Red Stars send Keelin Winters to Reign FC in first NWSL trade

Liviu Bird March 1, 2013 33

Keelin Winters (left) has been traded from the Chicago Red Stars to Seattle Reign FC. (Photo Copyright: Meg Linehan for

SEATTLE — In the first trade in National Women’s Soccer League history, Seattle Reign FC acquired midfielder Keelin Winters from the Chicago Red Stars on Friday. Seattle sent its 2014 College Draft first-round pick to Chicago in the deal along with future considerations, which would be an allocated national team player, an NWSL spokesman said.

“We really believe in Keelin as a player,” Reign FC general manager Amy Carnell told The Equalizer. “This will make our team better, and it will help fill some of the gaps.”

To ensure all teams still have the same number of draft picks, Seattle will take Chicago’s fourth-round pick in the same draft.

“We feel that in Leslie and Shannon we have two world class defensive midfielders already,” Red Stars head coach Rory Dames said. “Keelin needs to go somewhere and play and play in a position where the national team thinks she can develop into a potential starter for them. So it just didn’t make sense to try to move her to a different position in the midfield when we felt very good about the two that we had. So quite honestly it made sense for Keelin to move her on to somewhere where she’s going to continue to get game time and field time because she’s still a very young player.”

Winters and Carnell worked together in 2012, when Winters played for the Seattle Sounders Women in the USL W-League and Carnell was the team’s general manager. Winters joined Turbine Potsdam in the Frauen Bundesliga midway through last summer.

The 24-year-old holding midfielder played collegiately at University of Portland, and she is a member of the United States player pool, but she is yet to make an appearance for the full national team. She captained the under-20 team on its way to winning the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

“Keelin will add some real experience and quality needed at this level,” Reign FC head coach Laura Harvey said in a club release. “Although we have a strong group of midfielders, we felt we needed to add a more defensive-minded midfielder to a group of very attacking, creative midfielders and forwards. Getting Keelin onto the team allows us to be creative with our squad and gives us freedom with our formation and system of play.”

Although she was not on the United States roster for the 2012 Summer Olympics, Winters was one of 23 players U.S. Soccer allocated to the NWSL. As such, Reign FC has four allocated players on its books now: Winters, goalkeeper Hope Solo, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forward Amy Rodriguez.

However, Rodriguez is pregnant and out for the season, Rapinoe will miss the start of the season finishing her contract with Lyon in France and Solo’s debut will likely be delayed by wrist surgery.

With those personnel problems coming one after another recently, the Winters trade is the first positive roster news for Seattle in weeks. Receiving a player on the fringes of the national team in exchange for a higher draft pick is a relative steal in the short term.

The club had been trying since before the Supplemental Draft to get some sort of trade deal done, with Western New York Flash forward Veronica Perez rumored to be on her way back to Seattle at one point. Perez also played for the Sounders Women under Carnell last summer.

Winters scored one goal and assisted one other in 992 minutes of action for the Sounders Women in 2012 before heading to Turbine Potsdam. She played every minute of the German club’s three Champions League matches in the 2012/13 season, scoring one goal.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to play for Seattle Reign FC,” Winters said. “I’m looking forward to working with a world-class coach in this new league and improving my game. I am very much attached to the Pacific Northwest, and I can’t wait to play in front of a packed house at Starfire Stadium.”

Additional reporting from Jeff Kassouf and Dan Lauletta.

  • vert2013

    I thought that allocated players had to be traded for allocated players…

  • C

    Next years draft is loaded. Chicago has two first round picks, good job by them.

  • Kernel Thai

    Im surprised the rights to A-Rod wasnt part of the deal. The deal works for both teams. Seattle needs players and the Red Stars could end up with two of the first four picks in next years draft. Of course the real question is why would a professional allocation team give Chicago two holding midfielders from the US in the first place? On an ironic note, the perfect first trade for this league should have been the rights for A-Rod straight up for the rights to Amy LePeilbet. Yeah, Im a cynic.

    • Meg

      There were a couple of double-ups in allocation. Chicago received two defensive mids, Breakers ended up with two right backs. I’d expect A-Rod to be the second half of the deal on this one, because Hope obviously isn’t going anywhere. Although I suppose they could always make this a true short-term solution by sending Winters back to Chicago in ’14.

      • Steglitz49

        Please help me understand. It is probably obvious to everyone else, but what does the rights to ARod mean? Does it mean that if she decides not to play again, the team that own her will get to chose an new allocated player? Can ARod initiate her own trade? If she and her hubby want to live and play somewhere, how do they get out of the straight-jacket?

