Post-Riley N.C. Courage Exodus Continues With Blockbuster Lynn Williams Trade

The North Carolina Courage are in full-on rebuild mode in the post-Paul Riley era. Lynn Williams is the latest star leaving the storied NWSL club after seven seasons with the Courage/Western New York Flash; the team announced a blockbuster trade to send the USWNT forward to Kansas City on Monday morning.

In exchange for Williams, the Courage received one of the larger packages for a player in NWSL history: $200,000 in allocation funds, the Current’s natural 2023 first-round draft pick and backup goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland. Kansas City also received North Carolina’s natural second- and fourth-round picks in the 2023 draft. 

Williams, a 28-year-old forward who has 14 goals in 45 USWNT appearances, is currently on loan at Melbourne Victory, where she’s tallied three goals and an assist in four A-League appearances. The $200,000 was not an NWSL record transfer fee, but it is close to the record $275,000 Orlando received from San Diego for Alex Morgan last month. 

The big trade will see Williams reunited with her podcast co-host Sam Mewis. In November, Mewis was sent from North Carolina to Kansas City in exchange for Kiki Pickett and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 draft, which was held in December. At the time, Williams was sad to see her teammate and fellow host of the Snacks podcast leave.

Kansas City teased the move Sunday night and then Williams announced the news to Mewis on their latest podcast in a wondrous moment. The Snacks will continue. 

For Kansas City, this is a great coup for the club right after hiring new general manager Camille Levin last week. After finishing dead last in the NWSL in 2021 — in part because of a late move from Utah — the Current are building something worth keeping an eye on. Mewis immediately makes the midfield a force, and Williams can team up with Darian Jenkins and Kristen Hamilton up top. With Adrianna Franch in goal, the Current currently just need a coach after Huw Williams was reassigned following the 2021 season. 

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Lynn to the Current,” Current co-owner Chris Long said. “Without question, she is one of the most talented forwards in the world. Lynn is a game-changer who has proven herself to be a dominant player in the NWSL and on the world stage. Kansas City is going to absolutely love watching her play.”

As for the Courage, a difficult 2021 has spilled into 2022 with this move clearly aimed at rebuilding from the ground up. Paul Riley was fired in September after horrific allegations were levied against him, including sexual coercion and other forms of abuse. Sean Nahas has been brought in as his replacement and the club has begun a drastic rebuild, which has also included trading Jessica McDonald to Racing Louisville in December for the sixth overall pick in the recent draft. Williams and McDonald scored 74 career Courage goals combined, winning two NWSL Championships and three NWSL Shields. 

With Williams, Mewis and McDonald gone, North Carolina lacks a big American star (no offense A-Rod), joining the Houston Dash and Orlando Pride as the only other teams without a USWNT regular. Though stalwarts Debinha of Brazil and Abby Erceg of New Zealand remain, one has to wonder if they’ll still be around by the time the 2022 season arrives. I would not be surprised to see Erceg follow her partner, Kristen Hamilton, to Kansas City. The Courage traded Hamilton to the Current in July.

To make matters worse, the Courage angered their fanbase by bringing back Jaelene Daniels, an openly homophobic player who had retired only to be signed by North Carolina in December. The club’s attempted apology only made things worse, and supporters now are left with the decision over whether to buy season tickets for a team that lost its three most popular players and added a player who has publicly gone against what so many NWSL fans represent. 

In other semi-related NWSL news, reports suggest another controversial signing, Portland Thorns draft pick Sydny Nasello, will not join the team, at least for 2022. 

NWSL players report for preseason training on Feb. 1. The USWNT will then meet up in the second half of February for the SheBelieves Cup before the Challenge Cup kicks off the NWSL season in March. 

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