Christen Press is one of the world’s best footballers: she has a nose for goal and the skill to take on defenders. So how did she end up at a club she refuses to play for?
The situation seemed typical at first: the Houston Dash acquired her from the Chicago Red Stars in a trade involving Carli Lloyd, the sort of swap that happens all the time in American sports. But it quickly emerged something was amiss. She did not acknowledge the trade on social media and the Dash didn’t immediately make her the face of the club.
As it turned out, Press had no interest in playing for Houston and she was willing to stand her ground, something the Dash only learned after the trade was executed in January. Instead, the 29-year-old continues the standoff by refusing to report to the Dash’s preseason camp in hopes of prompting a trade elsewhere.
Now the Dash, who have lost a superstar in Lloyd with nothing to show for it, and Press, who needs regular minutes ahead of Women’s World Cup qualifying this fall, are stuck in limbo. Neither side appears willing to budge, but the start of the NWSL season on 24 March rapidly approaches. Neither Press nor the Dash have publicly commented on the unresolved ordeal, but several sources confirmed the details of the unusual stalemate to the Guardian.
The saga of the unwanted trade highlights the complicated balancing act between the fledging National Women’s Soccer League and the US national team, which is the source of much of the league’s star power. For many stars, lucrative paychecks await at Europe’s powerhouse teams – but both the players union and US Soccer have made a concerted effort to grow the NWSL, now in its sixth year, by keeping their talent in the league.
That’s why after the 2017 season, US internationals were invited to list their preferences if they wanted to be traded within the NWSL, according to multiple knowledgeable sources. Many players got exactly what they wanted this offseason.
Lloyd wanted a move out of Houston and landed in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband. Crystal Dunn would only leave Chelsea for the NWSL if the Washington Spirit traded her league rights so she could head to North Carolina. Sydney Leroux joined Orlando, where her husband, Dom Dwyer, plays for the same club. Allie Long went to Seattle while Kelley O’Hara landed with the new Utah Royals franchise.