When trades occur abruptly in the NWSL, sometimes the hardest part for players involved is what comes immediately after the phone call. The trade that sent longtime North Carolina Courage captain Abby Erceg to Racing Louisville alongside teammate Carson Pickett took both players by surprise, leaving them with little time to process their emotions.
“I think when [Pickett] and I both got off the call, my first reaction was to cry,” Erceg told the media after their first training in Louisville on Wednesday. “Because you don’t really know how to take that kind of news.”
Describing the following days as an emotional rollercoaster, Erceg and Pickett — who have a house together in North Carolina — quickly had to pack up and move to a new city. The only problem was that Racing Louisville’s preseason had already started.
“I was still in New Zealand when I found out,” Erceg said. “And then we learned that the team here is starting the Monday before I get back. So it’s just, you want to get with the team and you don’t want to be that player that turns up late and you’re just trying to get everything done.”
“I think as professional athletes, you have to understand that you can be traded at any point,” Pickett also told the media. “And so it was a shock, but I think that it was the timing, mainly because we wanted to be here, we wanted to be in Louisville with our new team, but because we kind of found out a little later, they had already started training for a couple days.”
For Pickett, getting traded wasn’t unfamiliar territory. Louisville will be the outside back’s fourth NWSL club after she spent two years in North Carolina. But Erceg had been with the Western New York Flash and then the rebranded Courage since the 2016 season, winning three Championships, three NWSL Shields and the 2022 Challenge Cup as captain of the squad. She and Pickett had anticipated being in North Carolina for a long time.
Erceg expressed her shock and disappointment on social media soon after the trade, which sent U.S. women’s national team defender Emily Fox to North Carolina in exchange for the players. A week earlier, the 33-year-old Erceg had criticized the club for its decision to trade 2021 Rookie of the Year candidate Diana Ordoónez to Houston on NWSL draft night.
“I think when you spend that long at a club, and you don’t get a chance to have the conversation about what your future looks like, it’s tough when you find out that kind of news,” Erceg said. “So there were definitely a lot of emotions initially.”
“I think I immediately felt the hurt that Abby felt, just for her because she had been there for so much longer. She was a captain and things like that,” Pickett echoed.
Without much time to waste, Erceg and Pickett turned their attention to Louisville. Erceg said they relied on resources from the NWSL Players’ Association and new protections written into the league’s first collective bargaining agreement to help with the move.
Louisville also stepped right in to make the pair comfortable. Soon after the trade, the club put together a presentation for Erceg and Pickett to help them get acclimated to the area.
“It had everything you can possibly need,” Pickett said. “It had coffee shops, it had restaurants … housing, it had everything we needed to move. They made us feel so comfortable right away. And I think that honestly, when I got off that call, I was like, I’m ready to go. I don’t even need my couch, my bed. I’m just ready to be there.”
As they get settled into their new surroundings, both players are ready for a new chapter.
“I think soccer is kind of the place where you can just let go of those emotions,” Erceg said, emphasizing that the time to work through emotional upheaval is during the preseason process so that she can be ready to go when the season starts.
While Erceg still has many friends on the Courage, she already has her eye on Louisville’s first match against North Carolina, a club they have never beaten.
“I’ll be nervous, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. “It’ll be a tough game, but at the same time, do I want to beat them? 100 percent.”
Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.