all scores

Christen Press is first player to sign with Angel City FC

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Christen Press is coming home.

Angel City FC acquired Press’ rights in a trade with Racing Louisville FC on Monday, making her the first player to sign with the NWSL expansion club. In exchange for Press, Racing Louisville received Angel City’s first-round pick in 2022, $75,000 in allocation money and full roster protection from the club in the expansion draft in December.

Racing Louisville had originally acquired Press’ rights from the now-defunct Utah Royals FC during the 2020 expansion draft. Press signed with Manchester United for the 2020-21 season and never played a game with Racing Louisville. More recently, she won a bronze medal with the United States women’s national team in at the Tokyo Olympics and has set herself apart on the front line.

“The dream of being a pro player in L.A. was always elusive for me,” Press told the Los Angeles Times. “Every team that I’ve played for has always been like, ‘You know, when L.A. gets a team, we promise we’ll send you there.’ And it always felt everyone’s been able to say that because no one knew when it was happening.

“For it to really be happening, to be able to bring professional soccer back to Los Angeles and to be a part of that team, is nothing but a dream come true. A dream that didn’t even feel possible for the majority of my career.”

Press, who hasn’t lived in Southern California for 14 years, added that she would love to finish her career in front of her family and friends in Los Angeles.

“My family and friends, they have followed me all over the world,” she said. “So to be able to come and play in front of them week in and week out … just to see them in the stands and know that I’ve come home, for me full circle.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Press’ contract is for two seasons with a third-year option. If exercised, her payout could rise to $550,000, making her one of the highest-paid players in league history.

The move doesn’t come as a total surprise after reports surfaced earlier this summer that Press and Tobin Heath had no intention of playing with Racing Louisville and negotiations with Angel City FC for Press’ rights had begun. Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly also expressed frustration with Press and Heath in July, saying he preferred to focus on the players who “actually picked up the phone and talked to us.”

Press has 46 goals and 10 assists across seven seasons in the NWSL. Her L.A. roots and high profile with the USWNT should help Angel City FC establish itself in an already crowded sports market.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I didn’t consider all of those factors,” Angel City sporting director Eniola Aluko said. “Signing somebody like Christen, who is from L.A., understands the community, understands all of the things that we’re trying to achieve with Angel City in terms of equality and pay equity … that’s what makes it such an incredible signing.

“It’s a multi-dimensional signing.”

Earlier on Monday, the club announced that it has hired Gotham FC coach Freya Coombe as its first head coach. Coombe will assume her role at the conclusion of the 2021 NWSL season.