It’s the first year of free agency in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and the Kansas City Current have already knocked it out of the park with the signings of midfielders Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo from the Chicago Red Stars.
That doesn’t mean Kansas City fans can’t get a little greedy. In that vein, let’s look at the players that are still out there and available that would certainly make this team better.
First, a little caveat. The NWSL has a salary cap/budget and allocation money, but unlike in MLS, pay isn’t disclosed, and just like MLS, it is very unclear how the budget/allocation money are distributed. So, this is more of a wish list without knowing the realities of the salary situations for the KC Current and with the realization that it’s unlikely KC will sign multiple additional free agents, if they can sign any at all.
Now that the nonsense is out of the way, let’s get to the fun.
Debinha (NC Courage)
Débora Cristiane de Oliveira, more commonly known as Debinha, made waves last week when she announced she would not return to the North Carolina Courage.
“We are extremely sad to see Deb leave and we know she does so as one of the most iconic players in our club’s history,” Courage Chief Soccer Officer Curt Johnson said in a statement. “We’ve watched her develop into a national and international superstar over the last half-decade with our club. We made a significant offer and certainly every attempt to keep her here in North Carolina. In our conversations, though, it became clear that – despite a deep love for this club and this community – she finds it in her best interest to continue her professional career elsewhere and we wish her nothing but the best.”
Debinha is coming off a career year in 2022 where she scored 12 goals. The 31-year-old spent the last six seasons with the Courage and helped bring home multiple championships. She has 35 goals and 17 assists in that time and is arguably one of the best players in the league and in the world.
Another reason there may be a little bit of a chance for this move is all the connections this KC Current roster has to past NC Courage rosters. Hailie Mace, Sam Mewis, Kristen Hamilton, Lynn Williams and Addisyn Merrick all played with Debinha in the past. Make those calls ladies!
Overall, Debinha probably doesn’t make a ton of sense for KC as she tends to lineup in the midfield and they are so deep there with the Gautrat and DiBernardo signings. But she’s one of the best players in the world.
With the midfield and forward lines the deepest, I wanted to focus on defense, but the problem is most of the good defenders have already signed new deals. Except one really good one.
Julie Ertz (Angel City FC)
After missing all of the 2022 season with the birth of her child, her future is unclear. She was traded from the Chicago Red Stars (Gautrat and DiBernardo connection!) before the 2022 season. If she wants to play, she’s long been one of the best players in the world. She’s capable of lining up at defensive midfielder or center back, the latter of which is a need for Kansas City, particularly with the loss of Kristen Edmonds.
One large factor is likely being near her husband, NFL tight end Zach Ertz, after spending much of their professional careers playing in other cities. Zach was traded to the Arizona Cardinals and is on a multi-year deal that can reasonably be moved on from after the 2024 season. Julie is from Arizona, so it’s entirely possible she has no desire to leave or play anymore.
If she is listed as part of the 2023 January camp for the USWNT in the buildup to the 2023 World Cup, that will be a good indication of her desire to continue to play soccer, though Vlatko Andonovski recently said in October he wanted to give her time with her family even though he’d welcome her back.
There are still plenty of moves to be made in the Kansas City Current’s offseason. They have eight draft picks which is coming right up on January 12th. They could feasibly package those picks to get a player they really want to draft, trade for future picks, or they could look around the league and pick up a player that’s at a position of need.
They certainly will have to sign at least one more central defender, but they have young prospects in Alex Loera (even if her best position may be d-mid), Jenna Winebrenner and Addisyn Merrick that they can pair with Elizabeth Ball. If they can address the defensive needs, this team is going to be a favorite to win the whole thing in 2023.