Racing Louisville FC will finally be able to round out their roster for the upcoming 2021 National Women's Soccer League season. The expansion draft, with 18 rounds, begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday. Other clubs around the league were permitted to protect from selection a total of 11 players, including up to two U.S. allocated players from the 2020 NWSL season.
Head coach Christy Holly had already begun taking steps to add talent to his roster when he made a trade with Chicago Red Stars. Louisville received forwards Savannah McCaskill, Yuki Nagasato, international slots for 2021 and 2022, and the No. 5 pick in the 2020 college draft. In exchange Chicago, with five U.S. allocated players, will have full roster protection in the upcoming expansion draft and was not required to submit an unprotected player list.
"I'm really excited to work with Savannah. I think that what she could potentially do with her career here is very exciting," Holly told CBS Sports.
"I think that as she came into the league, you know, she was learning and finding her feet in a professional setting and understanding some of the needs and adjustments that need to be made to her playing style and just their general lifestyle and and if you look at what she did in the last 10 or 12 months at the Chicago Red Stars, it definitely gives me a lot of excitement and hope that that she's moving in the right direction."
Holly also mentions he spent time with McCaskill during her time at the U23 level, where he really got to see McCaskill's personality and potential leadership skills.
"I could see that it's there. And there's a lot to come from her. I truly feel that with the right guidance and support, we can put her in a position to get herself back on the national team. I was very honest with Savannah and told her 'you know, we really are going to challenge you here, we're going to ask a lot of you, but we're going to provide you with the resources to meet those challenges.'
She's the type of player for me that she really can take from the game what she wants, and if she's able to be fit, stay on the field, and enjoy the game."
Holly also recently added forward Cheyna Matthews, formerly of the Washington Spirt, to the roster via the waiver wire. Matthews is expected to join the club at a later time after her pregnancy as she is currently expecting her second child. Holly sees a role for all three of Louisville's newest players, and expects to continue to build with the right pieces.
As he gets prepared to establish the first ever roster for Racing Louisville, he intends to do so new additions, international prospects, and with his eye on next year's expansion. Time will show how he will round out his club, but he is placing no limitations for Louisville.
"My ambition for this club, and our ambition for this club, is we wish to see this become a breeding ground for World Class talent -- and we truly feel strongly that we can get a place in the club for people in different parts of their journey. Whether, it's a Yuki Nagasato that, she's achieved a lot in the game . . . or a young player like Savannah McCaskill, who has a point that prove . . . but we want to make sure that your journey fits ours. It's a two way street rather than solely thinking about Racing Louisville."
Historically, expansions teams have struggled competitively early on in NWSL, and new clubs have to find talent while also building or developing playing styles and team cultures. Adding new pieces, recruiting internationals, or convincing recently selected players to join is often a process.
Part of Holly's pitch to players is a conversation about the city of Louisville, ownership and management of the club, and the resources that are available to players from day one. It includes living arrangements for players, a new 17,000 capacity stadium, just a mile from an impressive training facility with six grass and six turf fields, and a 32,000 square foot training center.
"Ultimately, and I tell every player this, to me, the biggest part of this club is the people involved. The resources are nice, the facilities, they look good and I think it'd be one of the best in the world. But I think the people inside the building are what really bring true value and longevity to what we're trying to do and then ultimately on the field."