        • I seriously doubt Arod will continue to be NT funded next season unless she can work her way back onto the team and I don’t see any openings at the forward position for example. It likely means trading her means trading an open NT slot. And that means an outside party will fill that slot with a player, not that the team will get to have their pick if you know what I mean.

          It’s still a good deal. Any new young player entering the NT pool and becoming funded would be great to have. Seattle didn’t do too bad either because Winters seems borderline NT funded to me. If she doesn’t improve she could fall off the list thus should become an open slot. If she does stay on the list next season it means she’s proven good and in that case Seattle is well off to have her anyway. Win-win.

          • Anon

            But I read that the Reign are supposed to send a WNT-allocated player by the end of September. I doubt that this years allocated players will have been cut for next year by then. So Seattle sends either A-Rod or Winters back to Chicago, and it’s likely that neither of them will have US Soccer funding by then. If both players lose an allocation spot, Seattle will only have 2 allocated US players and will likely receive another in the 2014 allocation.

            The way I see it this is a low risk move despite giving up the draft pick.

          • Anon

            Just curious where you read that it was the end of September. I’ve posted on other sites that I rated this trade poorly for Seattle (and well for Chicago), but that was under the assumption that the US allocated player was sent after they decide who the 2014 allocations are. If September is the case, that presumably helps Seattle, as A-Rod or Winters is likely not as good a player as a newly allocated player.

          • Steglitz49

            Your point is well taken. The allocated USA player system has to go. It is OK to get the NWSL started but needs to be phased out over the next couple of years and preferably be totally gone by the end of the 2016 season.

            Maybe Jeff could start a column of what other systems might replace it?

            You can look at the NWSL from any angle but the way USA functions at some point the NWSL has to break even if it is to survive beyond being a training camp for WC-15 (and OG-16). If USA does not win WC-15 it will be difficult (ie impossible) for US Soccer to justify pouring money down a drain.

  • Kernel Thai

    People r now saying the future consideration is gonna be one of Seattle’s USWNT allocations for 2014. I guess that means they get A-Rod or whoever gets the slot if she doesnt.

  • What happens to the draft if some key players coming out of college become covered in the NT allocation instead? Do they enter the league through the draft or through allocation?

    • Anton

      Who knows. They’ll probably make it up as they go.

      • It would seem to change the weight of a future draft pick trade. The draft for next year seems really strong…unless the strongest players out of college happen to be rerouted through the NT allocation process.

    • Steglitz49

      Why not get rid of the draft? Amber Brooks got drafted by Portland, yet she has a contract with Bayern Munich.

      • Only four players per team this year were acquired in the fashion most of the world would consider normal. If we can’t pull off a regular free agency, we won’t be getting rid of the college draft any time soon.

        • Steglitz49

          Barring injuries or pregnancies, all the ladies playing this season in the NWSL can play for another 3 or even 5 seasons should they chose to. What would you be drafted to? Cut the grass?

          Worse, if you get drafted so somewhere you really do not want to be, such as owing to a team with strength in your position, your negotiating position with a foreign team will be weak, unless the draft is held (shortly) after the close of the transfer window.

          • The team drafting the players should know their own needs well enough at least in the first round. In a league like this one the first round are players who will likely get at least some playing time and security and the rest of the rounds are ones that might not even make the team even if drafted. That’s how it goes. If you are super late draft pick and can’t get any playing time though you probably need playing time to improve. Going to a tier two team for a year might not be a bad move because at least then you’d be playing 90 minutes. Even in the NBA for example draft picks often don’t play their first year, get sent to the d-league, and some get released by their team or end up as filler in trades. WoSo right now doesn’t have a good pyramid structure for development. There isn’t a d-league for draft players or rehabbing players. We aren’t that far along yet.

          • Steglitz49

            Each year about 1700 young ladies come off the NCAA assembly line. If only 10% of those chose to carry on, that is enough to restock the whole NWSL lock, stock and barrel each year.

            Such a circle clearly can’t be squared. Though the NWSL may serve its primary need of building 3 strong NTs for the next World cup (and olympics), nevertheless at some point the reality of organizing football in 3 populous countries where ladies like to play has to intrude.

            The NWSL is all jolly hockey-sticks for 150 or so established American ladies but stagnation and frustration is waiting around the corner.

          • Meg

            I’m not sure how that’s different than any other established professional sport though. And yes, the needs are lower because of 8 teams with small rosters – it’s not the NFL or MLB, but pro sports and a college draft is a pretty well understood process at this point.

