenge Cup championship final, and falling short of victory on penalty kicks to Portland Thorns FC. Gotham FC is currently in fifth place among the NWSL standings, in playoff position. Coombe's announcement to the Angel City FC is in the middle of the season with 10 games remaining for Gotham.
We will miss Coach Coombe and wish her nothing but success in LA, (except when she plays us).— NJ/NY Gotham FC (@GothamFC) August 23, 2021
Ownership and Interim General Manager Yael Averbuch West are working with Coach Coombe to ensure a smooth coaching transition.
How Coombe and her club decide to build their roster could likely dictate how the team operates on the pitch. There is only one piece to the puzzle at the moment with Press, but more player announcements and the expansion draft could help paint a clearer scenario. Coombe's ability to keep her tactics flexible has been a positive during her time with Gotham FC. Whether the team lines up in a three back or otherwise, the midfield has been bright spot when holding possession, with an attacking line that can shift wingers.
The evolving tactics can only help Angel City FC stay competitive on the pitch as well as they continue to build their roster, develop their roster, and grow their culture.