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Racing Louisville trade Emily Fox to North Carolina Courage

Racing Louisville selected defender Emily Fox with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NWSL draft. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

Emily Fox is on her way to North Carolina in exchange for the Courage’s Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett, the teams announced Monday.

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 NWSL draft, Fox has been a member of Racing Louisville since their first match. She also has played in 24 games for the U.S. women’s national team, including the team’s two wins against New Zealand to start the year.

The 24-year-old defender posted an 82% pass success rate in her second season after finishing as a Rookie of the Year finalist in 2021.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to head back to North Carolina,” Fox said in a news release. “Coming from UNC, the Courage were always a team I rooted for and admired. I can’t wait to get to work and represent this club.”

With the addition of Fox, the Courage continue the reshaping their roster this offseason. The departure of defensive cornerstones in Pickett and team captain Erceg comes after 2022 NWSL MVP finalist Debinha departed for the Kansas City Current in free agency.

North Carolina also has parted ways with defender Merritt Mathias and forward Diana Ordóñez. The former was traded to Angel City FC in exchange for forward Tyler Lussi, while the latter was sent to the Houston Dash in exchange for draft picks.

While Ordóñez had requested a trade, Erceg criticized the deal on Twitter, writing, “Yup, it’s official. We still suck a trades in 2023.” Still, after her own trade to Louisville, the outgoing Courage captain described herself as “shocked and disappointed.”

“The intention to see out my career with a club in which I have so many fantastic memories comes to an end, as that intention is unfortunately not a shared one,” she wrote in a statement shared via her Twitter account.

In Louisville, both Erceg and Pickett will reunite with former Courage teammate Jessica McDonald. North Carolina traded McDonald to Louisville last offseason.

Racing loses Fox but receives a defender of a similar style in the 29-year-old Pickett, as well as an seasoned leader in 33-year-old Erceg.

“Obviously Emily is a player of high quality,” Racing coach Kim Björkegren said. “This trade, however, returns a great player at the left-back position in Carson and gives us a veteran central defender in Abby. Both players have great experience and talent and can help lead this team.”