            If players want to continue after college, and they’re not at NWSL level, there are other leagues in the States, like the WPSL and W-League – and with a number of teams in the NWSL using a WPSL team as their minor league reserve team, it seems like a valid option for college players to play there for a year or two to try to get a crack at playing in the NWSL.

          • Steglitz49

            Well understood, no country in Europe has anything like the NCAA. In the European and Japanese leagues you have a number of ways of satisfying your desire to play, apart from in the top league (and their reserve teams).

            If you play for a team in the second division, your team may be promoted. If your team does not do well enough to be promoted, a top division team might still buy you. Because there is a domestic cup, any team you play for can cover itself in glory – though in fairness it is rare for teams below the 2nd division to win cups.

            Almost every country in Europe has a set of divisions in their leagues with promotion and relegation. 53 FAs are members of UEFA. The populationbase of the NWSL is 450 million inhabitants, about the same as UEFA. It is, of course, unrealistic for the NWSL to consist of 50 regionalized leagues, but the sooner the NWSL starts to metastasize the better.

            The Ladies CL is to practical purposes a play-off for 54 teams, qualification to which is based on the previous year’s finishes. Americans prefer to have their play-offs in the same season as deciders of their leagues. In the newly restructured BeNeLeague the top few teams from Belgium and Holland play the final set of matches, but a CL format would seem more suitable for a regionalized NWSL.

          • necron99

            There are already two Regional leagues with large numbers of teams. They are the W-League and WPSL. If regional leagues with a ton of teams were all that is necessary for the growth of professional women’s soccer in the USA, or for the player development necessary for the USWNT, CanWNT, MexWNT to win the World Cup it would have happened already years ago.
            All of the players you describe could play in those leagues if the wanted to after college. The NWSL is going to be the redoubt of those seen as the highest level players with the most potential. If a player stands out in those other leagues they will surely get a look by NWSL teams next year, just like they get looks for other foreign leagues.
            What the NWSL needs to do is survive and thrive financially.

          • Steglitz49

            It goes without saying, that to survive the NWSL must thrive financially. Otherwise it will only achieve its primary aim of producing a competitive USWNT for 2015 and, as a byblow, for Mexico and Canada. Nevertheless, in USA we have the double ghosts of two failed leagues. Leagues in which the world’s best players played, yet such quality was not enough to ensure survival.

            Promotion gives an opportunity to players not playing in the top flight (ie the NWSL) a chance to get there. This makes two paths to get to play in the top – promotion to the top division and, as in the NWSL, being signed by an NWSL team. As far as I know, there is no promotion planned for the NWSL. Why not? The rest of the world uses this well-functioneing system.

            The relegation battle adds spice to the bottom of the table. Most leagues send two teams down while France for example kick out three teams. This excitement is vital when, like this season’s French league, the winner already is known.

            Cost is an issue for all women’s teams. Their budgets are miniscule. Travel costs are a burden in big countries. It is an issue in Sweden, which is 1000 miles long and this season has 3 teams in the far north and 3 in the deep south. 1000 miles is a trivial distance in USA, Canada and Mexico.

            Canada consists of 13 provinces/terretories, Mexico of 32 states, and USA of 50 states. A century and a half after the Civil war, Americans still argue about states rights, so the states must mean something to someone. OK, 95 leagues would be a bit OTT but 8 seems a decent target and, ultimately, even 16 not that unrealistic.

            Soccer is a simple game that requires no equipment – you do not even need a goal. There is no limit to playing soccer except the weather. There needs to be a path to the top division that does not go via the NCAA (or its Canadian and Mexican equivalents) for girls who are good at soccer but not keen on higher education.

            Finally, the FA cup, the competition that made soccer the common people’s game, is open to 760 teams. Well understood, it is too early to think in those terms for USA but in the NWSL territory 95 + 33 teams would give 128 teams that could compete in a similar knockout fashion. The FA system of qualifying and preliminary rounds with the top teams entering at the later stage is a well-tested model.

            To return to the primary aim, first the USWNT has to win the World cup else one doubts that there can be a future for women’s soccer outside of the NCAA. What we do know is that there are two failed leagues in the baggage. High time to repack! Do not put new wine into old wineskins.

  • Anton

    Seattle has been screwed since the beginning, but this time they screwed themselves. Winters is not very good, how she got in as an allocated player I’ll never know. Potentially trading A-Rod’s (or any WNT allocated player’s) rights is even stupider.

    They needed to make a move yes, but Winters? That spells desperation. If you’re giving up a 1st round pick in a potential great draft class and the rights to a future allocated player, I’d want someone like Leroux or even someone like Sauerbrunn or O’Hara.

