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Making the case for Christen Press to play for Utah Royals FC

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Why Utah Royals FC should try to trade for the USWNT forward.

China v United States Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

In March, U.S. Women National Team players returned to their NWSL clubs for preseason after the completion of the SheBelieves Cup. One player, however, was unhappy with her trade to the Houston Dash.

In a three-team trade in January at the 2018 NWSL College Draft, Carli Lloyd went to Sky Blue FC, Sam Kerr to Chicago, and Christen Press to Houston. Though Lloyd and Kerr went happily to their new clubs, Press was left caught off guard and never acknowledged the trade. When the time finally came to report to preseason after her time with the U.S. National Team, the NWSL league office informed the Houston Dash that Press would not be joining the club. Instead, Press went overseas to Sweden to play for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC on a short-term contract.

Three months later now, Press’ contract in Sweden is due to end in July, and that means that the USWNT star has a decision to make regarding her future. Does she continue playing in Europe, potentially signing with a bigger club, or does she try to return to the NWSL to a club where she wants to play?

It’s no secret that Press desired to play in Portland or Seattle, and she still very much may want to play for either of those clubs. Utah had been also reported to have made her list as well. Reportedly, the USWNT star informed the Red Stars that she was willing to go to Utah. By then, the pieces Chicago would have received in return had been moved to other teams, and the deal never happened.

But now that the transfer window is once again open in the NWSL and Press’ contract is set to expire in Sweden, Utah Royals FC should attempt to bring her to Utah, and I offer a few reasons for the possibility.

Utah’s offense is struggling

Let’s be real. The Royals’ offense is not as strong as we hoped. For making a statement in their inaugural game against Orlando Pride by scoring in the 3rd minute, the Royals then went without scoring a single goal in the next two games. In fact, the offense appeared to lose a spark and rarely created enough opportunities.

Even with the return of Amy Rodriguez in April, the offense still struggles to capitalize on chances in the final third. Through 10 games, the Royals are 8th in goals scored (9), 7th in shot conversion (10.6%), and 7th in shooting accuracy (41%).

Press, in 68 appearances with her former NWSL club, the Chicago Red Stars, has scored 35 goals. Imagine what adding her to the line-up, paired up with Amy Rodriguez, could do for the struggling Royals offense.

Press was willing to play in Utah

As mentioned above, Utah was on Press’ list. According to a report by Caitlin Murray back in March, Press’ preferred destinations were Seattle, Portland, and “later Utah.” But again, a trade for Press’ rights never happened, and even as the news about Press continued to develop, a trade for Press’ rights between Houston and Utah was a possibility. However, Houston wanted a national team player in return, for which Utah was not willing to give up yet.

Whether Press still considers Utah as a possibility is unknown, but there must have been something about the new NWSL club that could have brought Press to Utah. A sweet stadium, the new locker rooms, the mountains, a true professional club experience, maybe?

Press is searching

With her contract set to expire on July 8, Press is thinking about her next club, and we know that it will not be Houston. Press has not changed her mind about playing for the Dash (Sorry, Dash fans). In a recent article by Jeff Kassouf in Four Four Two, Press talks about what she is looking for in a club:

“I want to be in a certain type of environment that I feel like I can get better. I can play the type of soccer that I want to play; I can have a coach that can push me and teach me new things. It’s not easy for any player to find a good home, a good fit, but I think it’s worth searching for. A lot of ambitions that I’ve had with the national team, I’ve fallen short in those. So, I don’t think that continuing to do the same thing, you should expect different results. So, I think this is my way of kind of searching for what I think can propel me to the next level.”

Could Utah Royals FC fit what she is looking for? Could she see herself playing under Laura Harvey, who can push her and teach her new things? Harvey is definitely a coach that does not let her players settle and pushes them to be better.

Wherever Press goes, it is sure to be a place that can keep her in Jill Ellis’ radar for the U.S. Women’s National Team, especially with the Women’s World Cup a year away. Press has to be in an environment where she will be noticed by Ellis, where she can finally make it difficult for Ellis to exclude her from the starting XI, where she can help an NWSL team be successful, and that team could be Utah Royals FC, if all the NWSL trade stars align, of course.

“But Press may want to leave next season if there is an NWSL team in California.”

I know. I have thought about that. Even if the Royals trade for Press for the remainder of this season, there is a good probability that she will want to play in her home state, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

But listen, the focus is 2018, not 2019. The Royals are focused on this season, trying to reach the top four in the standings and reach the playoffs. That is the goal of every NWSL team, after all.

So why not go after a player who can help the offense this season, an area that the Royals really need to improve as the season nears the halfway point? Right?