    • Steglitz49

      I think you are a tad unfair to Ms Winters. She played more games and scored more goals for Potsdam than she did for the Sounders. She may not be the best midfielder in the world — Miyama once played for LA Sol but I have not heard of her coming to the USA again — but there is no reason why Keelin could not do well for the Reign. One assumes that she learnt something playing with Ogimi and Göransson.

    • Think of it this way: Winters is a known quantity for Reign as key decision makers have seen her play for Sounders Women. For a team with a lot of question marks a player like that is nice. If she turns out to be good she’ll be on the NT funded list for years to come. If she doesn’t turn into anything she will fall out of that funded list and rather quickly if all the young talent coming in has any say about it. There are only 24 slots and plenty of good players. Winters isn’t guaranteed that funding for more than a season.

      Reign have her for free for one year and she’ll be gone if she can’t keep her spot in the NT pool the next. The risk isn’t that great. If she falls out of the pool Seattle will get a new NT player next year presumably. Potentially as good of a player as Press should she enter the system, though any player I can think of who might be eligible (see my draft question below) would be a big boost. They were pretty much in line for a new NT allocated player next year as Arod’s future on the NT level seems slimmer and slimmer with the new forwards coming in. With Winters they get her for a season and if she turns out to be good or bad will determine if she stays on or not. Open allocation slots are a little more important than draft positions and Seattle will either have an open slot next year have a good player.

  • vert2013

    I think Chicago got the better end of the deal in this honestly. Winters is a decent player but she’s nothing to write home about. Seattle has 10 midfielders now and they’re still short up top and on the back line, I don’t see how acquiring another midfielder helped them out all that much. Plus now Chicago has 2 first round picks in next years jam packed college draft.

    • Steglitz49

      They could play Total Football and keep the ball in the middle of the field. In other words, not concede too much. Anyway, since there is no relegation, who cares? In Europe and Japan they might be in deep dodo, not in this pussy-cat declawed league.

  • Anton

    So from what I gathered, the players paid by the USSF are going to be different every year, how exactly is this going to work? For example, Kristie Mewis is likely going to be on the USSF’s books next year, so are Cheney, Sauerbrunn and Barnhart probably, so do KC get to have four WNT players paid by the USSF while Seattle could potentially have one? Or do they have to get rid of one?

    This just seems like a good way to piss players off and have them go overseas. Again, for example, A-Rod isn’t likely to be funded by the USSF because of her pregnancy, what happens if Alex Morgan tears her ACL at some point during the year and is forced to miss 8-12 months, does she fall through the cracks as an allocated player or does she still get paid by the USSF because she’s Alex Morgan?

    In A-Rod’s case she’s going to go from a player paid by U.S. Soccer (around 60k, IIRC), to a player being paid like 10-15k for really doing nothing wrong. The ever changing funded players is going to pose a huge problem, not only for the teams, but the players and the fans.

    • Steglitz49

      Your points are well taken. One assumes that the USSF has an ample war-chest and pockets deep enough to have budgeted for contingencies.

      Your note reminded me of something I read on the BBC site. You may know that John Terry stepped in and kept Chelsea’s ladies division going when the club wanted to close it to divert money to the men’s game (like the super-wealthy Man Utd had done a few years earlier). He also got his male colleagues to help. Apparently, a few years earlier he had paid for new track-suits for the ladies. The women were given hand-me-down stuff from some boys outfit and when he found out he bought them their own. Maybe there is some equally mercurial US sportsman who can subsidize the NWSL players for the odd necessity?

    • I’d assume that the majority of players will stay with their teams from one season to the next. There is a good 18 or so players I don’t see fluctuating too much for a while.

      The teams with openings due to those falling out of the NT pool/retiring from the NT will get new players entering the 24 person pool which is exciting and could be more important than the draft depending on how some of the college players who are crossovers with the NT are handled.

      The team with a sudden surplus of NT players due to changes in that pool may lose one between seasons, sure. They wouldn’t lose them during the season though. Who knows how they’ll handle that.

      I think the goal is for this allocation thing to be temporary while the league gets its feet under itself. After three year or so it might be phased out. Until then players and teams will have to deal with it. Keep in mind once things settle down teams will be more comfortable with trades too which could send NT players to somewhere that could make them happier. Winters seems to be going where she wants to be for example. That was a player friendly trade.

    • Obviously, there’s a lot we don’t know about how things will work in the future, but wouldn’t A-Rod at least be worth one of the $25k free agent slots?

      • Steglitz49

        It depends on whether she wants to play again or not. The history of women in sports is littered with young ladies bowing out at 25 and 27 years. Were I ARod, I would want something better than $25k at this stage.